ISU 37 OSU 31
Talk about big time games. We had the stage all to ourselves to a national audience on ESPN. What would we do with it? So many times in the past, we have had a chance to do something great and we had quite literally pissed down our leg. Not this time. Not this night. On this cool Friday night, 52,027 loyal Cyclone fans were treated to a game for the ages. A game that will be talked about for generations to come. A night when despite enormous odds, we fought with the heart and soul of a lion and would not lay down to the giant. Greatest victory in the history of Iowa State Football? I would say, yes. Yes it was on many different levels. It got us great national exposure. It got us bowl eligible in a season when the experts predicted us to win 2 games. Yes, because it showed our players that we can compete with anyone in the country if we play hard and with great heart. This was a night for the ages.
As many of you know, I bleed Cardinal and Gold. Football is my sport and to say that Friday night was a little emotional for me would be a huge understatement. So much so that I would like to share with you more about why this one victory meant so much to me personally. I do not want however to mix that emotion with my intellectual recap of the game so I have decided to break my recap of this game into two separate blogs. Today’s blog will be my breakdown of what I saw and some of my thoughts of this enormous win. It will be like the other recaps have been. Tomorrow, I have decided to write a bonus blog on what this game means to me emotionally. I want to give you some insight as to some of the things I felt. I hope you will enjoy that as well.
Ok. So it was senior night. What an amazing way for these seniors to go out playing their last game at Jack Trice. In the history of our school, we had an all-time record of 0-56-2 vs. teams ranked 6 or higher. Now that record is 1-56-2. What a difference that one win was.
With 52,027 fans in attendance, we end the year averaging 53,647 fans a game which is an all-time record for attendance. The old record was 51,906 fans a game set back in the 1982 season. I could not be prouder of our fans. They have bought into the vision of Paul Rhoads and supported this overachiever team all season long. On Friday night, they got their reward. They saw what was possible. I must say that the crowd was fantastic. They were loud and never let up. We showed that a home game in Jack Trice stadium is a game that should be feared by teams coming to play games there.
I had said going into this game that we would have to play a near perfect game, find a way to get some turnovers, and make some big plays to stay in this game into the fourth quarter. If we could do that, we had a shot because of our crowd and the momentum of our team. As it turns out, that formula was spot on except for one variable. We did not come close to playing a perfect game. In fact, I would say that we did not even play our best game of the year overall. But the heart and soul and the ability of our team to never give up and surrender made up for that and we were still able to prevail in the end. Outstanding win!
Overall, the offense played an amazing game. We rack up 568 yards of total offense which is the 11th best offense output in the history of our school. Tom Herman, our offensive coordinator easily called his best game of his career here at ISU. The play calling was varied and he seemed to be one step ahead of the OSU defense all game long. We decided that if we were going to win this game, we needed to pass the ball and boy did we ever pass the ball. We passed the ball 60 times in this game. That is the second most pass attempts in a game for ISU in the history of our school. The record was set in 1998 at Texas when we threw the ball 62 times. I remember that night well as I was playing LT in that game. ISU threw 21 passes in the first quarter alone on Friday night.
Like I said, this game was not perfect. We did struggle at times on offense. We had 5 dropped passes in the first quarter and they were very costly as they caused us to lose momentum. We had 2 long drives in the 1st half that resulted in no points on the board. The first was a 13 play, 65 yard drive that ended with a missed 34 yard FG attempt by Zach Guyer. The second was 52 yard drive that turned into a big momentum changer when Barnett failed to look off the LB and LB Shawn Lewis stepped in front of a pass to the flats and ran the interception back 70 yards for the TD. We had 3 turnovers for the game on offense, (2 interceptions and 1 fumble) that proved to be very costly. I remember sitting in the stands and saying that if we don’t win this game, the guys are going to be just “sick” when they watch the film and see all the missed opportunities we had. Our defense was making great plays and getting the ball back to the offense and the offense was not doing anything with it.
