#3 Florida State 38, Iowa State 31
August 24 – Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, Mo.
The Cyclones and quarterback Seneca Wallace came up just a few feet short of a potential upset victory. The theme was eerily similar to that of the 2001 Independence Bowl. Last December it was a potential game-winning field goal by Tony Yelk against Alabama that barely missed the inside of the right upright. Against the Seminoles, that same agony fell on the Cyclones once again when Wallace came up shy of the end zone on a run play that could have forced overtime with the nation's third-ranked team Florida State. Instead of pulling out the biggest victory in Dan McCarney's tenure as head coach, ISU fell victim 38-31 after mounting a miraculous come back from being down 24 points in the second quarter. Wallace's final attempt came one play after he nearly found the end zone on a 20-yard scramble to the right sideline. The Cyclone quarterback who didn't find much running room all night--15 net yards on 10 carries-- dropped back to pass found that his receivers were well covered and decided to tuck the ball and run. He nearly beat FSU's Kendyll Pope to the corner, but was apparently forced out of bounds just prior to pushing the ball into the end zone. Wallace completed passes to seven different players in the game. Lane Danielsen led all receivers with six catches for 96 yards. ISU found some success on the ground. Mike Wagner struggled to find much running room early, but Hiawatha Rutland came off the bench and had some nice runs between the tackles. Rutland finished with 93 yards on 17 carries, while his counterpart Wagner rushed eight times for 19 yards.
Quote to Note: "The fullback was supposed to lead block. We ran it earlier on the play I scored on, but this time they played it well. The linebacker got over the top and made a tackle. I thought I made it on the play before, but apparently the official didn't think I was. I thought I had the ball across. They made the call." (Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace on his critical run)
Game No. 2
Iowa State 45, Kansas 3
August 31 – Jack Trice Stadium – Ames
On a day that his team put out a workman-like effort against Kansas, Rutland took a retro approach. The junior tailback sported a flat top haircut hoping to psyche his opponent out. It worked. But now his teammates might have to worry about the Bobby Brown-esque do becoming a fixture. Rutland, who rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries, probably doesn't want to change a thing after carrying the load in a 45-3 victory over the Jayhawks Saturday. Behind Rutland's hard running, ISU erased all thoughts of last weekend's frustrating loss to Florida State. Thoughts of a letdown were diminished in the 42-point thrashing, but the Cyclones did come out a little shaky against a Kansas team in transition. Despite owning 170-yard edge in total yards and easily winning time of possession in the first half, the Cyclones only took a 17-0 lead into the locker room. Wallace looked good on paper by completing 10 of his first 15 passes, but threw an interception and looked tentative at times. And if there were any doubts, ISU quickly erased them with a second-half flurry. Wagner scored two touchdowns in a span of 7:32 of the third quarter and Thompson came on to close out the display with a pair of late scoring runs of his own. As a result, the Cyclones rolled up 277 total yards rushing and 511 overall. Wallace completed 16-of-24 passes for 234 yards.
Quote to Note: "It's a publicity stunt. My helmet falls off a lot and I'm trying to get the other team to laugh at me, because it's an old-school haircut. I'm paying homage to the 80s and early 90s. Those guys start laughing when my helmet comes up and that's when I started racking up more yards, because they weren't really focused after that." (Iowa State tailback Hiawatha Rutland, referring to his new hair style)
Game No. 3
Iowa State 58, Tennessee Tech 6
September 7 – Jack Trice Stadium – Ames
Iowa State's final tune up before heading east to Iowa City came against I-AA foe Tennessee Tech. The Cyclones were able to turn their thoughts to the Hawkeyes after a fast start sealed the Golden Eagles' fate early. The Cyclones jumped all over their opponent with 20 points in a span of under eight minutes of the first quarter. They went on to grab a 37-6 halftime lead, getting points on defense and special teams to go along with 261 total yards of offense. Todd Miller returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter, then Steve Paris snatched a Robert Craft interception and returned it 24 yards for another score early in the second quarter. Wallace sealed his team's impressive performance by leading two third-quarter touchdown drives. Jamaul Montgomery became the beneficiary of two touchdown passes from Wallace, hauling in a 47- and 16-yarder that gave ISU a 51-6 advantage. The ISU quarterback finished with 230 yards passing and three touchdowns on 12-of-19 completions. Another area that McCarney's team can build on is a solid effort in the kicking game. Tony Yelk booted a 45-yard field goal and short-yardage man Adam Benike added kicks of 22 and 24 yards while being perfect on seven PATs.
