AMES, Iowa — For about a quarter, it looked as if Kansas State was going to get run out of Ames.
The Wildcats survived a furious upset bid from Iowa State by leaning heavily on quarterback Jake Waters and a defense that shined in the second half.
Waters had an 8-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left to push 20th-ranked Kansas State past host Iowa State 32-28 on Saturday.
Waters threw for 239 yards and ran for a career-high 138 yards for the Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 Big 12). They allowed 28 consecutive points in one stretch of the first half, but Waters rescued the Wildcats with a stellar winning drive.
Waters followed a key 23-yard completion to Tyler Lockett with a 25-yard run with just under two minutes left. Then, Waters capped an 80-yard drive that took just 1:31 with his second touchdown run of the day.
"We've got a lot of mistakes to (clean up). The good thing is if you can win when you're making those mistakes, there are some attitude issues that could serve in your favor,'" Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.
Jarvis West caught and threw touchdown passes and ran a punt back for a third TD for Iowa State (0-2, 0-1), which was held scoreless in the second half.
It was a tough loss for the Cyclones: They nearly knocked off a ranked opponent just a week after losing by 20 to FCS school North Dakota State and two days after starting tackle Jacob Gannon quit the team for personal reasons.
"We did certain things necessary to put us in position to win the football game. We didn't do certain things at the end to allow us to win the football game," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
Still, the Cyclones nearly pulled off a stunner.
Kansas State's Randall Evans ripped the ball away from West for an interception with 9:15 left. The Wildcats went 54 yards in 74 seconds, making it 28-26 on a 4-yard TD run by Charles Jones.
Waters went for the tie on 2-point conversion run. But Kamari Cotton-Moya — who was ejected from last week's loss for targeting — sprinted to the hole, turned Waters sideways at the goal line and preserved Iowa State's lead.
That seemed like it would be the game's key play. But Lockett's crucial reception, which held up upon review, helped give Waters one more chance to decide the game with his feet.
Jones added 75 yards rushing for the Wildcats.
"Our line gave me some great holes to run through. I had to take on that running game on a little more than I usually do," Waters said. "When we needed a play, we made it — and that's big."
Iowa State was in need of a decent showing after allowing 506 yards and getting shut out for the final 44 minutes last week.
The Wildcats made it look way too easy way too soon.
Lockett went 57 yards off a short catch just four plays in, and Jones walked in untouched from four yards out for a quick 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats tacked on a pair of field goals before Iowa State finally woke up.
The Cyclones flipped things around by relying on West's versatility.
West kicked off his career day with a leaping 17-yard TD catch. Then he took a punt 82 yards for a touchdown and a 14-13 lead early in the second quarter.
West ended a brilliant first half with a perfectly thrown 29-yard TD pass to Allen Lazard off a double reverse. That made it 28-13 Iowa State, thrilling a capacity crowd that once seemed resigned to defeat.
West, a senior, is just the fourth player since 1996 with a passing, receiving and punt return touchdown in the same game, according to STATS LCC.
"You expect a fifth-year guy to step up. He played like a leader and like a guy we need him to be all season," Rhoads said.
But Kansas State pulled to 28-20 just before halftime on a plunge from Waters following a Lockett catch that had Iowa State fans howling, claiming he was out of bounds.
Waters — who grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, cheering for the Cyclones — took over in the second half and handed his boyhood team one of its toughest defeats in years.
Rhoads is now 0-6 against the Wildcats.
"I was proud of Jake. In this game, you'd like to think that they compete in every single game exactly the same way. This one has a little different meaning to him because his family is here. He had to beg borrow and steal for tickets," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "He was ready to compete."
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