AMES, Iowa — There Sam Richardson stood, in front of the student section as the sun began to set on Jack Trice Stadium. He had his career day in hand, and, finally, for the first time as a starting quarterback, he was hearing the fight song emanate from the stands after a home victory.
That moment had eluded Richardson in the early part of his career, but with the help of 37 completions, 351 yards and three touchdowns, Richardson finally has a taste of victory in front of the home crowd.
“Believe me, it’s been itching at me forever,” Richardson said. “I had never won a game as a starter at Jack Trice, so it’s an amazing feeling. The university deserves more than one in the last year, so obviously it’s a great feeling.”
Iowa State had won just once — in its sub-zero season finale against Kansas last season — in its previous 12 home games entering Saturday. Making that twice in 13 tries took halftime adjustments and Richardson’s career day before Iowa State could eventually dispatch Toledo, 37-30.
The Cyclones reached the redzone three times in the first half against the Rockets, but each subsequent trip resulted in field goals off the right foot of kicker Cole Netten. Toledo kicked two field goals through the uprights and broke into the end zone with a 14-yard touchdown run to take a lead to halftime.
After Toledo converted on 7-of-10 third downs in the first half, the Iowa State defense cut that number to 1-of-6 after the break. That was part of the Cyclones’ equation to coming away with that elusive home victory.
“That was our conversation at halftime, [was] fixing that,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “The credit goes to the kids. We didn’t change up calls. We came out and they strapped it up better and played faster and played better and knew they had to get off the field.”
The Iowa State offense upped its tempo in the second half, and the results quickly followed. Richardson marched the offense down the field immediately out of the break, eventually capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tad Ecby.
When the Cyclones forced a three-and-out, the offense extended the lead to two scores when true freshman Martinez Syria capped a 65-yard drive with a touchdown run up the middle.
“In the first half we were getting in places where we were waiting for them to set up on defense and I told the coaches ‘We need to just go. We need to go fast and not let them get set up,’” Richardson said. “And that definitely paid off, we put up quite a few points in the second half. [I’m] definitely proud we put the game in our own hands and didn’t leave it up for the defense.”
Toledo would draw within one score with a touchdown run late in the third quarter and tied the game at 23-all with a field goal early in the fourth.
Richardson promptly led the offense 65 yards downfield for the go-ahead score. That came when E.J. Bibbs caught a 5-yard-pass and forced his way — a piece of his golden jersey falling to the field — into the end zone for the lead.
“I was freaking out,” Richardson said. “I was about ready to cuss out Jauan [Wesley] thinking we got a flag there. It was an amazing play by an amazing player.”
Iowa State would never relinquish the lead — despite a late score by Toledo — thanks to Allen Lazard reeling in a 14-yard touchdown reception. Lazard and D’Vario Montgomery combined to catch 17 passes for 186 yards.
Richardson, meanwhile, set career highs in completions (37), passing yardage (351) and total offense (382 yards) while passing Austen Arnaud and Steele Jantz (36) for the school record for most completions.
“[He] made a lot of plays with his feet, with his arm. He was very productive,” Rhoads said. “When you start to mature like he is right now, you do things like that, you make smart plays. He made a couple knucklehead plays in the first half, so to come back and have the presence to play the way he did in the next 30 minutes, credit to him.”
Now he has the win in front of the hometown faithful, too.
“We’re not pleased to be 2-4, but I’m pleased with the fight that continues to come out of our guys,” Rhoads said. “They showed great perseverance in the second half to come out with the energy that they did to win this football game.”