AMES, Iowa — Collin Klein did his job.
And then the Kansas State defense did its job by stopping Iowa State on back-to-back possessions to seal another narrow victory over the Cyclones.
K-State, playing in Ames for the first time since 2007, used two clutch defensive stands to come away with a 27-21 win Saturday at a sold-out Jack Trice Stadium in front of a school-record 56,800 fans.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats, who improved to 6-0 and 3-0 in the Big 12, have now won four straight over Iowa State (4-2, 1-2), with all four wins in the streak coming by seven points or less.
Leading 24-21 early in the fourth quarter, Klein orchestrated a key 14-play drive that covered 67 yards and chewed more than 8 minutes off the clock. Along the way, the Wildcats converted on three crucial third downs, capping the drive with a 25-yard field goal from Anthony Cantele to put K-State up six with 4:24 to play.
The first conversion came on third-and-5 when Klein hooked up with Tyler Lockett for a 10-yard pass to the K-State 40. Then on third-and-8, Klein found Harper on the right side, who juked a defender for a 15-yard gain. Klein handled the other third down conversion himself when he rushed 8 yards to the Iowa State 27 on third-and-2.
“That’s major in the course of the ballgame,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of the third-down conversions. “You don’t get those and they have a lot of time left on the clock… that was big.”
Though Klein was pleased to come away with some points, he wanted the touchdown.
“That was huge, but we’re not satisfied,” said Klein, who rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns to break the school record for career rushing TDs by a quarterback. “We want to be able to end the game in our hands or in the end zone — one of the two. The field goal was good, but it was unacceptable. We made some conversions and held the ball for a chunk of time, but don’t want to put our defense in a two-minute situation.”
But the defense came through and stopped the Cyclones when it had to — forcing a pair of four-and-outs inside the final 4 minutes as Iowa State failed to convert on two straight fourth downs.
“We knew it was on us,” K-State cornerback Nigel Malone said. “We figured being a close game it was probably going to come down to the last couple possessions. But we’ve been there last year and when it’s our turn to get called on, it’s time for us to stand up.”
Cyclones quarterback Jared Barnett was just 1-for-7 for 6 yards on the last two possessions. For the game, the sophomore was 16-of-36 for 166 yards and two touchdowns, including a costly interception caught by Ty Zimmerman at the Wildcats’ goal line late in the second quarter.
“Iowa State always brings one or two receivers across the field — we were alert for that,” K-State linebacker Tre Walker said. “And the biggest thing is that we were alert for the quarterback scramble. We don’t want that to happen. They got a third-and-10 on us earlier in the game for a first down. You can’t let that happen at the end of the game.”
K-State, which had 364 yards of total offense, scored on a 12-yard rush by Klein to go up 24-14 with 1:33 remaining in the third quarter. The TD capped a short drive after Iowa State punted from its own 1, giving the Wildcats the ball at the ISU 30.
But the Cyclones weren’t quite finished, as they drove 75 yards in 13 plays to make it a one-possession game again when running back Jeff Woody punched the ball in from 2 yards out. The touchdown was set up by a questionable pass interference call against Zimmerman on an incomplete pass at the goal line.
That was just one of many penalties for the Wildcats, who entered the weekend as the least-penalized team in America with nine through five games. On Saturday, though, K-State doubled the season output with nine flags for 62 yards.
“It was very crippling,” Walker said. “We’re not known for making penalties and that killed us today. That can allow a team to stay in the game and today that allowed Iowa State to stay in the game.”
The Wildcats scored on their first possession of the game for the first time since Week 2 when Cantele made the first of his two field goals on the day — a 41-yarder with 6:58 to play in the opening quarter.
Iowa State answered and took a 7-3 lead on a 2-yard rush by running back Shontrelle Johnson with 14:58 left in the second quarter.
The Cyclones’ lead didn’t last long, though, as K-State responded with a long time-chewing drive finished off with Klein’s first touchdown of the day when he barreled into the end zone from 2 yards out to make it 10-7. Klein rushed five times for 23 yards and completed a 23-yard pass to Tramaine Thompson on the drive.
“He’s a great player,” Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said. “He’s an All-American in my book. He doesn’t get the attention because he’s not as flashy and doesn’t put up the gaudy numbers that some of the other college football players do. But he has a 6-0 football team that is ranked in the top 5 in the country.”
A mistake by the undefeated Wildcats almost proved very costly in the second quarter when Thompson muffed a punt return at his own 21-yard line to give Iowa State the ball at the 19.
One play later, however, K-State had the ball back when Zimmerman picked Barnett off at the goal line and returned the interception to the Cats’ 23.
“We talked in the huddle about a quick defensive change and we made sure to get a stop or turnover to switch the momentum, and that’s what happened,” said Zimmerman, who has an interception in three straight games.
K-State continued to have issues with special teams though when Doerr’s punt on the next fourth down went only 27 yards and gave the ball to ISU at the K-State 42. The Cyclones needed just five plays to find the end zone when Barnett completed a 30-yard TD pass to Ernst Brun to make it 14-10.
Doerr later redeemed himself with when he stuck the Cyclones at their own 1 in the third quarter and the 3-yard line on their last possession of the game.
The Wildcats ended the second-quarter scoring barrage with Klein’s second touchdown run of the game — this time form 6 yards out — to put K-State ahead 17-14 at halftime.