Quote to Note: "It was a good win overall. I was proud of the kids. We played a lot of people. We took care of business and got some big plays. We challenged our kids to make some big plays and big plays in the kicking game, which we did. We returned a punt for a touchdown, forced a fumble on a kickoff and went 10-for-10 on all of our kicks. We'll take that any time out." (Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney)
Game No. 4
Iowa State 36, Iowa 31
September 14 – Kinnick Stadium – Iowa City
It was 24-7 with 49 seconds remaining in the first half. While Iowa was content to run out the clock and sit on its lead, Iowa State Coach Dan McCarney was storming the sidelines, fuming, and exhorting his team to not give up. Little did he know, after a stirring halftime speech and the Cyclones responding with a second-half flurry, the streak would be alive at five. Defying the odds, not to mention the sellout crowd of 70,397 screaming Hawkeye fans at Kinnick Stadium, the soon-to-be-ranked Iowa State Cyclones overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat Iowa, 36-31, in the 50th in-state clash on Saturday night. After nearly a generation of futility against its bitter rival to the east, the Cyclones recorded their fifth straight in the series. Iowa's offensive line dominated the Cyclone defensive front in the first half. The Hawkeyes amassed 291 total yards, including a 193 yards rushing. Iowa nearly doubled Iowa State in first downs while running back Fred Russell finished with 133 yards on the ground. Make no mistake, however, the night belonged to Wallace. From the beginning, the gameplan centered around his daunting athleticism and versatility. He completed 23-of-37 pass attempts for 361 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 30 yards and another score. Wallace's value to the team was best epitomized during a crucial fourth quarter possession that began from near Iowa State's end zone. Three times on the drive, including one dazzling across-the-body pass for 29 yards to Whitver, Wallace converted on third down-and nine. The Cyclones possessed the ball for over six minutes on the drive, which finished with a pivotal 36-yard field goal by Adam Benike that gave Iowa State a nine-point lead. Another Hawkeye miscue had Brad Banks getting the ball stripped from his hands by defensive tackle Tim TeBrink, who then fell on the fumble. Mere moments later, linebacker Jeremy Loyd tackled Iowa running back and Ames native Aaron Greving in the end zone for a safety. After Benike's second fourth quarter field goal gave the Cyclones a 36-24 lead with 4:08 remaining, the mass black-and-gold exodus to the exits began.
Quote to Note: "We pulled together as a family and came back for the greatest victory I have ever experienced," said senior center Zach Butler, an Iowa City native. "There was no greater feeling for me than walking out on the field here where my dad played as a captain. Afterwards, it was a special feeling giving him a bear hug. He was the first guy I hugged. After that, I just kind of lost it." (Iowa State center Zach Butler)
Game No. 5
#21 Iowa State 42, Troy State 12
September 21 – Jack Trice Stadium – Ames
Enough with the non-conference slate. The Cyclones dropped Troy State 42-12 and got ready for six of seven games against teams that made the postseason in 2001. In impressive fashion, the Cyclones won their final tune-up before embarking on the toughest conference schedule in school history. ISU outscored the Trojans 21-6 each half and got solid play once again from Wallace, who threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns on 17-of-25 completions. ISU out-gained Troy State by a 363-313 margin. A stout defense limited run-happy Troy State to just 118 yards on the ground and was in control from the start. This just one week after the Trojans got 100-yard rushing games from three different running backs. But special teams play is what made the performance that much more pleasing to McCarney, who saw his team score 14 points on a blocked punt recovery and punt return. JaMaine Billups blocked a first-quarter punt and Andy Kohler returned it 22 yards for a touchdown to give ISU its first score just 2:49 into the game. Todd Miller put the capper on a 30-point victory in the fourth quarter by returning a punt 45 yards for a touchdown. Although the Cyclones weren't able to muster much in the way of rushing yards, Wallace and a dangerous receiving corps accounted for that in the passing game. The ISU signal-caller completed passes to eight different players and found Whitver five times for 101 yards. It was the second time in as many weeks that Whitver has eclipsed the 100-yard marker. Making his first career start, Lance Young finished just 13 yards shy of 100, but caught four passes overall, two of which went for touchdowns.
