"It felt like déjà vu," Cyclone wide receiver Jake Williams of the two game. "We did have a little stronger defense this year, but obviously it wasn't enough."
With Iowa State leading 20-17, the Wildcats' potential all-American running back Daniel Thomas picked up the two biggest yards of his 181 in the game to give his team back the lead at 24-20.
Kansas State was then able to forced Cyclone quarterback Austen Arnaud to fumble to set up a field goal and then closed out the game with a key fourth-down stop in Wildcat territory with 15 seconds left.
ISU coach Paul Rhoads said the Wildcats just made a few more plays over the length of the game.
"What an unbelievable showcase of effort from the student-athletes on the field today; a game is not won or lost with single plays," Rhoads said. "Yes, there are several key plays that happen along the way, but a game is won or lost by the full duration of the game.
Cyclone linebacker AJ Klein, who scored his first career touchdown in the game, said Thomas is one of the best backs in the country and showed it Saturday.
"He's a hard runner, he's big and strong, but then he shifted and showed he had speed, too," Klein said. "I just can't give him enough credit he played a hard game."
Iowa State went three-and-out to start the game and Kansas State took advantage by driving right down the field but was held to a 37-yard Josh Cherry field goal.
The Cyclones answered with a 14-play, 81-yard march that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown strike from Arnaud to his roommate Williams. Thomas had five of his 35 carries on the next drive, setting up a 10-yard run by quarterback Carson Coffman.
Kansas State had a fake field goal go awry, which meant the halftime score stayed at 10-7. Iowa State then took the lead three plays after half without having the ball.
Coffman locked in on a receiver and Klein intercepted him and took that pick 69 yards to the house to make it 14-10.
Thomas then scored the first of his two touchdowns on the next series before Grant Mahoney hit a 43-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 going to the final stanza.
Arnaud was injured on the next series, but backup Jerome Tiller, with a little help from running backs Alexander Robinson and Jeff Woody, nearly led the Cyclones to another touchdown. An illegal block penalty stalled the drive and Iowa State had to settle for three and Mahoney hit from 34 yards.
"Penalties were definitely an issue. We had some good penalties come our way, but also ones that set us back, which definitely doesn't help our play," Williams said. "That definitely is a drive killer and it got the best of us."
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he was impressed by the kind of competitor Arnaud is after he came back for the final two series of the game.
"I have great admiration for (Austen) Arnaud and the type of young person that he is, as well as the quality of athlete that he is," Snyder said. "To come back after that injury and put himself on the field, and to make some plays at the same time, I thought was very admirable."
Iowa State's best chance to score on its final two possessions may have come on the final drive with 1st and 10 at the Wildcat 40. Robinson ran right down the middle of the defense and was wide open inside the 10 but Arnaud overthrew him.
"They are a great football team, and Coach Snyder is a great football coach. He has been around and he has seen about everything," Arnaud said. "When you are playing a team that has good coaching and good technique, you have got to execute and do everything right and we did not do everything right today."