AMES, Iowa — There is no shortage of wondering ‘what if’ after one yard here and a few inches there again made all the difference.
This storyline for Iowa State has become all too common. There the Cyclones were, seeking improvement from Week 1, with a late two-point lead on No. 20 Kansas State. Third-and-one with a touch over three minutes remaining quite possibly in need of only a first down to turn the tide after a porous start to the season.
The run, instead, went backward three yards, Iowa State punted, and here they find themselves again.
“We didn’t execute,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “We had a yard and a half to go on the play. We made our call and we’re looking for their alignment to potentially make a check on what it was that we wanted to do. They were misaligned and ran a guy across the field at the last second affecting our ability to potentially make a check.
“Whatever they did stunt-wise beat us and the guy made a play.”
Kansas State in turn went 80 yards on seven plays from there to escape a sellout crowd at Jack Trice Stadium with a 32-28 victory. The defeat for Iowa State marks its seventh straight against the Wildcats, of which six have come by one score or less.
The game’s finish wasn’t easily predicted by its start after Kansas State needed 11 plays to score 10 quick points against the Iowa State defense, and a field goal put them up 13 points before the first quarter neared an end.
Iowa State, in desperate need of a spark after going three-and-out on its first two drives found it in the form of speedster Jarvis West. The fifth-year senior had two short catch-and-runs to start the third drive before capping it with a 17-yard touchdown reception.
The elusive West showed off his speed early in the second quarter with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave the Cyclones a lead.
“[That play] turned it tremendously,” West said. “We were down, I ran it back and then we were ready. We came back and got on top of them.”
West showed off his arm shortly thereafter, taking a pitch in the backfield before slinging it 29 yards to Allen Lazard in the end zone. The touchdown reception was the first for the true freshman, gave Iowa State 28 unanswered points and pushed it to a 15-point lead.
“Just executed like I did in practice,” Lazard said. “Jarvis put the ball on the money. I just had to finish off the play.”
“When he called it and I saw Lazard and just threw it to him,” West added. “I was an athlete coming out of high school and played a little quarterback.”
Iowa State’s momentum hit a bump on the ensuing Kansas State drive. The Wildcats moved to midfield with the help of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Anthony Lazard on the sideline and then to the goal line with a 15-yard pass from K-State quarterback Jake Waters to receiver Tyler Lockett.
Lockett appeared to be within inches of the sideline, but Kansas State quickly moved to the line to snap the ball and officials never reviewed it.
“I saw a reviewable play,” Rhoads said. “They did not review it and I still haven’t received an explanation why they did not review it.”
Kansas State scored to cut its halftime deficit to eight and Rhoads followed the officials off the field seeking an explanation. Referee Greg Burks provided one to a pool reporter following the game, saying officials were never paged prior to the snap.
The Wildcats scored on a four-play, 54-yard drive in the fourth quarter, but a stop at the goal line by safety Kamari Cotton-Moya on the two-point conversion kept Iowa State ahead by two. After the Cyclones punted on their next drive, the defense sent Kansas State three-and-out.
That's when the story became same-old for Iowa State. Needing one yard to push the Wildcats to the brink of an upset loss, running back Aaron Wimberly fell in the backfield and Kansas State followed with an 80-yard touchdown drive to sneak out of Ames with a narrow victory.
“At the end of the day if we’re going to lose it’s our own fault,” quarterback Sam Richardson said. “Going into halftime with 28 points and coming out of the game with 28 points, it’s obviously frustrating. We’ve got to learn how to score points. I think a huge focus [going forward] will be converting those third-and-shorts, those fourth-and-shorts. Those were huge, especially at midfield.”