AMES, IOWA — Redundancy has ruled the day in this Iowa State season, and there was no change in that storyline Saturday.
The latest is a 34-31 loss to Texas Tech, a back-and-forth bout that Iowa State had chances to close but ultimately didn’t. Add it to a 4-point loss to Kansas State and a 3-point loss to Texas and there are three just-out-of-reach losses in what has been a winless Big 12 season for the Cyclones.
Close, but no cigar.
“We let them respond,” coach Paul Rhoads said afterward. “We had a chance to close the door and secure and keep a lead and we did not do that.”
The Cyclones did respond early, following a quick 14-0 deficit with 24 unanswered points. Sam Richardson connected with E.J. Bibbs on the team’s first score, the eighth of the season for Iowa State’s playmaking tight end.
Third-string running back Tyler Brown hauled in an 11-yard reception on a swing pass to even the score, and Cole Netten nailed a 22-yard field goal to give the Cyclones their first lead of the game. The second half started with a bang as Iowa State went 80 yards on five running plays, capped by an Aaron Wimberly touchdown rush that appeared to secure momentum.
Wimberly rushed for 102 yards in the loss while DeVondrick Nealy ran for another 87. Iowa State managed 265 rushing yards in total, the most since October 2011 when the Red Raiders surrendered the Cyclones 368.
“We had 96 at half and I said we have to be over 200 to end this game to have an opportunity,” Rhoads said. “Opportunities were there just like opportunities are there against us and people know that and they’re going to be committed to the run game.”
When Iowa State pulled ahead with a 10-point lead, it had a chance to close. But Texas Tech, which started the ensuing drive at its own 11, gained 44 yards on a fake punt on fourth down and drew within one score with a 13-yard touchdown on the next play before missing the extra point.
“It was a huge play to keep them on the field and then they scored,” Rhoads said. “We were actually in a call to defend a fake that they had shown earlier this year to the edge and they went up the middle instead.”
In a game of runs, the Red Raiders took a lead on their next drive with an 82-yard touchdown strike. Iowa State retook the lead when Wimberly got into the end zone for the second time early in the fourth quarter.
But Netten missed a 42-yard field goal attempt — one of two missed tries on the day for the usually reliable kicker — keeping the Cyclones’ lead at four.
Texas Tech scored on the next drive to take the lead for the final time and Richardson came up two yards short on 4th and 8 on Iowa State’s final drive.
“We had a lot of opportunities to finish the game, that’s one thing we’ve kind of struggled with this year is finishing games,” cornerback Nigel Tribune said. “We’ve got plenty of opportunities, we’ve just got to learn how to finish.”
That’s three losses by less than one score and one team fighting to get over the hump.
“It’s frustrating,” Wimberly said. “We have another game next week, and we just have to get ready and need to focus on that.”