On Campus: Take a Deep Breath

At around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning on my way back to Ames, I drove by Jack Trice, four hours after the Cyclones escaped against UNI. Few people remained and only smatterings of cars were left in the lots. Like a scene out of "Field of Dreams," a thick fog blanketed the bright Musco lights. The only thing that was missing was ‘Shoeless Joe' emerging from the Jacobson building.

I was struck with the fact of how calm everything seemed, only hours after one of the most frightful and panic-stricken games in ISU history. It's as if even the stadium needed to take a nap to lower the blood-pressure. The Jack can join the crowd.


It wasn't supposed to be that close. It shouldn't have been that close.


After Bret Meyer was picked sixed early in the 2nd quarter, it felt like a Jean-Claude Van Damme kick to the groin. It was a cold dose of sobering reality.


When UNI gashed the Cyclones for another score minutes later to make it 21-7, panic set in.


This isn't happening. It's a bad dream.


After Iowa State was stuffed on fourth and two before halftime, the murmur of panic turned to silence. Never have 55,000 people been so quiet. Nobody had any idea what to say.


I have experienced that helpless feeling three times in my Cyclone life: Last year at Kansas, 2004 against Missouri and it was most eerily reminiscent to the men's basketball loss to Hampton in 2001.   


Fortunately, unlike Jamaal Tinsley's missed lay-up in the waning seconds, the Cyclones avoided the stomach-punch disaster. This time the field goal miss went the Cardinal and Gold way. Cyclones 28 Panthers 27. Empty bottles of Pepto Bismol: 187,643.


So, where do we go from here?


Defeating a program who is allowed 22 less scholarships by a single point is not comforting whatsoever. In fact, it's very disheartening. That said there is still light at the end of the Big 12 North tunnel.


At this point, you all roll your eyes and comment on how I'm completely plastered on the Cyclone kool-aid. I understand your cynicism, but humor me for a minute.


Teams of Cyclone past would have lost that game Saturday night. It was the perfect recipe for an upset. UNI had more emotion, more to play for, and played with an attitude.


Iowa State, on the other hand, slogged through the first half, committed three turnovers that led to 10 Panther points, and made critical mistakes in big situations (Flynn and Baum's fumble, badly-timed penalties, etc.) Plus, UNI controlled the ball much like Princeton's upset of UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, winning the possession battle 35 minutes to 25.


Despite the near calamity, there are reasons to be optimistic. Iowa State's offense was able to move the football, gaining over 400 yards for the first time all year and being forced to punt only twice. They also scored 21 points in the 2nd half, 15 more than they had in the second halves of the four previous games.


The defense looked awful in the first half, but allowed a mere six points in the second with their backs to the wall and a knife to their throat.


The Special Teams returned a punt for a TD for the first time since 2002.   


The Cyclones for the only time all season looked more impressive in the 2nd half and rolled with the coaches' adjustments. It may have been "Only UNI," but to come back and win a game when down 2 TDs at half is a rare feat for ISU.


In fact in Dan McCarney's tenure at Iowa State, it hadn't happened. Ever.


This team has shown some marbles when faced with tough situations. Those situations have been mostly self-inflicted, but it still has to mean something to pull those games out.


With a jumbled Big 12 and questions surrounding most of the programs Iowa State has left on the schedule, chances are they are going to be in several crunch-time situations in the weeks ahead. And I'll take Bret Meyer over any other Big 12 quarterback when that time comes.


Iowa State is 3-0 in games decided by six points or less. Last year they were 0-4.


So take a deep breath, go buy another case of Tums and quit chewing your nails. Trust me; there are more anxious moments to come.


After all, this is Cyclone Football.


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