KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The neutral-site meeting between Kansas State and Iowa State was about what you'd expect from a clash of two rebuilding programs. It wasn't flashy, exciting, perfect or pretty, but even still, "Farmageddon," as the game was called by some, packed more than a few bales worth of excitement. The Wildcats collected a 24-23 win courtesy of a blocked extra point from safety Emmanuel Lamur in the final seconds of the contest.
"If my heart rate goes up (anymore), I'll be in the hospital," K-State head coach Bill Snyder said following the win.
In a game that, at least for a moment, seemed headed in the direction of a 24-24 deadlock and a trip to overtime, it was Lamur, a junior college transfer, who stole the show in the waning moments, getting his right hand on the ball as it came off the foot of Cyclone place kicker Grant Mahoney, propelling his team to conference victory No. 1.
A successful kick was likely to force an extra period, but because of Lamur, the more traditional ending was not meant to be. As is to be expected, the celebration that followed the game's most important turn of events wasn't a mild-mannered one.
"It just happened so fast," said Lamur, whose helmet ended up three feet in front of his outstretched body following the win. "I was just running down the field and I felt like a brick just him me, you know, boom! It was my own player crashing into me, though.
It isn't just Lamur who will be billed as the hero of the day; it seems easy to make the argument that a somewhat fresh face at the quarterback position was just as important to the outcome as the game's defining moment.
With senior Grant Gregory, who got the start in place of incumbent signal-caller Carson Coffman, under center from beginning to end on Saturday, Kansas State managed its second consecutive win, stringing together a pair of victories for the first time in 2009. Just as importantly, however, the man who now appears to be the new leader of the Wildcats' offense showed potential while leading the effort.
"I'd give myself a C+ for today's game," said Gregory, who threw for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Saturday. "I did some good things out there, but I did some bad things too."
"He was up and down," Snyder said of his new starting quarterback's performance. "He did some things to really help us, and he did some things to hurt us."
In the end, the good drowned out the bad, and the senior quarterback was never better than he was down the stretch, a time during which his team needed him most.
A scoring strike from Gregory to junior wideout Lamark Brown, who picked up a career-high 61 yards on three catches against Iowa State, with just less than 14:00 left to play in the contest, knotted the score at 17. The play that put K-State on top for good, however, came just a few drives later, when Gregory showed what might be the biggest difference between him and the player he has now replaced.
With the scored tied and less than 6 minutes showing on the game clock, Gregory found himself standing in the backfield without an open receiver. What followed was a wild quarterback scramble that included a ball fake, a spin and a cross-body toss that landed in the hands of senior wide receiver Brandon Banks, who took the ball across the goal line for a 54-yard score.
"That started a 5-yard route," said Banks, whose touchdown pass put K-State up 24-17. "I saw that Grant was scrambling all over, so I took the route up field. He made a great throw, and I was able to catch it."
But while the contest's final moments were more than intriguing, the contest was by no means a thrill ride from the start.
The Wildcats scored 15 points while posting 90 yards of total offense in the game's final period, but the offensive fireworks were not the norm on Saturday, as the most intense moment of the opening half involved a field goal attempt.
K-State place-kicker Josh Cherry converted a 39-yard field goal attempt at the end of the second quarter to not only tie the game at 10 before the break but also mark a substantial personal breakthrough for a kicker who has struggled to say the least. Cherry had converted just one of his first six field goal attempts in 2009.
"I was tired of missing," Cherry said. "All those bad habits I got into, I'm starting to break them now."
Wildcat tailback Daniel Thomas flirted with the 100-yard mark again on Saturday, picking up 97 yards on 25 carries and also led the team in catches, gaining 38 yards on five receptions.
For the third time in five games, the Wildcat defense failed to register a single sack and recorded just two tackles for a loss.
Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson, the Big 12's second leading rusher, left the game with a knee injury in the early going, giving way to backup Jeremiah Schwartz, who was responsible for 79 yards in the loss.
Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud threw for 164 yards and ran for another 87 to lead all Iowa State players in both categories.
K-State, now 1-0 in the Big 12 and 3-2 overall, returns to action next week when it will travel Lubbock, Texas, for a game with Texas Tech.