Losing the turnover battle and a sluggish first-half start gave the 22-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (7-2, 4-2 in the Big 12) enough of an edge to defeat the Iowa State Cyclones (5-4, 4-2 Big 12) 28-21. This marks the first time since 2008, that Iowa State has fallen to Kansas at Jack Trice giving the Jayhawks their first seven-win season in the same span.
“I tip my hat to [Kansas] they did a great job in the football game,” Matt Campbell said “We were a hair off on a couple of opportunities to swing the momentum totally back our way, but we will grow from it and learn from it.”
Here is how the homecoming loss shaped out for the Cyclones after being knocked out of the tie for first in the conference.
First half Blues
The first half for the Cyclones went about as bad as it could. The offense played too conservative, the defense gave up big passing plays and the unforced errors were relentless. What has been Iowa State’s strong characteristic throughout this four-game winning streak has been its ability to throw the ball consistently and accurately down the field. Tonight, in the first 30mins Rocco Becht appeared his age, but the offensive playcalling did not help. In the opening quarter, Becht only passed the ball three times…THREE TIMES. 12-yards through the air will not get it done against anyone, even a Kansas squad that is 10th in the conference in defensive efficiency.
While the first-half passing game was nonexistent for the Cyclones, the Jayhawks who are known as a run-first team, dominated. The Cyclone defense was introduced to Jason Bean who threw for 73 yards on three of five passing on the Jayhawks' first drive. Marching up the field, Kansas struck first with a 6-yard Devin Neal rushing touchdown.
Despite getting the ball with 11 minutes left in the second quarter it was apparent that Iowa State needed something positive to change the momentum. In one play Kansas silenced the Jack Trice crowd as Becht had a rare miss-communication throw that was picked off by Mello Dotson and returned 50 yards for the score.
Down 14-0, the Cyclones had nothing to cheer for. Then an eruption as loud as we have heard this season in Ames occurred when Jaylin Noel kicked it into another gear returning the Kansas kick 80 yards. Appearing that Becht and the offense would have great field position to begin the comeback, the refs blew the whistle. A controversial call was made that Noel had stepped out of bounds and the ball would be placed back 35 yards. This call sucked the air out of the stands and left Campbell without an explanation.
“I can’t wait to hear what it is, really there was no explanation on that one,” Campbell said. “You would think they would review it; they review everything else, but that did not get reviewed.”
The refs would not take Campbell’s request to have the play looked at and ultimately changed to course of the first half.
No Jeremiah Cooper equals major problems for Cyclone secondary
Iowa State was left without their Big 12 leader in interceptions, Jeremiah Cooper and this changed the defense’s ability to attack the Jayhawk passing game. Bean and the Kansas Jayhawks going into the game ranked 10th in the conference in passing yards per game with 229.5. Shockingly the Jayhawks took control early and never looked back as Bean made all the plays he needed to make ending the night with 287 yards and one touchdown.
Going into the game the Cyclones' defensive plan was to force Kansas to beat them with Bean’s arm. The run-first offense of Neal and Bean needed to be contained for the Cyclones to come out on top. Iowa State did a fantastic job of stopping the run. Kansas who typically averages 224 yards on the ground (3rd in Big 12) finished the night with only 74 yards with a 2.1 yards per carry average.
After Iowa State had cut the Kansas lead 21-18, Bean did what he had done all night long. Stepping up, when it mattered most. The loss of Cooper can be summarized in one play as Bean connected with Arnold Lawrence for an 80-yard touchdown reception, thanks to a blown coverage by the Cyclone secondary. A spot Cooper would usually fill.
After Iowa State made their late second-half push, Kansas needed two first downs to seal the deal and it would take more clutch throws from their quarterback. Bean gave the Jayhawks their game-ending first downs with two passes for 24 yards combined.
Glass is half-full for Iowa State's offense
The adjustments Nate Scheelhaase and Campbell made in the second half saved the Cyclones from being embarrassed on prime-time TV and in front of a sell-out homecoming crowd. Passing on first down and playing open had become a staple of this Cyclone offense. In the first half, fans were forced into watching the conservative, force the run offense that was present in weeks one through three for Iowa State. At the end of the first half, the Cyclones had 89 passing yards on 15 passes. Going up against the second-most efficient offense in the conference, this would have to change.
“I don’t know if it was open as much as we just really weren’t in sync,” Campbell said.
Down 21-3 with under nine minutes in the third quarter, the offense got into a rhythm, and it started with the man under center. Becht completed five of his first pass attempts, extending the pocket and leading the Cyclone offense 90 yards down the field. Iowa State capped off their 12-play near seven-minute drive with an Eli Sander six-yard touchdown run.
After a successful two-point conversion run with Sanders and a Jayhawk three and out, the Cyclones took to the field down 21-11. Once again, the offense came out of the gate passing, something they were reluctant to do in the first half. Becht went 3-3 for 18 yards on the first three plays of the drive, but it was some Campbell magic that ignited the crowd.
While Becht found his stride in the air, it would be a pass from receiver Noel to Jayden Higgins for 42 yards that highlighted the second half. This led to a quarterback-designed run touchdown and cut the lead to three.
Becht threw for 127 yards in the second half on 10-11 passing and the offense snapped back into the game. It seems the formula is there for Iowa State to have success and it lays in the arm of Becht.