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Iowa State football keeps finding ways to lose
Cyclones can finish on high note with upset of TCU on Saturday
AMES — Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald tied the Big 12’s all-time sacks record. The Cyclones dictated tempo Saturday night against the nation’s best tempo offense, Texas Tech.
And ISU still found a way to lose, 14-10, against the Red Raiders on Senior Night because of the usual, but bizarre mix of ineptitude on offense and special teams that propelled the painful, yet predictable narrative for its latest one-score football loss against Big 12 foes.
“Really, there was a lack of execution and why did that happen?” Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell said after his team’s hopes of reaching an unprecedented sixth straight bowl game dipped precipitously. “I don’t know. We’ll have to take a great look at that.”
It’s deserving of an extra long look.
ISU (4-7, 1-7) dominated the game on both sides of the ball yet still found a way to lose against the Red Raiders (6-5, 4-4), who yielded as few as 10 points for just the second time this season.
“It’s a team game,” said Cyclones tight end Easton Dean, who hurdled a defender to score a go-ahead touchdown with 11:18 remaining. “So there’s no one to be mad at.”
There’s simply frustration, as ISU clings to faint hopes of an unprecedented sixth straight bowl berth if it can knock off unbeaten and fourth-ranked TCU next weekend in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Cyclones have proved to be capable of winning or losing every game in the Big 12 schedule this season, but have mostly discovered how to lose in surprising and startling ways.
Saturday, they scored a mere three points off of five trips to the red zone. The touchdown connection from quarterback Hunter Dekkers to Dean spanned 24 yards, but the defense that constantly set up ISU for a chance to win gave up what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on the following drive.
“I think it was a couple things,” said safety Beau Freyler, who recovered an early fumble in the loss. “The tempo a little bit. We weren’t completely set.”
If anything, the Cyclones have been fully unsettled against Big 12 competition, where they’ve lost seven games by an average of 5.42 points. ISU’s defense has given the offense a chance to win every game deep into the fourth quarter, but disastrous miscues have ensured the team will finish with a losing record for the first time since 2016.
It’s also the last time they’ve lost on either Senior Day or Senior Night in six seasons, but not because of those Cyclones who played their final game at Jack Trice Stadium.
“It’s literally the greatest leadership that I’ve seen and it’s also been the greatest sense of servant leadership that I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” Campbell said of his relatively low number of seniors. “I look up at that scoreboard and I see the games across the Big 12 and everywhere else and, man, it’s all over the place. But not our kids. We’re right there and have a chance to win the football game.”
That’s been true every week. But in Big 12 play that’s meant losses in seven of eight games. So now ISU resumes its recent role of spoiler, seeking to topple TCU and end a disappointing 2022 season on a high note.
“At the end of the day, they’ve still got to play us,” McDonald said. “Obviously, we’ve just got to do our part and we’ve got to execute.”