The ball clanked against Sam Richardson’s shoulder pads at Kinnick Stadium and fell to the green field turf, a missed interception and a missed chance to potentially alter the game.
Iowa would go on to score on that drive to pull ahead of Iowa State by two scores before halftime, and when the Cyclones eventually prevailed with a last-second field goal, Richardson would find out that he wouldn’t hear the end of it from friends and family back home in League City, Texas.
“‘You make tackles, you get deflections and stuff like that. We just need interceptions,’” Richardson would hear. “They kind of stay on me a lot about that Iowa drop because it hit me in the chest. It should have been an interception.”
Had Iowa State not come through with a win that afternoon in Iowa City, that dropped interception might stick with Richardson more than it does.
“If I would have caught that I probably would have went for six,” Richardson says a few weeks later with a laugh.
There is a board that sits in the defensive backs room at the Bergstrom Football Complex that was used during camp to tally interceptions and pass breakups. The board fuels competition among the Iowa State defensive backs.
So when safety T.J. Mutcherson tallied the first interception of the season for the Cyclones later in that game against Iowa, the others took notice. He began to pull away from the group in Iowa State’s next game when he intercepted Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty to up his season total to two.
“T.J. kind of got those two and it was like, ‘OK, he’s starting to pull away,’” Richardson said. “It’s a competition, but it’s good for our team because turnovers are more possessions for our offense.”
When an errant throw from Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman floated Richardson’s way Saturday, he finally gave friends and family back home something to go with all their chiding.
The first interception of Richardson’s collegiate career halted the Cowboys’ drive in Iowa State territory and put the redshirt junior on the board.
“When I saw the opportunity I was just focusing like, ‘Bring it in. Bring it in,’” Richardson said. “After the play I kind of thought about it like, ‘Damn, I finally got one.’ It was a sense of relief.”
Nigel Tribune added his name to the list later in the day, bringing in the team’s fourth interception in three games. After going two weeks without forcing a turnover, the numbers are starting to pile up for the Iowa State defense.
“Turnovers are a funny thing to put your finger on and figure out,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “You could go three-straight weeks of devoting a period or 10 minutes to strip drills, turnover drills or interception drills and not get close to one. You could go three weeks and not even talk about them and end up with seven of them as a defense. I do think there’s generally a snowball effect when you start getting them.”