Now for the good. We made some really big plays on offense down the stretch. Some big plays on third down that kept drives alive. We had some people really step up and make great plays when they had to. Here were some of the highlights. The great catch that Reynolds made in the corner of the end zone off a 8 play 72 yard drive. that made the game 10-7 at that point and gave us our first points of the game. That play was huge and one we had to have at that point in the game. The amazing 32 yard TD run that White had that made the score 24-14. The 7 yard TD catch Gary made in the south end zone to tie the game at 24 late in the 4th quarter. That was a clutch catch. That play capped off a 89 yard drive that was simply beautiful and one we had to have. The amazing play called in the first overtime. A perfect play call that was executed perfectly. The call was a fake with everyone moving to the left for a pass to the left. At the last moment White went out to the right on a wheel route. At the last second, Barnett went from looking left to a lob pass out to the right which totally fooled the OSU defense and allowed White to go into the endzone for a 25 yard TD pass on the first play of the first overtime. To cap off the greatness was the second overtime. We were not content to settle for the FG. The offensive line came off the ball and created huge holes and on 2 runs, Jeff Woody was able to rush into the endzone for the winning score. It was amazing.
I thought that QB Jared Barnett played a great game overall. He was 31 for 58 passing the ball throwing for 3 TDs and threw 2 interceptions. He threw for 376 yards which is a career best for him. Even more impressive was the fact that he rushed 14 times for 84 yards. Barnett had 48 yards rushing by halftime. There were several times throughout the game when it looked like Barnett was about ready to get sacked when he put on a move, got out of the pocket, and either ran out in the open for good rushing yardage or was able to get a pass off on the run. That mobility is very hard to defend and gives us a huge lift on offense. That said, Jared was not always great. Early on, he had some passes that sailed high. He appeared to be a little nervous on a few of his passes, but to his credit, he kept plugging away. He threw two interceptions which is never good and did really hurt. The second interception was tipped up in the air by an ISU receiver and really wasn’t his fault. As a red shirt freshman, Barnett has a 3-0 record as a starter. When you stop and think about the fact that he has 3 more years to develop, we could really have a very special QB on our hands. I can’t wait to watch him develop.
I thought that overall, our offensive line played one of their best games of the season. They have been banged up, yet they still came out and just consistently knocked the OSU DL back. The highlight of the night was in the second overtime when they just blew up the OSU defense and opened holes big enough to drive my 95 Gran Marquis through rushing for 25 yards on two plays to get the win. I am very proud of this unit and the heart they showed. At times this season, they have under-achieved. Yet they were able to step up when it mattered the most. They also gave Barnett good time when he did step back to pass the ball. Great job line!
The running backs had a pretty solid game. Barnett was the leading rusher with 84 yards. White stepped up big with the TD run and the 25 yard TD pass reception in the first overtime. Those were huge plays. White ended up rushing for 54 yards. Woody continued to play great and have some tough runs had 53 yards rushing on the night. Their ball control was great and they ran hard. We didn’t set any records rushing the ball, but big runs at key times was huge in keeping the OSU defense honest.
I thought that the WRs had a very up and down game. Several key dropped passes hurt us very bad at the beginning of the game. However, key catches made a huge difference in us getting the win. Lentz started the game with a couple of huge catches, but got hurt early on and was done for the game. Gary stepped up and had a huge game with 7 catches for 109 yards. Aaron Horne had 5 receptions for 65 yards. Darius Darks had 5 catches for 49 yards. Reynolds has 4 catches for 39 yards. Jarvis West had 4 catches for 34 yards. I thought the passes were spread out very well. All the receivers stepped up at different times and that made us very difficult to defend.
This was one of the best defensive performances I have ever seen. There is no doubt that the way the defense has improved over the last 3 games, that has been a huge key to getting the 3 wins. The ISU defense kept the OSU offense out of sync for most of the night. The 5 turnovers (3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries) were without a doubt the difference in this game. OSU was averaging 51.7 points/game and our defense only allowed 17 points during regulation.
The defense came out hitting hard from the very first snap. The defense only gave up three 1st downs in the first quarter to an offense that has been able to score at will all season long. They also only allowed one offensive TD the entire first half. There were times that the OSU offense was able to move the ball, but the defense had a bend but don’t break mentality that helped them pull it out in the end. Obviously, letting OSU move down the field quickly to score a TD on the opening drive of the second half to go up 24-7 really hurt, but they still never gave up.
I thought the DL played a very solid game. None of the lineman had huge stats, but OSU never controlled the line of scrimmage and that was huge. OSU was stopped very well when they ran the ball. They pushed Weeden out of the pocket and made it harder for him to make throws and led to the Heisman trophy candidate throwing 3 interceptions. Their effort up front was huge in this game.
