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AMES — Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell called it “maybe one of the greatest plays in the history of this program.”
The play in question?
Senior safety Anthony Johnson’s forced fumble at the goal line in the second quarter of Saturday’s painful 10-9 loss to No. 20 Kansas State that resulted in a touchback.
It saved a touchdown. Wildcats receiver Malik Knowles had broken free and jetted 68 yards, but Johnson never quit on the play — just as he won’t quit on this season after the Cyclones fell to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in Big 12 play.
“We just had a little bit of a coverage bust and everything else was all effort and heart,” Johnson said. “What this defense has been built on.”
Johnson’s play prevented Kansas State (5-1, 3-0) from taking a 14-6 lead shortly before halftime. It kept hope alive even as ISU’s offense failed to reach the end zone the entire game.
That side of the ball is in dire need of some “great” plays of its own, as the Cyclones have scored just one touchdown in the past two games — and the team has lost three games by a combined 11 points.
“We’re just not finishing drives,” said tailback Jirehl Brock, who returned from an ankle injury to rush for 33 yards. “And it’s hard to score points, obviously, when you don’t finish drives, because you’re not getting into the end zone. As a team, as an offense, we’ve got to be better, because the defense is holding down its side of the ball. When your defense is holding the other team to 10 points and as an offense, you’re not scoring at all, you’re making it bad on the defense because they’re going out there even more. We’ve just got to take more advantage of our opportunities.”
Not finishing drives last week in a 14-11 loss at No. 19 Kansas forced true freshman kicker Jace Gilbert to attempt four field goals. He missed three of them — two thumped off the uprights, but he rebounded Saturday to make all three of his kicks and account for all of the Cyclones’ scoring.
“Our fan base, unfortunately, tried to fry an 18-year-old kicker last week and our 18-year-old kicker responded and went 3-for-3 tonight in a big-time situation,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of things we can sit here — we didn’t win the football game. You can put as much of that on me. I sit in the offensive room, so if you want to complain about me, put it on me. But the reality of it is, I still see a lot of really great growth and great things happening on this team. We’re a couple inches away, here and there, that we’re not making some of the plays that we need to make to win the game. It’s still a process. It’s a journey with this young team and, again, I believe in the players and I believe in who we are, and I believe in what we’e about.”
- Hutchinson made the 200th catch of his career. Only former Cyclone and current Green Bay Packer Allen Lazard has recorded more receptions in program history.
- Saturday's crowd of 60,561 is the largest ever to watch an Iowa State-Kansas State game.
- Defensive end Will McDonald notched two sacks to push his ISU record total to 32.5. He’s 1.5 sacks away from tying the Big 12’s all-time record.