Cardiac ‘Clones: Iowa State completes epic comeback to knock off Kansas State

Redshirt junior wide receiver Hakeem Butler stiff arms a Kansas State defender after a catch against the Wildcats on Nov. 24. The Cyclones defeated Kansas State 42-38.

Aaron Marner

For 55 minutes, Iowa State looked completely outmatched against Kansas State.

The Cyclones fell behind by as many as 17 points. There were sloppy turnovers, missed tackles and special teams miscues. It looked nothing like the Iowa State team that won five games in a row earlier this season.

But football is a 60-minute game, and Iowa State made all 60 minutes count in its 42-38 win over Kansas State, ending a 10-year losing streak to the Wildcats.

“Today was a powerful day,” said coach Matt Campbell. “I challenged our football team last week [that] I really hope they got to tell their story.

“The chips were against them. It’s been really fun to coach… this team has never disappointed me.”

The win was a microcosm of Iowa State’s (7-4, 6-3 Big 12) season up to this point.

Just like the team stumbled to a 1-3 start to the season, the Cyclones fell behind 21-14 at halftime against Kansas State.

A touchdown was called back due to offensive pass interference. A 38-yard field goal sailed wide left. A Kansas State punt was fumbled and recovered by the Wildcats, leading to a last-minute touchdown drive before halftime.

Yet the Cyclones kept fighting. Led by freshman quarterback Brock Purdy, junior running back David Montgomery and redshirt junior receiver Hakeem Butler, the offense fired back in the second half with three big scores.

“We’ve had to grow,” Campbell said. “We’ve had to learn and fail. Nobody likes to fail, but that’s real. You have to learn from your mistakes.”

Iowa State fell behind even more in the second half. Kansas State took a 38-21 lead with 12:27 to play. On top of all the mistakes in the first half, freshman quarterback Brock Purdy had thrown two interceptions in the third quarter.

While Campbell said postgame one of the interceptions was a ball the receiver should have caught, it was still a trying time for Iowa State, given the score and time remaining.

Purdy finished 20-for-27 with 337 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Even with his two turnovers, his teammates and coaches still had faith.

“That wasn’t that big to me because I knew [Purdy] would respond the way he responded,” said Montgomery, who finished with 149 rushing yards and three touchdowns. “That kid’s crazy. But you need a little crazy to do what he does.”

Purdy and Montgomery both came up big in the fourth quarter.

Purdy calmed the offense down, taking Iowa State on a six-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to bring the Cyclones within 10 points. After a fumble was recovered by Iowa State and taken in for a touchdown to bring the deficit to three, the Cyclones’ offense knew it had one last chance to win the game.

“David took over the game,” Butler said. “David’s the best player in the country to me, and I tell him that every day. He proved it today.”

Montgomery had seven carries for 74 yards in the second half, including two touchdowns. His final touchdown run was from 18 yards out to give Iowa State its first lead since the score was 14-7 in the second quarter.

On Kansas State’s final chance, the defense held strong and forced a turnover-on-downs. Two more Montgomery rushes for 20 yards sealed the game.

As the clocked winded down, Campbell sent in redshirt senior Kyle Kempt to take the final knee. The sideline burst into cheers, and nobody looked happier than Purdy as he walked off the field to let his mentor end the game.

“I don’t know if I could’ve scripted it any better,” Campbell said.