ARLINGTON, Texas — Iowa State did what it had done all season.
The sixth-ranked Cyclones were down 24-7 in Saturday’s Big 12 football championship game against No. 10 Oklahoma.
Iowa State clawed its way back into the game thanks to great defense and steady offense. The Cyclones had a chance to win the game on their last possession in the final seconds.
Iowa State was driving, but after a pair of false starts, the Cyclones were behind the chains. On third down, with 1:05 left in the game, quarterback Brock Purdy was pressured and threw up a prayer, which was intercepted by Oklahoma’s Tre Brown.
Iowa State lost to Oklahoma 27-21 at AT&T Stadium. It’s the Sooners’ sixth straight conference title.
“All I asked from our kids in this game is to be who you are,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “I guess the reality is, we are who we are — fighters. It’s what makes this team and program really special. You hate it that you’re a couple points short but you leave pretty damn proud of the culture, the character and the leadership that this program and team has.
“The resolve it shows is that (the fight) showed up pretty much each and every day and each and every week from the start of the season to the end of the season. I guess mission accomplished. We were who we are (Saturday).”
Receiver Xavier Hutchinson said after the game that Iowa State’s motto this season was, “Never die easy.”
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The Cyclones didn’t lose a Big 12 game this season by more than six points and had comeback wins against Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas during the regular season.
“The fight that our team has inside of them is something great to see,” Hutchinson said. “To be honest with you, just to be a part of it is great. Our team never gives up. I think you guys saw that today, and I’m glad that the world got to see that today too.
“No matter what predicament we’re in, we’re never going to die easy in a football game because we can always make a comeback. Today we just fell a little bit short.”
Iowa State’s fight was spurred by the defense.
It was put in some tough field position situations early in the game but came alive late in the game.
The Cyclones held Oklahoma to just 121 yards and three points in the second half. Oklahoma finished the game just 1 of 11 on third down and the Cyclones held the Sooners under 400 yards of offense for just the second time this season.
That impressive play gave the offense opportunities to mount a comeback.
Purdy wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, completing 27 of 40 passes for 322 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. But he gave the Cyclones a chance in the second half.
Oklahoma did a good job containing Breece Hall who had 79 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 26 passing yards, so the offense needed to rely on Purdy down the stretch.
Purdy finished the second half 17 of 24 for 190 yards.
“He’s a f---in’ warrior,” tight end Charlie Kolar said of Purdy. “I mean, you can say what you want about the three picks, but he keeps fighting to the last second. I’ll go to war with him any day of the week, any day of the year.
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“Obviously, he didn’t play his best game. None of us did. I don’t care. I f---ing love him. I’ll keep playing with him any day.”
While Iowa State had its struggles against the Sooners, the Cyclones showed something to their coach.
“This is not a result-oriented football program,” Campbell said. “We’re result-aware and outcome-aware but I really believe the investment of our leadership team — from our coaches to our players — is we are process and culture driven. When you live like that, then you don’t reside in the highs and the lows of what the scoreboard tells you. When you live like that, you become the best version of yourself.
“I think there’s no question, at the end of the day, this football team has become the best version of itself it can be. That’s really hard to do in our sport with 18-to-22-year-olds. It’s really hard in a year like this. Boy, oh boy, I don’t know if I could be more proud of what these young men have done and what they’ve accomplished.”
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