MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas State scored two special teams
touchdowns and stopped Illinois State quarterback Luke Drone on a
2-point conversion in the final minutes to preserve a 24-23 victory
Saturday night in the head coaching debut of Ron Prince.
Trailing 17-16 with 8:25 to go, Kansas State's Marcus Perry
popped the ball out of the arms of Illinois State's Jason Horton
and into the hands of cornerback Byron Garvin, who sprinted 9 yards
into the end zone to give the Wildcats the lead.
Dylan Meier hit tight end Rashaad Norwood for the 2-point
conversion to make it 24-17, but the Redbirds came right back, just
as they had all game.
Driving 47 yards in just over 5 minutes, Drone hit a wide open
Pierre Jackson in the corner of the end zone to pull within 24-23
with 3:02 to go.
But instead of kicking the extra point, coach Denver Johnson
elected to go for 2 and the win. Drone dropped back to pass but was
quickly swallowed by the Kansas State defensive line to preserve
Meier threw for 163 yards and Jeff Snodgrass had three field
goals for the Wildcats (1-0), who didn't score a touchdown on
offense and were out-gained 346 to 207.
Drone finished with 253 yards passing and three touchdowns,
including a 3-yard fade pass to Laurent Robinson that gave the
Division I-AA Redbirds (0-1) a 17-13 lead with 12:35 to go in the
Robinson finished with nine catches for 77 yards, and his 4-yard
TD grab early in the second half gave him the school record with 23
career touchdown catches.
The stadium was officially renamed in honor of former Kansas
State coach Bill Snyder in a ceremony before the game. But there
was little for the Wildcats to celebrate after that.
Meier, who beat out heralded freshman Josh Freeman for the
starting job, threw into double-coverage on the game's opening play
and was intercepted by Illinois State safety Tom Nelson -- one of
two he had in the first half.
The Redbirds then marched 53 yards in 11 plays, setting up Kevin
Mazur's 35-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Kansas State didn't manage a first down until late in the first
quarter and gained only 23 yards rushing in a sloppy first half.
The Wildcats' first sustained drive was derailed by Yamon
Figurs' holding penalty inside the Illinois State 20. A few minutes
later, Snodgrass pulled a 38-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Kansas State didn't score until Snodgrass hit a 52-yard field
goal with 4:54 to go before halftime, which capped a 13-play,
Illinois State appeared headed for halftime tied at 3-3 when
Bobby Kelsey out-punted his coverage. The speedy Figurs managed to
turn the corner in front of the Kansas State bench and raced 81
yards for a touchdown and a 10-3 halftime lead.