Publisher's Note: This is the seventh in a 12-part series, projecting the outcome of the upcoming Iowa State football season. These are works of fiction, obviously, and all the information and quotes printed are figments of the writer's fertile imagination. However, they are also meant as analysis and prognostication. The schedule for the rest of the Monday Musings throughout the offseason are as follows:
May 2—Iowa State 38, Illinois State 3
May 9—Iowa State 23, Iowa 21
May 16—Iowa State 26, Army 14
May 23—Iowa State 27, Nebraska 20
May 30—Iowa State 35, Baylor 14
June 16—Missouri 28, Iowa State 16
June 20—at Texas A&M
June 27—Kansas State
July 11—at Kansas
July 25 (pending expected baby arrival)—2005 Preview
Jack Trice Stadium
Iowa State 31, Oklahoma State 27
Ames, Iowa –This Homecoming crowd certainly got its money's worth on Saturday night. And they probably got more than they bargained for as well.
Oklahoma State was off to a surprising 4-2 start under first year coach Mike Gundy. However, the Cowboys had only beaten one team with a pulse thus far, so the pregame conventional wisdom said the Cyclones would easily bounce back after suffering their first loss of the season.
Not so fast my friend.
Oklahoma State put a scare into the Cyclones, along with the sellout crowd at Jack Trice Stadium, and it wasn't over until Adam Carper stripped the ball from Bobby Reid to cause a fumble that was recovered by LaMarcus Hicks with just over a minute remaining. That sealed a 31-27 cliffhanger victory for 20th-ranked ISU. The Cyclones are now 6-1 overall and all alone in first place in the Big 12 North Division at 3-1.
"No doubt about it, that was a big win for us," A relieved Dan McCarney said. "Give the Cowboys credit, they played their butts off and it took a great job by Bret Meyer and our offense at the end to put us over the top."
The Cyclones were double-digit favorites at home, but somebody forgot to tell OSU that it was supposed to roll over and play dead after getting 40-pointed last week at Texas A&M.
Gundy made a switch at quarterback, sitting down Donovan Woods in favor of Reid, who was a much-ballyhooed recruit last year before being forced to redshirt due to a shoulder injury. ISU's defense was prepared for the scrambling ability of Woods, but clearly was surprised by Reid's ability to throw accurately on the run and Gundy's run-and-gun attack.
Reid completed 16-of-24 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns…in the first half. He finished with 306 yards passing and another 51 yards rushing.
"I think you saw why they were so high on him and why he was so highly recruited," McCarney said. "He really forced us to make some adjustments at halftime."
Fortunately, the ISU offense nearly kept pace and didn't let the Cowboys get too far ahead before intermission. In fact, ISU appeared to set a positive tone from the outset. The Cyclones opened the game with an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Meyer finding Walter Nickel in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown pass. ISU passed just three times on the drive and was clearly bent on re-establishing a running game that was stalled at Missouri last week. Hicks carried the ball six times for 32 yards on the first drive alone.
"We knew we needed to get off to a good start after what happened last week," Meyer said. "Then, as the game went on, we knew we had to keep up with their offense and put some points on the board."
It didn't take long for the Cowboys to respond.
Borrowing a page from Missouri's playbook, the Cowboys spread out ISU's defense to open up running and throwing lanes for a versatile quarterback. And Reid took full advantage. The Cyclones had expected this tactic from OSU, but with the intention of running the football. Gundy and Reid had more aerial ideas.
Oklahoma State attempted to throw the ball nine times on its first drive, eventually travelling 80-yards for a touchdown. Reid hit Mike Hamilton out of the backfield for a 19-yard toss on a wheel route to tie the score.
Later in the first quarter, Reid gave the Cowboys their first lead when D'Juan Woods beat DeAndre Jackson for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys were driving again on their next drive when Reid made his only mistake of the first half.
Throughout much of the first two quarters, Gundy had the ISU defensive coaches guessing on when to blitz and when to sit back in coverage. Rarely did ISU guess right, but on one of the few times it did it effectively pressured Reid while he was attempting to set up a screen play. Instead, Reid threw the ball to Jamar Buchanan for the interception.
"I give John Skladany and our defensive coaches a lot of credit," McCarney said. "We adjusted throughout the game and never stopped being aggressive, and that was one time when it paid off big time. Without that play, with the way it worked out in the end, we would not have won this game."
