College football, as you surely have noticed, is brutal.
Physically, and emotionally. Brutal.
All the training and practicing and studying and strategizing. All the time and money spent to hire the right coach, to build the perfect beast of a football facility, to establish reputations and traditions.
Then, games and seasons come down to whiskers. A half-yard here, a potential pass interference call that wasn’t made there.
How much more bitter could Saturday have been in Iowa because of two games played out-of-state against nationally ranked teams favored to win by more than a touchdown?
Iowa lost at Wisconsin, 24-22, failing to perhaps send the game to overtime when Nate Stanley’s quarterback sneak on a two-point conversion try was stopped a half-yard from the goal line. Hours later, Iowa State lost 42-41 at Oklahoma when a two-point conversion attempt was a pass that didn’t connect.
A lot of people thought pass interference should have been called on the Sooners. A lot of Hawkeye people couldn’t help but notice that a game official screened Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent. That made it harder for Sargent to block Badger safety Eric Burrell, who helped stack up Stanley and denied him from scoring the tying points.
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Thus, Iowa is 3-3 in the Big Ten despite outscoring its league foes by 42 points, and isn’t going to win its division. Iowa State is 3-3 in the Big 12 despite outscoring its league foes by 49 points, and isn’t going to that conference’s championship game.
If misery truly loves company, our state should be one big lovefest right now. The Cyclones trailed Oklahoma 42-21 going into the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes were down 21-6 to Wisconsin entering the fourth.
On the road against red menaces, both played themselves back into those games. And came up short by a whisker. Brutal.
We may not remember great-escape wins as much as the losses that seemed like victories waiting to be plucked. Also, let us remember that teams have seldom covered themselves with more glory in recent years than Iowa State did by winning at then-No. 3 Oklahoma in 2017 and Iowa did by beating then-No. 3 Ohio State 55-24 four weeks later.
But does it feel like the heartbreakers have balanced out? Consider Iowa:
In big games, several late-game plays near the goal line were wicked for the Hawkeyes the last few years. There was LJ Scott’s last-minute lunge for the touchdown that was barely enough to give Michigan State a Big Ten title-game win over Iowa in 2015. There was the last-second 7-yard touchdown pass Penn State’s Trace McSorley threw at Kinnick in 2017 for a walk-off victory, and Iowa’s Nate Stanley getting intercepted at the Penn State 2 on the road last year with 3:19 left and his team down, 30-24. Iowa never got the ball back.
And there was its thing at Madison on Saturday.
Consider Iowa State: How about last-second losses at Kansas State in 2017 and at Baylor this year? There was an overtime home loss to Iowa in 2017 and a maddening 18-17 defeat to the Hawkeyes this season.
Then there was last year’s Alamo Bowl, when the Cyclones scored to pull within 28-26 of Washington State with 4:02 left, but — stop me if you’ve heard this before — failed to convert the two-point conversion attempt. ISU never got the ball back.
And there was its thing at Norman on Saturday.
All the time and effort and evaluation and resources spent recruiting high school kids and then molding them into college teams of repute. Then the ball bounces one way instead of the other, or an official does or doesn’t make a call, or the other team pulls a crazy play out of its hat with a game on the line.
What are the four saddest words?
The Internet is down.
We’re out of pie.
Two-point conversion failed.
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The Internet will come back and you can always make more pie. But those failed two-point tries of Saturday? Those babies are going to leave marks.
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