The Wildcats were down 10-0 after the first quarter Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, and the offense was struggling to find any rhythm after kicker Jeff Snodgrass missed a 43-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game.
K-State got within seven points early in the second quarter when Snodgrass connected on a 19-yarder, and Freeman finally got his chance to throw a touchdown after Iowa State had to punt on its next possession.
The drive started on the Cyclone 15-yard line after a pretty strange turn of events. Wildcat punter Tim Reyer had a 60-yard punt that was fumbled by Iowa State. Cyclone return man Chris Singleton let the punt hit the ground, but Ryan Baum bobbled the ball and it was recovered by Wildcat linebacker Brandon Archer, which set K-State up in excellent field position.
Running back Leon Patton rushed for four yards on two straight carries, and then Freeman completed an 8-yard pass to receiver Cedric Wilson. Patton attempted to run the ball into the endzone on the next play, but he could only make it to the 2. Freeman then ran a play-action pass to fullback John McCardle for the touchdown, tying the ballgame at 10.
"No," Freeman said when asked if he pictured his first passing touchdown to be a little two-yard dumpoff, "but hey, it's whatever gets the job done.'
Freeman also said he had not begun to worry about when or if he would get that elusive touchdown pass.
"It was nice that I got it today, but I could have cared less if we would have ran it in the play earlier," he said. "It's just all about winning right now."
And win they did, as the Wildcats (5-4 overall, 2-3 Big 12 Conference) used the momentum from that play to propel themselves to a 31-10 victory over the Cyclones (3-6, 0-5 Big 12). With the win and three games remaining on the schedule, K-State has now put itself only one win shy of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2003.
Even though the offense was struggling early in the game, Freeman still managed to go 6-of-7 for 78 yards in the first quarter.
He cooled off just a bit for the rest of the game, but he still finished 14-of-20 for 161 passing yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Running back James Johnson got the first start of his career, and he responded by rushing for 115 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. His performance comes on the heels of a 127-yard performance last week against Missouri, when he wasn't the starter.
"I felt pretty good out there, I just had to get into a rhythm," Johnson said. "In the second half I got a feel for the defense and I just took advantage of it."
Patton had been the starter for the last three games, but he was unable to practice much this week, which gave Johnson a chance to show the coaches what he could do.
Coach Ron Prince said he liked what he saw in practice and felt like Johnson had earned the opportunity to get a start under his belt.
"James Johnson continues to be very steady in practice and continues to improve," Prince said. "It wasn't only the performance last week in the game, but the way he practiced this week was terrific. We thought he gave us a really good opportunity in this game where we knew we were going to have to match some yards with their offense because of how potent they are."
Patton didn't help his case to regain the starting role, as he fumbled the football on his first carry of the game in the second quarter. A Wildcat recovered it, and he was able to come back and redeem himself later in the game. He helped stretch the lead to 24-10 when he had a 37-yard touchdown run with 3:57 remaining in the game, and he finished the game with 41 yards rushing on five carries.
Johnson said it doesn't matter who starts next week against Colorado, because he and Patton only care about winning.
"That's my little brother, and we are good friends," he said. "We both have speed, we both can take it to the house and we are both unselfish. We just want to win all the time."