Things didn’t exactly run smoothly for Auburn on their visit to Kansas State, but thanks to some big plays on defense and too many missed field goals by Jake Cantele the Tigers came away with a 20-14 win and brought another win over a ranked team in a non-conference game for the SEC.
The result was the only impressive thing about their victory. The way they got it? A lot of luck was involved in it, like the interception in the first half. A very good pass into the end zone by Jake Waters bounced off the chest of wide receiver Tyler Lockett, landing in the hands of Jonathan Jones. Trovon Reed had a more impressive interception in the second half, but the Wildcats still managed to bounce back from that to make a game of it, yet everyone was thinking about the three missed field goals by Cantele at the end of the game.
The Junior kicker had only three misses in his previous 18 attempts, but college kickers are known for their inconsistency, and this time it might have cost Kansas State a very big win over the number five team on the polls. The Wildcats did an excellent job on defense, holding Auburn to just 55 rushing yards in the first half and only 2.8 per carry overall. Still, Auburn got its scoring from two Nick Marshall passing touchdowns. Marshall also threw an interception but managed to bounce back from it.
Auburn scored just three points in the first quarter, the first time they’ve been held to three or less points in the first since getting shutout by LSU for an entire half last season (Auburn lost 35-21). Their 55 rushing yards in the first half were their fewest since Gus Malzahn took over before the beginning of last season. This was far from the impressive dominance we’ve seen from Auburn in their first two wins this season. Kansas State, ranked at #20 before the game, are simply good enough to make a solid team like Auburn look this bad.
But with all of the compliments to Kansas State’s defense, their offense made too many mistakes to “deserve” a win. Jake Waters threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Their running game was held to just 40 yards on 30 carries. Waters himself couldn’t go out on his famous runs, held to -11 yards on seven carries. Auburn might have found it very difficult to get their offense going swimmingly, but their defense more than made up for it.
The rest of the schedule is brutal for Auburn, but facing the kind of defense Bill Snyder usually puts on the field is a good test for things that are to come. Not yet convincing enough to be a lock for the playoffs, but ability often comes after the stage where the only thing important is the win. For Kansas State, this puts them in something of a deficit compared to other Big 12 teams, but something tells me they’ll be able to put themselves in a good position to win the conference at some point during the coming weeks and months.