No. 25 Iowa State, Kansas State still have plenty to prove

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy will take aim at Kansas State on Saturday.Photo Credit: John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams with plenty of goals remaining square off as No. 25 Iowa State hosts Kansas State Saturday evening.

Following a 21-6 home win over Texas Tech that saw the Wildcats hold the Red Raiders to no touchdowns and just 181 total yards, K-State will wrap up the regular season with bowl eligibility at stake.

K-State (5-6, 3-6 Big 12) held Texas Tech to just six points, 31 yards rushing and 181 total yards last week after the Red Raiders entered the contest averaging 41.8 points, 529.4 total yards and 146.0 rushing yards.

The yardage total was the fewest K-State allowed to a Big 12 opponent since holding Iowa State to 140 yards in 2003. It was the lowest total offense number for Texas Tech in eight seasons.

“We have made incremental (progress) throughout the course of the year,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “It has been week in and week out we’ve gotten a little better, little bit better and a little bit better.

“It’s learning how to execute the things that they’re asked to do. It’s about having the discipline. Playing defense is far different than the other side of the ball. Everybody has to be execution-sound. If you make a mistake defensively, the scoreboard lights up. That might be going over here to make a tackle when you should be over here. Our guys have learned to do that better and better week in and week out.”

While the Wildcats have won two straight games at home to still have bowl eligibility as a goal, the road has not been kind this season. They have been outscored 137-57 in their four losses. Iowa State (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) is 4-1 at home this season, with the only loss a 37-27 loss to Oklahoma.

Iowa State’s loss at Texas Saturday ended the Cyclones’ shot for a spot in the Big 12 Conference title game. It also dropped them from No. 16 in the College Football Playoff rankings all the way to No. 25.

But Cyclones football coach Matt Campbell isn’t worried about the loss lingering into Iowa State’s league finale.

“That’s the one thing I really do appreciate about this team,” he said during Monday’s Big 12 Conference weekly teleconference. “They’re young, they’re hungry and it’s a group that’s just going to continue to stay the course.”

After West Virginia’s loss to Oklahoma State, the Cyclones were left with an opportunity to reach the league title game. Win the road game at Texas and against the Wildcats, and you’re in.

The Cyclones couldn’t take care of the first part of business, so Saturday’s 6 p.m. game is about polishing the resume. Iowa State has never won six Big 12 games in a season. So, despite the deflating loss, Campbell believes his team will rebound nicely as it chases those opportunities.

“That’s the thing that’s been really rewarding about this team,” he said. “They haven’t changed, and whether it was a losing streak or a winning streak, whether there was no games and it was May, June, July and August — this has really been the same group.”

The Wildcats have leaned heavily on their running game over the last six contests, averaging 202.5 yards and totaling 14 touchdowns on the ground. The running game is solidified by junior Alex Barnes, who leads the Big 12 and ranks 11th nationally with 1,171 rushing yards. He is also tied for the league lead with 11 rushing scores.

But he was quick to deflect the praise to the defense following the win against Texas Tech.

“They have got it figured out,” he said. “We only put up 21 points, and usually against Texas Tech that is not going to be enough to win. Thankfully, our defense played a lights-out, perfect game to put us in position to win.”

Iowa State leads the all-time series, 49-48-4, but K-State has won the past 11 meetings and is 21-3 in the last 24 meetings between the programs. Snyder is 22-4 all-time against Iowa State, which included a 13-4 mark in his first tenure and 9-0 since his return in 2009.