Iowa State head football coach Paul Rhoads looked at the stat sheet from Saturday’s 42-35 loss to Texas Tech, noticing how much his defense was on the field.
“A hundred and one plays, 666 yards. What time is it, 7 o’clock that we’re getting out of here?” Rhoads quipped.
Acutally, it was only five minutes until 3 p.m. when the game ended, but it felt like longer as much as the Cyclones struggled defensively to keep up with the Red Raiders. To their credit, however, they played a lot closer than most gave them credit, being a 14-point underdog coming into the game at Jones AT&T Stadium.
But Iowa State didn’t possess quite enough bullets to stay with the Red Raiders stride for stride as Tech pulled away late in the game to send the Cyclones (1-3, 0-2 in Big 12) to their second straight loss.
“You can say this — we play exciting football games. In five games they’ve all been 60-minute games and our kids have been fighting right down to the very end. That’s very pleasing to a coach at a time when his record is below .500, and he’s getting his kids to play, he’s getting his kids challenged and our kids continue to respond.”
In terms of defense and special teams — other than the yardage — the Cyclones did a lot of things right. They created two touchdowns from special teams and forced three Red Raider turnovers while committing none.
But ISU couldn’t slow Tech down enough to get on top. The Cyclones tied the game three times in the first half but never led, and eventually the Red Raiders were able to build enough of a lead the Cyclones couldn’t overcome.
“They’re a very good football team,” linebacker Jeremiah George said. “There were some plays that we left out on the field. We put ourselves in some bad positions at times with a couple of missed tackles in the open field. We’ve done a good job of emphasizing making open-field tackles and making sure tackles that we’re supposed to make, but we didn’t do a good job of that today.”
Iowa State’s special teams played a huge part in the Cyclones actually staying with the Red Raiders for a half. Without Tech handing them two touchdowns on special teams, the Cyclones wouldn’t have been anywhere near the Red Raiders on the scoreboard.
Iowa State had just 139 yards of total offense in the first half, and only 11 in the first quarter. Yet Jarvis West’s 95-yard kickoff return midway through the first quarter tied the game at 7 just 14 seconds after the Red Raiders had taken a 7-0 lead, and another special teams miscue on punt return coverage allowed ISU to tie the game at 14 with just over 9 minutes left in the second half after the ball went off Keenon Ward’s hand and ISU recovered.
The return by West was the first for the Cyclones for a non-onside kick since Troy Davis took one back in 1994.
“Huge,” Rhoads said of West’s return. “I thought momentum was clearly in their favor at that point. That kick return gave our team life, gave them energy, gave them juice and the whole team fed off that and helped lead us to a 21-21 draw at the half.”
The Cyclones finished with 311 yards of total offense, but couldn’t quite close the gap on the Red Raiders. At one point, Iowa State had six straight drives ending in a punt.
Starting running back Aaron Wimberly, who had 67 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, missed most of the second half with a shoulder injury, and quarterback Sam B. Richardson was just 15 of 38 for 168 yards and a touchdown.
Yet after Richardson hit E.J. Bibbs for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:54 remaining in the game, the Cyclones were within only a touchdown. But they couldn’t get a handle on the ensuing onside kick, which Tech recovered and eventually ran out the clock.
“Football is shaped in a funny way,” Rhoads said. “It takes funny bounces. We had an opportunity at the very end, and we couldn’t grasp on to an oval-shaped object to give us an opportunity to win. It’s very disappointing to us as we finish out this ballgame.”
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