MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder couldn’t help but laugh when asked about the enthusiastic locker room he had just stepped out of.
Over the last six weeks, the Wildcats squandered leads, came up short in frantic comeback attempts and been blown out - culminating in the program’s worst losing streak since 1989.
But on Saturday there was finally reason to celebrate.
Jack Cantele kicked a 42-yard field goal with three seconds left to cap Kansas State’s 38-35 come-from-behind victory over Iowa State.
“They enjoyed the daylights out of it,” Snyder said. “I told them that I had been here for a couple 100 years and I have never seen our locker room like that. We always say, ‘Act like you’ve been there before.’ We didn’t act like we’ve been there before, but we needed that.”
Kansas State (4-6, 1-6 Big 12 Conference) recovered three Iowa State (3-8, 2-6) fumbles in the final seven minutes and rallied from a 35-14 first-half deficit.
Joe Hubener had 216 yards passing and a touchdown, and had 20 carries for 90 yards to lead Kansas State, which needed the win to stay bowl eligible. Charles Jones ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa State’s Joel Lanning threw for 195 yards and three touchdown passes, two to Allen Lazard in the first half. Mike Warren ran for 195 yards with a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for the Cyclones.
Jones ran for an 8-yard score, and Hubener threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kody Cook to make it 35-28 early in the fourth quarter. Warren fumbled with 7:26 to play, and Duke Shelley recovered it at the Cyclones 32. On the ensuing series, Hubener threw an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-6 to stall the drive.
Iowa State elected to not take a knee, and Warren fumbled again with 1:31 to play. Elijah Lee recovered the football at the Wildcat 44.
“The decision was based on being able to run out the clock and never having to punt the football,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “You take a knee on that play and they are going to call a timeout.”
Jones ran for a 5-yard touchdown to tie it at 35 with 42 seconds left. Marquel Bryant then sacked and forced a Lanning fumble. It was recovered by Charmeachealle Moore on the Cyclone 25 to set up Cantele’s game-winner two plays later.
“A bunch of us seniors were over there and when we saw Iowa State take the ball back with 1:31 we just kind of looked at each other and understood that was it,” Cantele said. “That was our chance. That changed quickly, though. It doesn’t take much to spark this team and give us some hope.”
Kansas State has won eight straight against Iowa State. The Cyclones have not won in Manhattan, Kansas since 1988.
Kansas State’s defense forced a three-and-out on the opening drive of the contest for the first time in seven games. But Iowa State opened the scoring on its next series when Lanning threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Trever Ryen with 9:26 to play in the first quarter.
The Wildcats pieced together its only offensive scoring drive of the first half with a trick-play. Fullback Glenn Gronkowski threw a 4-yard jump pass to Winston Dimel to cap a 9-play, 65-yard drive.
Lanning ran for a 1-yard score in response, and then threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Lazard to stretch the Cyclones lead to 21-7. Morgan Burns, who was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday, returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to pull the Wildcats to 21-14.
Warren then had his long touchdown run, and Lanning connected on a 16-yard scoring strike to Lazard with 29 seconds left in the first half to give the Cyclones a 35-14 halftime lead.
“Coach Snyder preaches finish,” Jones said. “Regardless of what the score is on the scoreboard, we’re going to finish and fight until the last second.”