It was 6:04 p.m., just a few minutes after the south field goal post had been dismantled by celebrating students and had fallen to the turf. Some three and a half hours earlier, at 2:35 p.m., Iowa State had kicked the football away with hopes of claiming its first Big 12 victory in an otherwise difficult season.
Now Rhoads sat here, his sixth season on the precipice of entering the final quarter, calling this the worst. Rock bottom was a 34-14 loss at the hands of Kansas, who punched first and never flinched.
“This was a bad loss,” Rhoads said, not mincing words. “About the worst half of football that we’ve played in my six years here at Iowa State took place in the first 30 minutes of the game. I’m ashamed of that.”
Kansas scored on four of its first five drives, jumping to a 24-0 lead before Iowa State could catch its breath. A defense without Jevohn Miller proved vulnerable, as Kansas racked up 178 yards of total offense in the first quarter alone.
The Cyclones, meanwhile, went without quarterback Sam Richardson, who entered the week wearing a sling to help his right shoulder and couldn’t put enough velocity on passes or throw with enough accuracy by Thursday to play.
Grant Rohach started in Richardson’s place. The offense was on the field for nine plays in the first quarter, going three-and-out on each series and backwards along the way for negative three yards.
“They started fast, we started in reverse, meaning slower than slow,” Rhoads said. “We did not start the game with the right frame of mind that you need to play Division I football with. The first quarter was an onslaught.”
Iowa State saw a glimmer of hope when E.J. Bibbs caught a 3-yard touchdown pass shortly before halftime and D’Vario Montgomery brought in a 35-yard pass for a score to begin the second half. A missed field goal, fumble, two turnovers on downs and an interception followed as Kansas added to its lead.
The Jayhawks, who entered 2-38 in Big 12 play since 2010, sealed this one with 514 yards of total offense, the most since 2011 against Northern Illinois, and with a stout defense, holding Iowa State to two touchdowns, the lowest total since they held the Cyclones to 13 in 2012.
“We’ve just got to play better as a whole,” Rohach said. “You hate to say that this late in the season, but you could say today we could improve in all areas. I think our chances of a bowl game are gone now, but we’ve got to play for pride now. As tough as that is to swallow, we’ve just got to get better as a team.”
“It’s pretty bad,” center Tom Farniok said.
“No comment,” came from defensive end Cory Morrissey.
All that needed to be said was with actions. The students crept down the aisles in the waning moments Saturday and leaped over the barrier onto the field. Iowa State trudged to the locker room, still searching for a Big 12 victory with three games to go.
“I don’t know a feeling much worse than this,” Rohach said.