MANHATTAN, Kan. — In true Iowa State vs. Kansas State fashion, the game went down to the wire. And Kansas State, for the ninth straight time in the Bill Snyder 2.0 era, won the game. It was 20-19.
Iowa State led 19-14 and the Cyclones were driving in the fourth quarter with under five minutes left in the game against Kansas State on Saturday.
Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt scrambled on second down and as he was sliding, he was tackled. The referees threw a flag for a late hit.
Then they picked it up.
“They didn’t think it was forceful contact,” Kempt said. “That’s their call.”
Did Kempt, the person who got hit, think it felt forceful?
“It did,” Kempt said.
Iowa State got the third down conversion, and it appeared that Iowa State was going to try and run out the clock and force Kansas State to burn its timeouts. The Cyclones ran the ball on first down for a 4-yard gain.
On second down, they called a run/pass option. Kempt said they saw the defensive back lined up how they wanted to pass in that situation. So, he threw the ball to Hakeem Butler, but it fell incomplete. The clock stopped without Kansas State using a timeout.
Iowa State had to pass the ball on third down to keep the drive alive and run out the clock.
Kempt threw a back-shoulder pass to Allen Lazard — one of the Cyclones’ most reliable plays. Lazard went up for it and he was interfered with. The referees threw the flag but then they huddled together to talk about the penalty.
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“I look over at the refs and they’re looking up at the scoreboard and reviewing the play and what not and I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to do that to decide an outcome on that call,” Lazard said.
The referees picked up the flag, forcing Iowa State to punt. Had they called it, Iowa State would’ve had the ball first down on the 34-yard line with 2:00 left. Kansas State only had two timeouts left.
“I said this after the Oklahoma State game — officiating is hard,” Campbell said. “It’s a tough business, it’s a tough profession and those calls probably could’ve gone either which way. It’s unfortunate because I thought the last one at least certainly looked (like pass interference).”
Reggie Smith, the lead official in the game, said it’s Big 12 policy to not discuss judgment calls.
Kansas State got the ball, marched down the field and scored the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining, when a scrambling Skylar Thompson hit Isaiah Zuber in the back of the end zone.
But even that drive wasn’t without controversy.
“Probably my biggest issue is there is a false start on the second to last play of the game and they don’t call it,” Campbell said. “And I think that’s your issue sometimes with inconsistencies.”
In total, the referees picked up three flags, all in the fourth quarter, all in key situations and two of them on the final drive. The first flag they picked up was an offensive pass interference against Kansas State on the Wildcats’ second touchdown drive of the game.
Iowa State has felt a similar feeling before. Two years ago in Manhattan, the Cyclones had the game won, but a fumble late in the fourth quarter allowed Kansas State to come back and win.
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“Definitely a heartbreaker,” linebacker Joel Lanning said. “It sucks. I’ve never been down here and had a good experience. It’s definitely a terrible way to end your regular season.”
Lazard did note one difference.
“We felt like we had the game won and it was just taken from us and it wasn’t necessarily anything we did,” Lazard said. “The flag getting taken away from us. Obviously, that would’ve gone to first down, they had two timeouts left and we more than likely would’ve ran out the clock but obviously in the game of football, you never know what could’ve happened. Something like what happened in 2015 could’ve happened again if we did get that call.”
It’s not like Iowa State didn’t make mistakes. It was in the red zone twice in the first half and only came away with field goals.
“We’re going to learn from the film, correct our mistakes and just move on from it,” Lazard said. “Hopefully the guys next year store this in the back of their mind.”
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