Now lets talk about the LB play. It was amazing. Let’s start with the MVP of the game and the Big 12 defensive player of the week, AJ Klein. This guy has improved so much. He is just plain scary on the field. Klein had 14 tackles, one TFL, and caused one interception. His play and the heart he played with just showed how he is the poster child for what our defense stands for. Knott had another great game too. Knott added 13 tackles. When you consider that these 2 linebackers resulted in 27 tackles in the game, well, that is pretty amazing.
I thought that the DBs played their best game of the season. They worked hard fighting through blocks to make tackles on WR screen plays, they provided pressure on pass rush blitzes, and they did a very solid job of pass coverage. There are two players that I want to highlight. Leonard Johnson (CB) was playing one on one coverage in one of the greatest receivers in the country in Blackmon. Johnson had a fumble recovery and an interception in the second half. He just played an amazing game. Washington (FS) played one of his best games as a Cyclone. He had a forced fumble and an interception in the first half. Ter’ran Benton (SS) had an interception against Weeden in the second OT that pretty much sealed the victory for us. Jeremy Reeves (CB) had 9 tackles on the night. Our DBs showed that they are a salty bunch and despite their height, they can match up with some of the best receivers in the country. They are coached by DB coach Bob Elliot and he has done a outstanding job of coaching them. Here is some trivia for you. Bob Elliot was an assistant coach at Iowa and was the one recruiting me back in 1994 when I was considering becoming a Hawkeye. Now we are both Cyclones. Funny how things work out.
I could not be any happier with the way our defense is playing right now. They are playing as good as any team in the Big 12 conference right now. We are going to need them to play great in the remaining games for us to get another win this season.
Special Teams A-
The special teams play was just outstanding and was huge in us getting the victory. The highlight of the evening was the onside kick following the White TD run had put us within striking distance at 24-14 in the 3rd quarter. It was a gutsy call and it was a huge momentum maker. The crowd just went crazy. The kick was executed perfectly.
West gave us a huge lift with a 50 yard KO return that gave us great field position. He had 2 returns for 78 yards for the game. Aaron Horne had a 24 yd KO return. These returns were huge. Horne also added a 19 yd punt return. Our return game was a huge boost.
Our KO and punt coverage teams did an outstanding job of going down and keeping OSU from getting any big returns. Just huge.
Zach Guyer was 1-2 on FGs. He missed a 34 yd FG which was not good. He then came back and made a 24 yard FG to make the score 24-17 that was absolutely huge.
VanDerKamp had a great night punting the ball punting 6 times for a 45.7 yd average. Kirby did a great job of getting us field position.
Another huge special teams play was when OSU missed the 37 yd FG with 1:30 left to play in the game. After the pick by Barnett, it looked like it was going to be another close but no cigar win. The kick was very close, but sailed just right of the right upright. It was like the stars were aligned just right. It was retribution for a kick they called no good in the Independence Bowl vs. Alabama in 2001. It was time that we got a break for a change and we were due.
What has been overshadowed by the huge win is the fact that we are bowl eligible again. Going to a bowl game this year is huge considering the schedule we have played. It is a great reward for the season we are having. More importantly, it gives the team another month of practice which is huge for the developing players. I am so proud to be an ISU fan.
Was it the biggest win in the history of our football program? Yes. I will even go so far as to say that it was the biggest win in the history of Cyclone sports period. What a great night to be a Cyclone! It just shows what this team is capable of. This could be a night we look back on 5-10 years from now and say that was the night the tide changed. That was the night we finally drew the line in the sand. I was there to see it and I feel so blessed for that.
Oklahoma (Norman, OK) Nov. 26th 11 am
Well, it does not get any easier. We have a terrible track record against Oklahoma and even worst record in Norman. This will be a very tough game, but as we have seen with this team, anything is possible. Oklahoma will be hungry coming off the heartbreaking 45-38 loss at Baylor on Sat. night. They may have 2 losses, but they are still a great team. They are led by Heisman candidate QB Landry Jones who has looked great this year. But this is not the only great QB we have faced. Look how we made Weeden from OSU look.
Like with any other game, we need to come out strong. We need to cause turnovers on defense and we need sustained drives and scores on offense. If we come out and play with the heart and soul that we did on Friday, we have a great chance of getting another historic victory. If we don’t, it will be a long day in Norman.