Auburn forced three turnovers and was held to only 128 yards rushing, tonight. Kansas State missed three field goals, had receivers open all night, and was never called for a single penalty outside of the opening kick-off. This was one of the strangest games I've watched in a long time.
Kansas State's defense largely shut down the zone-read and held Auburn's rushing game in check. They forced Marshall to beat them with his arm, and while he struggled to do that for much of the 1st half, he seemed to start to hit a groove in the second half outside of some drops by his wide receivers.
Auburn opened the scoring with a field goal after Kansas State fumbled the ball on their first possession. Kansas State drove down the field into the redzone shortly afterwards only to have Tyler Lockett tip a ball into the air for Auburn DB Jonathon Jones to come down with an INT in the end-zone. Late in the first half Marshall hit Ricardo Louis on a pass near the sideline and he juked around Kansas State's defensive players to walktz into the endzone for a 10-7 lead.
The third quarter was scoreless for both teams and the fourth quarter began with the score 10-7 in favor of the Tigers. A game that nearly everyone predicted would be high-scoring more closely resembled the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Marshall connected with Duke Williams on a beautiful fade route (that may have been juggled just a bit) early in the 4th quarter and Daniel Carlson added to Auburn's lead after a promising drive stalled in KSU's redzone to pad the lead to 20-7.
Kansas State did not give up, though. They methodically drove down the field and pulled within six points with just over three minutes to play. Cameron Artis-Payne gained a key first down on two consecutive runs to force KSU to burn their final timeouts. After two Auburn runs failed to gain any yardage, Gus Malzahn tossed the dice on a double-move and Duke Williams came up clutch again with a reception for an Auburn first down deep in Kansas State territory to seal the deal.
The game wasn't pretty, but 20 is more than 14 and the Tigers escaped with a win. Kansas State did an excellent job of containing Auburn's run game. Hopefully Gus and Rhett will be able to figure out what they were doing and adjust. Hats off to Ellis Johnson's defense for forcing turnovers and for dialing up a lot of pressure in the face of officials that absolutely refused to call holding on the Wildcats. Auburn's defense finished with a number of sacks and other tackles for loss. The secondary needs some help still, but Rudy Ford played absolutely lights out, and Trovon Reed shined at times, as well.
This game was described by many to be a trap game. A top five team going on the road against a top twenty-five team AND playing on a Thursday night? It had upset all over it. Kansas State played with a ton of heart and will surely be kicking themselves for missed opportunities that got away from them. I'll take the win for the Tigers, though. On to the next game. 3-0.
War Eagle, Always.