Kansas City, Mo. -- Do you believe in miracles? Yes.
Despite falling behind early, and then losing star quarterback Seneca Wallace to an injured right elbow, the unheralded Iowa State football program came back to stun third-ranked Florida State -- and the nation -- Thursday night for a 38-24 upset victory.
With Wallace exiting the game shortly before halftime, backup quarterback Cris Love shook off some rust and responded with a second half for the history books. Love completed 8-of-12 passes for 152 yards, including the winning touchdown to tight end Kenny Segin, another backup.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine anything like this," said Love, who wasn't expected to take the helm of the Iowa State offense until 2003. "I hope Seneca can come back next week against Kansas because I'm not sure my heart is ready for all this."
The Cyclones took the lead for good late in the fourth quarter when Love threw a 17-yard dart to Segin to make it 31-24. Following a Johnny Smith interception of an errant Chris Rix throw, Michael Wagner scampered into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run and the cardinal-and-gold celebration ensued.
"This is what it's all about," said Coach Dan McCarney shortly after his Cyclones broke a 29-game drought against ranked foes. "This is a tremendous win for this program, a tremendous win for this state, a tremendous win for this university, and a tremendous win for these young men. It's just tremendous.
"Hats off to Florida State. What a classy program they are for giving our group a chance at a game like this. We're really honored."
Iowa State struggled to run the ball effectively throughout the game. Wagner finished with only 58 yards on 22 attempts. But the patient Cyclones dominated time of possession with the short passing game, leaving the high-powered Seminole offense on the sidelines throughout most of the second half.
"We were frustrated and impatient," said Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, who is still one win shy of tying Bear Bryant on the all-time list. "Then, when we did get our offense on the field, we tried to hit too many dag-gum big plays instead of sticking with the offense. If Chris Rix audibles this many times the rest of the season I'll kill him myself."
Wallace is expected to return next week from a bruised elbow, but he was celebrating afterwards like he had scored the winning touchdown.
"What can I say," Wallace said. "Cris was great."
The Seminoles were in control early, methodically moving the ball down the field behind tailback Greg Jones and wide receiver Talmon Gardener. That all changed when Shaheed Richardson, a JUCO transfer playing his first game, recovered a Rix fumble and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.
The game was on from that point forward.
"That was a tremendous play by Shaheed," McCarney said. "We knew he was a tremendous take when we recruited him, and he showed that he's capable of playing winning football in the Big 12. That wasn't the only big play he made. We had nine quarterback pressures and three sacks, and he was in on almost every one of those tremendous plays."
Bowden must now find a way to motivate his troops following the stinging loss. The Seminoles had been ranked preseason number one by several magazines, but are coming off an 8-4 season when they lost two games in the ACC for the first time.
"I don't know where we go from here," Bowden said. "We've had some tough starts before, like in '89, and we bounced back. It's a long season and as long as the BCS is still in place you've got a chance because who knows what those dag-gum computers will spit out."
McCarney must now refocus his charges as well. Iowa State is almost assured a spot in next week's top 25 and is about to become the toast of the college football world. It's certainly rarified air for a program that was 0-10-1 the year before he arrived in 1994.
"We're honored to be considered among such prestigious company," McCarney said. "But now we've got to get ready for a hungry Kansas team. We play in the best league in America, full of major-league talent. The competition will be tremendous, and we've got to somehow celebrate this for just the next 24 hours and move on."
Yet, it's doubtful the Cyclone Nation will forget what transpired here at Arrowhead Stadium on this night.
(Editor's Note: This didn't really happen. We made it all up. This is a projection of Saturday night's game courtesy of NCAA Football 2003 on the PS2. But hey, dare to dream, right?)