AMES — Statistically, it’s nutso that Iowa State didn’t beat Oklahoma State in football here Saturday.
The Cyclones ran 88 plays to the visitor’s 55, had 30 first-downs to the Cowboys’ 14. On 21 of OSU running back Chuba Hubbard’s 22 carries, he totaled just 61 yards. He came to Jack Trice Stadium as the nation’s leading rusher, by almost three football fields (297 yards).
But the tried and true rules of football got the 23rd-ranked Cyclones beat at Jack Trice Stadium. You can’t give up big plays. You must finish drives. You can’t turn the ball over, especially with the game on the line. Fail at those things, and you get a 34-27 loss to a team that allowed 45 points in both of its previous two games.
Maybe the kookiest stat of the day was this: The Pokes didn’t start a play in ISU territory until midway through the third quarter, and that only happened because of a facemask penalty on Cyclones linebacker Mike Rose. Yet, Oklahoma State had 21 points by halftime because of boom-boom-boom.
A 71-yard touchdown pass play from Spencer Sanders to Tylan Wallace that should have stopped for a 3-yard gain. A Braydon Johnson 50-yard dash to the end zone on a wide receiver screen. And, Hubbard breaking free up the middle for a 65-yard rushing score.
Iowa State threw most of the punches, but they mostly went pop-pop-pop. The Cyclones averaged just 5.3 yards per play, down from their 7.2 norm. Brock Purdy threw 62 passes, tying Todd Bandhauer’s 21-year-old school record. The Cyclones lost that day, too.
“I think it’s hard for us to be the best version of us if we’re going to be that unbalanced,” ISU Coach Matt Campbell said.
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Iowa State, however, tied the game at 27 with 9:06 left and looked ready to power toward a comeback win. But then came an Oklahoma State defensive boom-boom-boom, starting with a loud thud.
On third-and-4 at the ISU 21 and the Cyclones looking to drive for their first lead, Cowboy linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez knifed in front of well-covered receiver La’Michael Pettway and returned an interception 26 yards for what would be the game’s final points with 6:47 left.
That wasn’t that. After the Cyclones stopped OSU on downs near midfield, Pokes linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga had a pick on ISU’s next drive. Then came a clock-eating three-and-out for OSU, a punt, and Purdy throwing an INT on his 62nd pass.
“I didn’t play to the best of my ability when it mattered in the fourth quarter,” Purdy said.
The sophomore has been really good this season, just like last year. He had many good moments in this game. Then things came apart.
Oklahoma was upset at Kansas State Saturday. Texas lost at TCU. The Cyclones had the chance to be tied with Oklahoma at 4-1 for second in the league behind Baylor and set up a super-big game at Norman when both teams resume play in two weeks.
Instead, Iowa State fell into the Big 12’s Camping World/AutoZone/Cheez-It bowl cluster, needing to sweep Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Kansas State to rise above it.
“You know you better come ready to play and come ready to play your best football,” Campbell said. “If you don’t, you make it really hard to win games in this conference.”
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What separates conference champs from bowl teams is bringing their good stuff over and over, with maybe one exception an autumn like Oklahoma’s clunker at K-State Saturday.
“We’ve lost three close games,” said Cyclones tight end Charlie Kolar, who had eight catches for 88 yards and a TD and is putting up T.J. Hockenson-like numbers this season. But he and Purdy were out of sync on one of the three picks, and both claimed the blame.
Iowa State fell 18-17 to Iowa, had a 23-21, last-second loss at Baylor, and now this third one-score defeat.
“The difference is 10 points, the difference between 8-0 and 5-3,” Kolar said. “We’ve just got to keep getting better.”
The Cyclones had gone boom-boom-boom in their previous three games, wins by a total of 59 points over league teams that used to own them. The one problem with being good enough to reach the Top 25? The higher the climb, the harder the fall.
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