Buchanan's pick-off would lead to a 14-yard touchdown run by Hicks that tied the score. On its next drive, OSU stalled out and was forced to punt when tight end Brandon Pettigrew dropped what would have been an easy first down pass. The Cyclones responded by moving the ball into the red zone and re-taking the lead on Bret Culbertson's 30-yard field goal.
"It was good to see our offense moving the ball early," said Hicks, who finished with 121 yards on 27 carries. "We had good balance and kept the score close until our defense adjusted to what they were doing."
Reid connected with Chijuan Mack for a 10-yard touchdown on a fade route to give Oklahoma State a 21-17 lead with just over three minutes left in the second quarter. The Cyclones attempted to mount a two-minute drive to put some points on the board, but Tony Yelk's 53-yard field goal attempt was just short.
Meyer said that for the first time this year McCarney really challenged his team in the locker room at halftime.
"He let us know that we still had some tough games left on the schedule and that we needed to re-focus on our assignments if we were going to win this one and keep our goals intact," Meyer said.
The Cyclones responded.
The defense kept Oklahoma State out of the end zone the rest of the way, forcing the Cowboys to settle for two chip-shot field goals by Jason Ricks. Meanwhile, the ISU offense was consuming clock, churning out yardage, and producing touchdowns.
ISU recaptured the advantage on the scoreboard on Meyer's nine-yard scoring run with 6:36 left in the third quarter. However, ISU failed to extend its lead on its next drive when Culbertson's 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
After field goals from Ricks on consecutive drives, the Cowboys led, 27-24, with 9 minutes left in the game. That's when Meyer led the Cyclones to the winning drive. The big play on the drive – other than Meyer's three-yard, jump-ball touchdown pass to Jon Davis – came on Austin Flynn's catch in traffic to convert a third-and-eight into a first down. Flynn took a wicked hit from Jamie Thompson on the play but still held on for the key reception.
"I've been rather quiet the last few games so it was good to make a play to help the team to win," Flynn said. "To be honest with you I was as surprised as anyone else was that I held onto the football on that play."
But it wasn't over yet. The defense still needed to do its job, and did exactly like that. Just when the Cowboys' starting gaining momentum on offense, Carper stripped a scrambling Reid of the football from behind and forced a fumble that was recovered by Hicks.
"This was a big win for us," Meyer said. "We needed to bounce back after last week and we did. But we know we have a tough one next week."
Next week the Cyclones head to College Station to face an Aggies squad that embarrassed them at Homecoming a year ago. A chief concern for the Cyclones has to be how to stop Reggie McNeal. After playing so well defensively the first five games of the season, the Cyclones surrendered 21 points before halftime and over 400 yards of total offense for the second straight week. The common denominator between Missouri and Oklahoma State was spread offenses guided by effective, athletic quarterbacks in Brad Smith and Reid. Both of those quarterbacks exploited a lack of a pass rush from the ISU front four to take advantage of a lack of depth in the ISU secondary.
McNeal is better than either Smith or Reid, and torched the Cyclones a year ago. Nonetheless, McCarney said he's not overly concerned about the direction his defense has been heading the past two games.
"We've just played some quality teams the past two weeks, two teams that were
desperate for wins so they pulled out all the stops," McCarney said. "We've got
a good defense, and next week they'll have something to prove down
Indeed they will.
Oklahoma State 14-7-3-3=27
Iowa State 7-10-7-7=31
ISU—Nickel 6 pass from Meyer (Culbertson kick)
OSU—Hamilton 19 pass from Reid (Ricks kick)
OSU—Woods 22 pass from Reid (Ricks kick)
ISU—Hicks 14 run (Culbertson kick)
ISU—Culbertson 30 FG
OSU—Mack 10 pass from Reid (Ricks kick)
ISU—Meyer 9 run (Culbertson kick)
OSU—Ricks 32 FG
OSU—Ricks 31 FG
ISU—Davis 3 pass from Meyer (Culbertson kick)
Rushing—Oklahoma State (114): Hamilton 13-49, Reid 9-51, Shaw 4-14; Iowa State (233): Hicks 27-121, Meyer 10-69, Scales 7-31, Sumrall 1-12. Passing—Oklahoma State (306): Reid 27-43-1-306; Iowa State (169): Meyer 14-22-1-169. Receiving—Oklahoma State: Woods 8-93, Devereaux 6-66, Williams 5-68, Mack 3-34, Hamilton 3-31, Pettigrew 2-14. Sacks—Oklahoma State 1, Iowa State 1. Attendance—49,311.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Iowa each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network.)