Cyclones, Wildcats set to duke it out in “Farmegeddon”

Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose attempts to pull down Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn during the Iowa State vs. Kansas State game Nov. 21 at Jack Trice Stadium.

Sam Stuve

It’s time for “Farmegeddon.”

This year’s edition of the Iowa State and Kansas State rivalry takes place on Kansas State’s campus in Manhattan, Kan., a place where Iowa State hasn’t won since Nov. 20, 2004. That game was at the end of the season, and Iowa State was in the hunt for the Big 12 North Title.

But this time around, it’s the middle of the season, and both teams are trying to remain in the hunt for a spot in the Big 12 Championship. With both teams having lost in the conference slate thus far (Iowa State 3-2, 1-1 Big 12) and Kansas State sitting with two Big 12 losses (3-2 overall, 0-2 Big 12), losing would significantly hurt either team’s chances of going to the Big 12 Championship.

Iowa State has the lead in the rivalry, holding a 51-49-1 advantage, but Kansas State has dominated in recent years, winning the last 11 out of 13.

This includes having won the last seven matchups in Manhattan.

“I think number one, they’re a very good football team and they have been, I think, for a long time,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “They play a very similar style where they you know, believe in fundamentals and techniques, they play very hard and they’re a very good opponent.”

Manning said the environment also plays a factor in Manhattan, Kan.

“And I think on top of that when you go into an environment that is loud, it is difficult and there’s certainly a tremendous amount of history between the two teams you know, it makes it difficult, the crowd will be involved in.” Manning said. “I think that’s anywhere in terms of a crowd, but I think that place it gets really loud there. And people that are very passionate about the team.”

Saturday’s tilt features two of the best run defenses in America. Kansas State ranks seventh in the nation, giving up just 86.4 rushing yards a game, and Iowa State ranks 11th, giving up 90 a game. 

But on the other side of things, there are two running backs who could be a big threat to each defensive line, Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn, who led all freshmen a season ago in scrimmage yards, and Iowa State running back Breece Hall, who led the nation in rushing last year.

To prepare for Vaughn, a 5-foot-6, 173 pound running back, the Cyclones in practice have been using freshman running back Deon Silas, who stands at 5-foot-8 and weighs 185 pounds. 

“They really use him (Vaughn) everywhere, putting him at slot receiver, trying to get him out in open space, but we probably we’ve gotten a good look with Deon Silas,” Iowa State safety Greg Eisworth said. “They gave him some reps on the scout team and trying to tackle him is pretty much the same thing. We’ve been able to get some good reps.”

Silas, a freshman, has rushed the ball eight times for 62 yards and two scores, behind second string running back Jirehl Brock and starting running back Breece Hall, who is fourth in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 551 yards and has eight rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the most in the Big 12. 

Vaughn is seventh in the Big 12 in terms of rushing yards per game, with an average of 88.8 yards in the five games the Wildcats have played so far. He’s rushed for 444 yards and five touchdowns in addition to receiving 20 passes for 206 yards for touchdowns. 

“He has great vision,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. 

Campbell said that Vaughn has good balance, which allows him to break more tackles, and that he’s an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Another scoring threat for Kansas State is kick returner Malik Knowles, who leads the nation in yards per kick return with 39.3 and has returned two kicks for a touchdown (one of only two players to do so this season). 

“I think that the biggest thing and you talk about their kick returner and then you talk about Deuce playing, you know what he has and I think both those guys have great vision,” Campbell said. “They have the ability to find the open seam, the open gap and really make you pay for it.”

The Cyclones have had some trouble this year on kickoff coverage, and that was glaring in a 31-29 loss to the Baylor Bears when Trestan Ebner took a kick back for a touchdown to help Baylor win. 

Last season’s game in Ames was a blowout, with Iowa State winning 45-0.

But there are some major differences between last year’s matchup and this year. During the week leading up to the Nov. 21, 2020 game against Iowa State, Kansas State was dealing with COVID-19 issues and was without starting quarterback Skylar Thompson. 

“Skylar Thompson, he’s been doing a great job for, I don’t know, three, four years now. I’m excited to play again, against him one more time, because he’s a fun player to play against,” Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose said. 

Thompson has started in three of five games this season, completing 41 of his 59 passes for 569 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and rushing for two scores.

“I mean, he’s just older and wiser and, you know, stronger and faster,” Heacock said. “You know, he’s a really good player, I have a lot of respect for him, he makes all the throws, he’s obviously a threat in the run game.”

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., and the game is being broadcasted on ESPN2.