KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas State gave the ball to Daniel Thomas as much as they could and dared Iowa State to stop him.
Thomas proved to be too tough for the Cyclones to handle.
Thomas rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 34 carries and Kansas State rallied to beat Iowa State 27-20 on Saturday and improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2006.
"They told me to be ready to handle the load, but I didn't know it was going to be 34 carries," said Thomas, who has gained 552 yards through three games. "I want the ball every play if I can take it."
Carson Coffman added 104 passing yards for the Wildcats (3-0, 1-0 Big 12).
It didn't quite match the drama of last year's matchup in Kansas City -- won by Kansas State 24-23 on a late blocked extra-point try -- but it took nearly 60 minutes for the Wildcats to close out Iowa State yet again.
Thomas's 2-yard TD run gave Kansas State a 24-20 lead with 6:47 left. Brandon Harold then sacked Iowa State's Austen Arnaud with 1:58 left and recovered a fumble, setting up a 42-yard field goal by Josh Cherry 20 seconds later.
The Cyclones drove to the Wildcats' 36-yard line with 19 seconds left, but Arnaud threw a pair of incompletions to end the rally.
Arnaud threw for 122 yards and a touchdown to lead Iowa State (1-2, 0-1), which lost its third straight to Kansas State.
"We had our spots of good and we had our spots of bad. Definitely penalties killed us today," Arnaud said. "We've got to be a smarter football team. We've got to execute better in times when it's crunch time."
Kansas State's final touchdown drive covered 83 yards, and Thomas capped it with five straight carries after Brodrick Smith came back to the ball for a crucial 47-yard catch.
"I know one thing. He doesn't get weaker as the game goes on," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said of Thomas.
Iowa State burned all its timeouts to get the ball back with 1:38 left and a chance to tie it. The Cyclones got close, but Arnaud missed a wide-open Alexander Robinson downfield, and Iowa State didn't get any closer.
Thomas opened the second half with a 23-yard run, and it looked like the Wildcats were finally poised to take over a game they had controlled to that point.
That's when Coffman threw it right to Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein -- who was in zone coverage without a receiver in sight -- and Klein's 69-yard interception return gave Iowa State an improbable 14-10 lead.
Thomas nearly got into the miscue act himself, losing control of the ball at the goal line on a spectacular 1-yard touchdown plunge midway through the third quarter. A review held up the call, though, putting the Wildcats back ahead 17-14.
"He's a hard runner, shifty, and he showed that he had speed too," Klein said of Thomas. "He ran the ball hard.
Grant Mahoney's field goal tied the game at 17 late in the third quarter, and he put Iowa State ahead 20-17 with 11:26 to go.
The Wildcats ran it 28 times for 163 yards against Iowa State's suspect rush defense in the first half, but a muffed fake field goal helped keep the Cyclones within 10-7.
Iowa State jumped ahead 7-3 on Arnaud's 13-yard TD pass to Jake Williams to start the second quarter. Coffman answered with a 10-yard touchdown run on an option keeper to put Kansas State on top 10-7 with 11:02 left in the second quarter.
But after a couple misfires from Coffman late in the second quarter, Kansas State opted for a fake that failed miserably, as punter/holder Ryan Doerr got drilled behind the line and fumbled.
This was the last of a two-game series between Kansas State and Iowa State in Kansas City, with the Wildcats as the designated home team. The game drew 38,468 -- about 11,000 less than Kansas State averaged for its first two games in Manhattan.