MANHATTAN — K-State trailed Iowa State by five points with 1:55 remaining in the game. Redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson and the K-State offense had the ball at its own 13 yard line, needing to go 87 yards for a chance at a victory.
With the poise of a veteran, Thompson led K-State down the field before scrambling around from one yard out with one second remaining to hit sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Zuber in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. K-State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) defeated Iowa State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) by a final score of 20-19 Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.
"I do not remember much (of the final play) to be honest, because it happened so quick. It was an incredible moment. I had a good idea of what coverage (Iowa State) were running," Thompson said. "Pre-snap I was determined to go to Isaiah Zuber and they kind of jammed him up, so I came off it and scrambled, just trying to keep the play alive. I was literally just thinking about tucking and running it. As soon as I do that I see (Zuber) wide open and gave him a ball to catch."
Zuber, who led K-State with 56 yards receiving on seven catches and a touchdown, talked about the final play.
"I always knew that we were going to get into the end zone because (Thompson) is a great quarterback. Skylar is going to keep the play alive and he is going to win no matter what. He is a winner," Zuber said.
K-State head coach Bill Snyder noted that he was a little nervous about Thompson being able to lead a game-winning drive.
"I was concerned that it might be difficult (for Thompson to lead a game-winning drive) because Skylar hardly practiced this week. He didn't practice Monday, didn't practice Tuesday, threw a little bit on Wednesday, and got a full practice in on Thursday. He had about one-and-a-half practices. I was a little bit more worried about him making the decisions he needed to make in the heat of the valley," Snyder said.
Heading into the final drive of the game, Thompson had only thrown for 74 total yards. K-State's receivers were being bottled up by Iowa State for much of the game. On the game-winning drive, Thompson completed 7-of-9 passes for 78 yards.
For the game, Thompson completed 15-of-21 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Junior wide receiver Zach Reuter, who had two catches for 38 yards on the final drive, talked about Thompson's performance during the game-winning drive.
"He's a fighter. He won't give up. It was pretty awesome that he could fight through the adversity that we had to go through and come out and make the plays that we needed," Reuter said.
Saturday marked Thompson's second comeback victory this season. In relief of sophomore quarterback Alex Delton, he led K-State to a 42-35 overtime victory on the road over Texas Tech. In that game, Thompson scored a touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in the game to force overtime. Reuter talked about what helps Thompson deliver in clutch situations.
"I think he has a leadership swagger going on that we can kind of feel. He's really confident in everything he's doing. He's not second-guessing himself. He's striking when he sees it," Reuter said.
Thompson said that he has never experienced a moment like Saturday night in his career.
"I had a moment like that in the Texas Tech game and I had a couple games in high school that came down to the wire. I have never experienced throwing a touchdown with no time on the clock in my entire life. I was not afraid of the moment and was ready to attack it. Our (offensive line) gave me plenty of time. Our receivers made plays. That's what it's all about. I'm so proud of our team," Thompson said.
Sophomore running back Alex Barnes talked about Thompson's ability to deliver in comeback wins this season.
"It's just his toughness and his never-give-up mentality. He takes that into everything that he does. On that last drive, it was special to see him do what he's been doing in practice translate into games. The kid's got a special arm and that 'it' factor. He showed that (Saturday)," Barnes said.
Barnes helped K-State get the win Saturday. K-State had moved the ball to the three yard line with nearly six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Barnes received a pitch-pass from Thompson, and threw a jump pass touchdown to junior fullback Winston Dimel to make it a 14-19 ballgame with 6:07 to go in the game. Barnes talked about the play.
"It's a play we've been practicing for about a year-and-a-half. I got the pitch. I had to read the linebacker to see if he was going to run the blitz. He kind of gave a little hand presence and let (Dimel) go at the last second. I knew it was going to be there as soon as I saw it, and I let it go," Barnes said.
K-State finishes the season with a 7-5 record, and will now wait to see where, and when, it will play its postseason bowl game.