MANHATTAN, Kan. – Auburn’s up-tempo, down-the-opponent’s-throat running game didn’t translate against a disciplined Kansas State defense, but the Tigers escaped their foray into Big 12 country with a 20-14 win. No style points were scored. Heck, compared to most Auburn games in the Gus Malzahn era, hardly any points were scored. But the Tigers left the Sunflower State with a win thanks largely to the generosity of the Kansans on the opposite sideline.
1. College kickers, man
Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele was already having a brutal night by the start of the second half. He missed a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter that would have tied the score at 3. As time expired in the second quarter, he missed a 42-yarder that would have tied the score at 10.
The worst came in the third quarter, when Cantele missed a 22-yarder – two yards longer than a PAT – that also would have tied the score at 10. After that third miss, Auburn launched a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard D’haquille Williams touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter that finally made it a two-score game.
A missed kick here or there doesn't always cost you, but a slew of misses in what ended up being a six-point game went a long way toward preventing K-State from springing the upset.
2. Kansas hospitality
The folks in Manhattan rolled out the red carpet for their visitors this week, but perhaps the Wildcats shouldn’t have been such gracious hosts. Though Kansas State played better defense against Auburn than the Tigers’ SEC rivals have in the past year, offensive miscues helped cost the Wildcats a massive upset.
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters fumbled on the Wildcats’ first possession, and Auburn nickel back Robenson Therezie recovered on the Kansas State 21-yard line. Auburn’s offense didn’t move the ball, but Daniel Carlson kicked an easy field goal.
On Kansas State’s next drive, Waters targeted Tyler Lockett four times as the Wildcats moved the ball to the Auburn 2-yard line. Then, on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Waters targeted Lockett a fifth time. This one was intercepted by Jonathan Jones, who had committed pass interference on Lockett in the end zone two plays earlier.
Kansas State still had a chance down 10 in the fourth quarter, but Trovon Reed intercepted a Waters pass. That allowed Auburn to milk 5:48 of the clock on a 12-play drive that traveled only 39 yards and ended in a 25-yard Carlson field goal.
3. Bill Snyder – wizard
Watching Kansas State’s defense play a read-option team is a thing of beauty. No one freelances. The man who is supposed to hit the dive man hits the dive man. The man who is supposed to hit the quarterback hits the quarterback. This is how the Wildcats held Auburn to 3.3 yards a rush through three quarters. From the 2013 Ole Miss game – the first one after the Tigers figured out what their offense really was in the second half of a loss at LSU – to last week, the Tigers had averaged 6.7 yards a carry.
That forced Nick Marshall to beat Kansas State with his arm, and while Marshall held up his end of the bargain, his receivers often didn’t. The Tigers were plagued by drops in the first half, none more egregious than the aforementioned Williams wide-open drop of what should have been a 66-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-4 play midway through the second quarter.