No. 20 K-State Falls Short to No. 5 Auburn, 20-14
No. 20 K-State Falls Short to No. 5 Auburn, 20-14
MANHATTAN, Kan. - In a back-and-forth defensive game that saw both teams average less than five yards a play on offense, No. 20 K-State came up just short against No.5 Auburn, falling to the Tigers 20-14. Taking in the primetime affair were 53,046 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium - the fifth-largest attendance in program history.
For the Wildcats, they kept the contest close thanks to a stellar performance by their defense unit. The collective effort saw the Tigers get held to a season-low output in rushing yards, as Auburn managed 128 yards on 45 attempts - good for only 2.8 yards per carry, as well as ending the program's FBS-leading streak of 13-straight games of at least 200 yards rushing. The Tigers would finish the game with 359 total yards and one turnover.
On offense, K-State struggled to find any room on the ground, relying mostly on the arm of Jake Waters, who finished the contest with 245 yards passing on 24-of-40 attempts. Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett finished the evening with 121 yards and 45 yards receiving, respectively, with the former hauling in a game- and career-high 11 receptions.
It was only the Wildcats' fifth non-conference loss under head coach Bill Snyder since 1990, as Auburn pushed its head-to-head record against K-State to 4-0.
HOW IT HAPPENED | First Half
• K-State's defense came out rolling on all cylinders, holding the Auburn attack to 38 total yards in its first three drives. Despite the strong start, K-State trailed 3-0 after the first quarter.
• Auburn's first points of the evening came as result of a Waters fumble that ended with the Tigers recovering the ball on the Wildcats' 21-yard line. From there, Auburn failed to move the ball past the K-State 17 with its drive ending in a Daniel Carlson 34-yard field goal.
• The Wildcats would bounce back with a strong drive after the field goal, moving the ball 74 yards down the field in 10 plays only to have the drive end with yet another turnover. On 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Waters looked to hit Lockett on a slant for seven, but the senior wide out was unable to corral the pass, tipping the ball into the air for a Tigers' interception by cornerback Jonathan Jones.
• Holding the Tigers to 16 yards on four plays in the ensuing drive, Lockett quickly put the Wildcats back in scoring position with a 30-yard punt return to the Auburn 43-yard line. The Wildcats were unable to capitalize despite moving the ball into field goal territory though, as Jack Cantele missed the first of three tries - this attempt from 41 yards out.
• From there, action hit a short lull as K-State went three-and-out twice, including not being able to capitalize on a Dakorey Johnson pick off a deflected Nick Marshall pass. The Wildcats' defense would not relent, forcing a punt from Auburn on the ensuing drive that saw Lockett work his way 26 yards to the K-State 43-yard line.
• The return would kick start the Wildcats' first scoring drive of the evening - a 6-play, 57-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard plunge by DeMarcus Robinson. The 7-3 Wildcat advantage came thanks to two 20-plus yard gains through the air - 22 yards to Zach Trujillo on 2nd-and-1 and then 23 yards to Sexton to give the `Cats first down at the Auburn 3-yard line.
• Auburn responded quickly with a touchdown of their own, driving the ball 75 yards down the field in 3:22 to make it 10-7. Evading a blitz from cornerback Randall Evans, Marshall connected with Ricardo Louis from 40 yards out for the score. The half concluded with the Wildcats missing out on another three points, as an untimely Waters fumbled moved the ball back to the K-State 25-yard line. From there, Cantele pushed the kick wide right on a 42-yard try.
HOW IT HAPPENED | Second Half
• Trading punts to open the half, K-State would be the first team with an opportunity to score, but were unable to convert yet again. Buoyed by another strong punt return from Lockett, this time 15-yards to the Auburn 49-yard line, the Wildcats drove the ball deep into Auburn territory only to see Cantele miss from 22 yards.
• Auburn extended its lead to 17-7, driving the ball 85 yards in 15 plays. The drive ended with a Marshall fade to D'haquille Williams in the corner of the end zone, scoring from 9 yards out.
• Auburn added another three in the fourth to push its advantage to 20-7. The 25-yard field goal did not come without some close calls though, as K-State nearly had its second turnover of the game on two occasions. Evans missed on recovering a fumble in K-State territory, and was followed soon after by Danzel McDaniel letting a bobbled catch go through his hands.
• The Wildcats would make the game interesting late, cutting the lead to 20-14 with 3:49 remaining on a Charles Jones 1-yard score. Sexton played a major role in the drive, snagging four passes for 47 yards including three for first downs. K-State's offense did not see the field again though, as Auburn converted on a 3rd-and-9 on the following drive to run out the clock for its third victory of the season.
• Both teams had their fair share of missed opportunities in changing the final result. While the Wildcats were unable to cash in on three field goal attempts, they also went 2-for-5 in the red zone after starting the season 12-for-12 and could not take advantage of solid field position, including three drives in Auburn territory. Conversely, Auburn's offense most notably missed on two deep ball opportunities in the first half, including a drop by Williams on 3rd-and-6 for a certain seven for the Tigers.
• Though they lost the turnover battle 3-to-1, the Wildcat defense gave up only six points off turnovers. It was an impressive showing by K-State that included holding Auburn to 55 yards on the ground in the first half - the lowest output ever by a Gus Malzahn-led Tiger offense. K-State's first half dominance on the defensive side of the ball resulted in Auburn not converting a third down until the second quarter with less than three minutes remaining in the half - a stretch of five missed conversions. The Tigers would go onto finish the game 10-of-18 on third down.
K-State continues its non-conference slate next weekend, as it will host UTEP at 11 a.m. CT on Fox Sports Network. It will be the third time in school history the Wildcats have faced the Miners and the first since 1999 - a 40-7 K-State victory. For more information, visit www.k-statesports.com.