The No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats' 10th win of 2011 felt familiar. Like a song stuck in one's head. The Wildcats topped the Iowa State Cyclones 30-23, clinching the team's first double-digit winning season since 2003, and marking the Wildcats' eighth win by seven-or-fewer points of 2011.
"I wish I had an answer," Coach Bill Snyder said when asked what it was that led to the Wildcats being involved in so many close games. "I don't. I'm not that sharp."
Yes, the Snyder wit was familiar, and even the formula for the victory played like an old favorite. The Wildcats trailed the Cyclones (6-6, 3-6) early, marched back into the game, took the lead and then came up with a key defensive stop down the stretch to clinch the victory.
"We just found a way to win," defensive tackle Raphael Guidry said. "We scratch and claw any way we can to win. I love this team."
All told, saying the game played like a single song might not do it justice. In truth, the K-State (10-2, 7-2) win proceeded a bit like a musical artist's career retrospective album, taking bits and pieces of previous wins and combining them into one single event that you swear you've seen before. Sure, all included was not great, and the 90-minute weather delay was actually a hit from 2010, but it provided familiarity just the same.
There was Collin Klein doing what have simply become known as "Collin Klein things" throughout the 2011 season. The junior carried 26 times for 86 yards, completed seven passes for 156 yards, and accounted for one touchdown by ground and another by air.
"He's as tough as you'll find," Snyder said of the quarterback, "and he's extremely disciplined."
With one rushing touchdown, Klein pushed his single-season, record-breaking total to 26. He also etched his name in the record book again, surpassing Ell Roberson for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single-season (1,099).
"Collin is the man," running back John Hubert said. "I tip my hat to him. He does whatever it takes to win."
When the ball was not in the hands of Klein, it found those of Hubert. The 5-foot-7 rusher carried for a game high 120 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with a 28-yard, sideline-toeing, scamper with three-and-a-half minutes left in the game.
"I knew I was going to be one-on-one with the safety," Hubert said of the final score. "I tried to stiff-arm him, but he was too close. I was able to slip away from him. I knew I was close to the sideline and close to scoring a touchdown."
Hubert's score came on a five-play, 66-yard drive, which jump-started with a 22-yard carry by the running back.
Guidry also contributed to the "Greatest Hits" compilation. The 290-pound senior burst through the Cyclone line to block an extra point attempt early and then came up with a diving interception in the second half. "It could probably have not gone any better," Guidry said of his final game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Though they trailed on two separate occasions in the first half, the Wildcats took a 23-20 lead when kicker Anthony Cantele kicked a 19-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones responded with a 17-play, clock-eating drive that included a fake punt and a game tying field goal. After Hubert's score to take the lead, Iowa State took over with three-and-a-half minutes to operate. The Cyclones pushed the ball to the K-State 31-yard line before turning the ball over on downs when linebacker [eb]Emmanuel Lamur[/db] stifled a Jeff Woody run.
Eight wins by a touchdown or less. The trend is uncanny and one some might even deem special or magical. Just not the Wildcats.
"I'm not a guy who believes in magic," linebacker Tre Walker said, "but I do believe in blessings. I believe we've been blessed throughout the year. There were so many games where it could have easily gone the other way, but it didn't because we didn't give up. We kept fighting. We were tougher than the opponent."
With the regular season complete, the Wildcats are left waiting to find out what their bowl game destination will be. Sugar? Fiesta? Cotton? Alamo? Whatever the answer, the Wildcats move forward as they have every week of the season, looking to win.
"We knew this was coming," Walker said. "We knew we had to put ourselves to work."