If No. 20 Kansas State is going to pursue a spot in the Big 12 Championship game, the Wildcats will have to avoid pitfalls that have obstructed them.
The next one of those will be presented Saturday night when the Wildcats travel to Ames, Iowa, for a matchup with Iowa State.
The Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) have lost two straight games to the Cyclones (3-2, 0-2) and have fallen in their last two trips to Ames. Their loss in 2018 broke a 10-game winning streak vs. Iowa State. The Wildcats are within three games of evening the all-time series, which Iowa State leads 52-49-4.
The Wildcats enter Saturday’s game riding a two-game winning streak — impressive victories at Oklahoma and against Texas Tech. Wildcats quarterback Adrian Martinez has earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors in each of the past two weeks, getting the offensive honor following the win over Oklahoma and newcomer honors after downing Texas Tech.
Against the Red Raiders, he relied on the big play, with two runs of at least 50 yards, plus a third that was called back on a penalty.
“Explosive plays are a big stat for us,” Martinez said after the game. “It goes along with turnovers and a couple other key factors. It definitely helped us.”
Martinez rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns, including a 69-yarder, and threw for a score. Running back Deuce Vaughn added 170 rushing yards for the Wildcats. He had his own 69-yard run in the third quarter as the Wildcats pulled away late.
“One of the things we talked about at halftime was we had to have some people step up and make some explosive plays,” Vaughn said. “That’s a testament to the O-linemen and the guys blocking downfield. They opened up some big holes.”
The Wildcats are fourth in FBS in rushing yards per game (267.2). They are averaging 6.13 yards per rush.
Iowa State is coming off a pair of tough conference losses — to defending Big 12 champion Baylor 31-24 in their conference opener, then at Kansas 14-11 when true freshman kicker Jace Gilbert missed three field goals, including a 37-yarder with 27 seconds left.
“I hated that some of those things came down to some young guys,” Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said. “Obviously the kicking piece you’ve got true freshmen in there. We have great faith in who they are.
“You’ve got to continue to go forward. We’ll grow from this. It (stinks) that you have to grow from a loss, but I have complete faith in his response.”
Iowa State relies on its defense, ranking 13th in the nation in scoring defense (14.4 points per game). The Cyclones are ninth in total defense (255.4 yards per game) and eighth in rushing defense (83 yards a game). They’ll have to count on that to stop Kansas State’s two-headed rushing attack of Martinez and Vaughn.
Iowa State dominated the second half against the Jayhawks, holding them to zero points and 28 yards.
“We said all week it’s going to come down to our ability to align, assign, be disciplined and be gap-sound. That’s a credit to our kids,” Campbell said.