GLENDALE, Ariz. — Iowa State’s victory over Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday wasn’t perfect, but it was clean.
The No. 10 Cyclones largely avoided mistakes in the 34-17 victory over the No. 25 Ducks.
“I think that each group had its moments, to be honest with you, throughout the football game” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said.
Taking advantage of special teams miscues
The Cyclones capitalized on Oregon’s special teams malfeasance to the tune of a first-half touchdown on a kickoff that offered the same result of a successful onside kick and a field goal on a muffed punt in the second half.
On the former, Oregon tight end DJ Johnson lost the ball in the air around the 30-yard line on a pooched kickoff by Nettles.
Rory Walling, a backup running back who was put on scholarship this week, dove underneath a slew of white-and-green clad Ducks to land on the ball at the 27-yard line.
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Three plays later, and with less than 90 seconds knocked off the clock, the Cyclones went up 28-14 on a 1-yard rushing score by running back Breece Hall, his second 1-yard score of the game.
Special teams are not known to be the Cyclones’ forte — the team does not have a special teams coordinator on the coaching staff — and the Iowa State kicking game wasn’t outstanding. Connor Assalley hit field goals of 33 and 39 yards and kickoffs weren’t spectacular.
Likewise, the returners failed to spring themselves for big gains on kickoffs and the Cyclones did not return any of the three Oregon punts.
The specialists didn’t need to be stellar on the crisp Saturday at State Farm Stadium, as Iowa State kept mistakes to a minimum.
The most glaring were a string of three false starts on the 7-minute, 57-second fourth-quarter drive that put the Cyclones up 34-17, proving to be decisive on Assalley’s second field goal.
Long ISU drives take time off clock
Offensively, the Cyclones ran 85 plays for 384 yards and held the ball for almost 43 minutes of game time.
“We didn’t go into the game saying hey, we’re going to eat up as much of the clock as we can,” Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy said. “That’s really just how the game turned out for us, run the ball, run the ball, throw it when we needed to.”
The Cyclones finished with 228 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, to Purdy’s 156 yards in the air.
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Iowa State also dominated time of possession 42:48-17:12, limiting the plays the Ducks were able to make and keeping the defense fresh.
Oregon rotates quarterbacks and struggles
Oregon rotated two quarterbacks — Tyler Shough started, but Anthony Brown got most of the opportunity, finishing 12 of 19 for 147 yards through the air and another 36 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns.
Neither quarterback was able to lead the Ducks to a third-down conversion.
Mike Rose sealed the game with an interception, his fifth of the season, of Shough, returning the ball 12 yards to the Cyclones’ 42 yard line, with 3:19 left.
The Ducks finished with four turnovers, including three fumbles, all recovered by the Cyclones.
“Like (defensive coordinator Jon) Heacock always says, if we do our jobs, we should be in the right place,” said linebacker O’Rien Vance, who recovered two fumbles and was named the defensive MVP of the game. “I feel like throughout the second half, that’s our whole mentality.
“We did our jobs and we came out with turnovers.”
The win led to jubilant emotions on the sideline, as the Cyclones chased Campbell with coolers and Purdy knelt out the clock.
“It’s been a long time coming for this program,” Rose said. “And everyone has worked their butt off here. It’s really just special. But we’ve been trying to raise the standard here, and hopefully we can keep this going in future years.”