Light snow had begun to fall on the fourth quarter of Kansas State’s home matchup with Iowa State Saturday night when Cyclone quarterback Brock Purdy stepped up in the pocket.
Didn’t see anything. Rolled right.
Finally, with Iowa State trailing 27-17 as the clock neared the one-minute mark, Purdy found his best option: Charlie Kolar, who was in double coverage. Purdy uncorked it Kolar’s way.
K-State safety Jonathan Alexander swatted it away. Up 10, the Wildcats ensured that the Cyclones’ only feasible option on a play that likely wouldn’t matter anyway didn’t matter in reality.
Iowa State turned it over on downs, and K-State’s 27-17 win over Iowa State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium was all but certain.
“Defense,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said, “was dynamite.”
A K-State defense that consistently has inspired confidence delivered more of the same Saturday night. The Wildcats limited the Cyclones to a 1-for-13 mark on third downs. They also kept the visitors at half their season average in points.
That includes the fact that K-State grounded an Iowa State offense that entered Saturday averaging 478 yards per game and allowing just 236. The Wildcats also kept the Cyclones and Purdy to just 185 passing yards, a fraction of the 335 they came to Manhattan averaging.
One more number: K-State kept Iowa State to just 54 rushing yards, a season-low for the Cyclones.
In other words: There’s a reason why K-State is the conference’s second-best defense statistically.
Still, in deciphering the way the Wildcats dismantled the Cyclones’ volatile offense, two drives stand out.
Those came in the third quarter. After K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson lost a fumble and Iowa State recovered, the Wildcats’ defense held. The Cyclones went three-and-out.
Then, one drive later, Thompson coughed up another turnover. This time, an interception. Iowa State took over at K-State’s 43-yard line.
The Wildcats did yield a field goal here, which allowed the Cyclones to take a 17-14 lead, but still, K-State turned potential disaster into convincing defense.
“That was pivotal. That was one of the turning points in the game,” K-State defensive back Lance Robinson said. “When we stopped them, it — I wouldn’t say took the life out of them — but it kind of shocked them and stunned them a little bit, because those guys can run up the score real quick, you know what I mean?”
The other part of the way K-State’s defense made an indelible impact Saturday night involves the pressure the Wildcats applied on Purdy. Sure, K-State only recorded one sack — that honor went to senior defensive end Kyle Ball — but it mattered that defensive ends Reggie Walker and Wyatt Hubert were getting through, at least in spurts.
In the end, it was enough to push K-State to an eighth win in Klieman’s first season.
And the Wildcats still aren’t finished.
A bowl awaits.
“It was really important,” Walker said. “I mean, that’s what we really focused on in the defensive end room this week. Just really rushing after their quarterbacks, and I think we did a really good job. All four quarters we were coming after him pretty hard and making him think a little more with the ball.”