The Jayhawks' final play was no exception. Trying to bring the Jayhawks down the field one last time for the win, quarterback Jason Swanson stepped back and was unable to plant his foot for a pass down the sideline for Mark Simmons. Swanson threw off his back foot, the defensive back broke on the ball and intercepted it.
To quote the sci-fi movie Aliens, "Game over man, game over."
Slumped on the sidelines was the Kansas defense, a crew that once again did everything to win the game but score points.
"I guess the defense just has to make more plays," Nick Reid said of the offense's struggles.
For its part, the defense held Iowa State to one field goal and under 200 yards of total offense. Two of the other Iowa State scores came on a Brian Luke fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a blocked punt that rolled to the Kansas five yard line. This was a unit that played without cornerback Theo Baines, played Tony Stubbs sparingly and was without cornerback Charles Gordon for part of the game as well.
For a decent portion of the game, the Kansas cornerbacks were Ronnie and Donnie Amadi. Even seldom-used Marcus Hicks made an appearance in the defensive backfield. But the defense held, leaving the Kansas offense that had gained just a bit more than 200 yards with one final chance to win the game.
The offense was not without spurts. The Jayhawks moved the ball early through the air under quarterback Adam Barmann, who also made a couple of plays with his feet. But the defense wasn't the only group doomed to injuries. John Randle only played a few plays because he was banged up. Barmann got his early on as well. He scrambled out of the pocket on a four yard gain and was tackled. As Barmann fell to the ground, a Cyclone piled on, driving the quarterback's shoulder hard into the turf. Barmann would miss the rest of the game.
Into the game trotted Luke, a quarterback who had not seen much action this season as Swanson had been Barmann's primary backup. But coach Mark Mangino said he thought that Luke's stronger arm would pay off against the Cyclones, who had allowed Baylor 405 yards last week, mostly through the air.
But Luke lacked the speed against the Iowa State blitz. He was run down from behind and fumbled the ball out of bounds on his first called pass play. Then he was called to pass again on the next play and dropped the ball again as he was trying to fend off a defender with his other arm. The ball was scooped up by Cyclone defensive tackle Brent Curvey and run into the endzone for a 10-0 lead. Last week, Curvey's fumble return for a touchdown was the difference in the 26-25 victory over Baylor. It would serve to be the difference here as well.
Mangino used Luke until the end of the half, then Swanson started the second half. He chewed up chunks of yardage on option keepers as Kansas moved the ball down the field.
Iowa State's safeties had been flying up to stop the toss play all game, and Mangino thought it would be time to take advantage. So he called the halfback pass play for Clark Green. Brandon Rideau beat his man off the line as Clark Green stepped up into the pocket formore time. He lofted a perfect spiral for Rideau, who had two steps on the cornerback. But on this play, the safeties stayed home. He came over the top and picked off the pass in the endzone and another chance was wasted.
The Jayhawks would finally get on the board with a late 20-yard touchdown pass from Swanson to Simmons, and would force Iowa State to punt the ball back for one final chance for the Jayhawks when Swanson threw the interception.
The loss knocks Kansas to 3-5 and 1-4 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks must now win out just to become bowl eligible. It also puts the Cyclones (4-4, 2-3) in position to challenge for the North title. The Cyclones play host to division leading Nebraska (5-3, 3-2) next week.