Quote to Note: "Special teams had a huge impact on the game tonight and that's nice to see. We thought we had a chance to go after it and planned that. We wanted to go after the first one and see if we could get it. It was a great job. JaMaine blocked it and Kohler got his first touchdown. Then Todd Miller along with that whole unit did a tremendous job. It takes a lot of people doing things right on one play to take a punt back the whole way like he did." (Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney)
Game No. 6
#19 Iowa State 36, #20 Nebraska 14
September 28 – Jack Trice Stadium – Ames
The script played out at Jack Trice Stadium looked eerily similar to some dominating Nebraska performances of past years. A 15-minute edge in time of possession, 192-82 advantage in total yards (139-yard edge overall) and plus-two margin in turnovers easily could have been the storyline in recent history. However, those were three key ways 19th-ranked Iowa State toppled the 20th-ranked Huskers 36-14. The win snapped a 30-game Cyclone losing streak to ranked opponents and was the first time since 1992 in Ames that they had knocked off Nebraska. The fact that ISU beat the Huskers in Ames wasn't as surprising as how it knocked off the perennial power. After struggling mightily to run the football against Iowa and Troy State, the Cyclone offensive front opened up an array of holes in the Nebraska defense Saturday. Backup tailback Wagner rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries, while cohort Rutland added 42 yards and a touchdown. After rushing for just 65 yards all season, Wallace sliced and diced for 51 and two touchdowns on seven carries. Wallace added 220 passing yards and one touchdown on 19-of-32 completions. Whereas Whitver had been Wallace's go-to guy in the past two weeks, Danielsen became the biggest threat this week by catching nine passes for 111 yards and one score. ISU set the tone on Nebraska's opening drive by limiting them to three-and-out. That carried on for much of the game, as the Huskers managed just three first downs through 45 minutes and 10 in the game.
Quote to Note: "After those first three plays, I felt that we had a good shot today. They tried to power us right off the bat and it was nothing, nothing, nothing, and I said we could hang with them now. It just kept going and going from there. It was a matter of us being physical. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Our defensive front was attacking the line of scrimmage and our linebackers were fitting. The biggest thing to stopping these guys, if you're going to be option sound, you need to match them with bodies and be physical when you go to do it." (Iowa State defensive coordinator John Skladany)
Game No. 7
#11 Iowa State 31, Texas Tech 17
October 12 – Jack Trice Stadium – Ames
Iowa State's prolific offense scored just three points in the first 33 minutes, but that's when Wallace pulled out a play for his ever-growing highlight reel. In front a national television audience on TBS and overflow crowd of 51,842 at Jack Trice Stadium, Wallace grabbed momentum for the Cyclones with an incredible 12-yard touchdown scramble. He rolled right and looked to pass but could find no one. But before stepping out of bounds or throwing the ball away, Wallace took off up the sideline, cut back left and got a couple of key blocks on his way to the end zone. The turn of events in the third quarter, which also included a 79-yard touchdown reverse by Danielsen, proved crucial in a 31-17 victory over Texas Tech. Instead of being the shootout that many predicted, ISU's defense held up a prolific Texas Tech aerial attack and got the key plays it needed offensively down the stretch. Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury completed 74 percent of his passes for 272 yards and one score and his team would actually outgain ISU by a 461-376 margin. But three lost fumbled and a Kingsbury interception proved to be more than enough to do them in. Starting for the injured Rutland, Wagner cleared the 100-yard barrier for the second consecutive game, rushing for 102 and one touchdown on 32 carries.
Quote to Note: "I just said, ‘Score Seneca, score.' You can run that thing back 100 times and never get tired of watching it. He's something special. He's got that cool, calm look about him. It's like no big thing, I just made 11 guys miss me twice out there. It's just Seneca Wallace. It looks like some guys are going to sprain ankles or hips out there trying to tackle him. He's a special athlete and has a great gift." (Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney, referring to Wallace's run)