Offensive Ineptitude And Missed Field Goals Doom ISU Again
The Iowa State Cyclones needed to bounce back against the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday following a frustrating 20-13 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes last week. Following a promising opening drive, Iowa State had their field goal blocked and then couldn’t muster enough offense the rest of the day to threaten the Hawkeyes. A last-gasp possession ended in a whimper when the Cyclones were stuffed on 4th-and-1. The Cyclones would turn their attention to the Bobcats, a team they dismantled 43-10 in 2022.
Right after kickoff in Athens, OH, it was reported that the Cyclones were dealing with an illness in the locker room. ESPN U’s sideline reporter Dawn Davenport said on the broadcast that “five or six players” were dealing with food poisoning on Friday and spent the night sick. This included starting quarterback Rocco Becht and wide receiver Jaylin Noel. Becht would play the entire game while Noel and the other affected players sat out.
The news foreshadowed a game that could only be enjoyed in the same way that a “B-movie” can be. The Cyclones, facing the Bobcats, struggled to stay on the field. After forcing a three-and-out to begin the game, the Cyclones would start their first possession of the game at the Bobcats’ 48-yard line. But facing 3rd-and-2, Iowa State ran running back Cartevious Norton up the middle, losing two yards and forcing a Tyler Perkins punt to the Bobcats’ 3-yard line. The drive set the tone for the afternoon.
Ohio would flip field position, and the Cyclones would finally get the ball moving. However, the drive stalled at the Bobcats’ 29-yard line. But Cyclones kicker Chase Contreraz would narrowly miss a 47-yard field goal, only for the Bobcats to respond with their own missed field goal. Both teams would struggle offensively throughout the rest of the first half as both teams entered the locker rooms scoreless.
It didn’t take long for that to change, though. Becht was intercepted on the second play of the half and the ball was returned to the Cyclones’ 23-yard line. Six plays later, Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke would find wide receiver Sam Wiglusz for a five-yard touchdown, giving them a 7-0 lead.
Iowa State’s following drive wasn’t much more inspiring. They ran five plays for 29 yards, opting to punt on 4th-and-2 from Ohio’s 46-yard line. Although they forced a three-and-out from Ohio, the Cyclones still couldn’t get their offense moving. Facing 4th-and-1 at their own 42-yard line, the Cyclones once again punted as Perkins pinned the Bobcats at their own 10-yard line.
Unfortunately, the Cyclones’ defense chose a bad time for their defense to begin giving ground to the Bobcats. Ohio would march 81 yards downfield to the Cyclones’ 9-yard line, eating up 5:47 off the clock and kicking a field goal to give the Bobcats a 10-0 advantage.
With 13:53 left in the 4th quarter, the Cyclones were running out of time and needed to score to stay in the game. They did respond with one of their best drives of the day, driving 63 yards down the field to set up a 37-yard field goal. Contreraz once again missed to the right, although upon replay the ball appeared to go inside the upright. But because the ball went over the upright before hooking in, the play could not be reviewed. It felt like a knockout blow for Iowa State after the drive took 6:30 off of the clock.
This time, the Cyclones’ defense held strong like it had most of the afternoon. They forced another three-and-out, giving themselves a glimmer of hope. Then the offense stormed down the field, benefitting from a pass interference penalty on first down. Becht then hit wide receiver Daniel Jackson for a 39-yard completion to get the Cyclones to the Ohio 18-yard line. One play later, Becht found receiver Jayden Higgins for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 10-7 with 4:15 remaining.
After the Bobcats picked up 16 yards on the first play of their next drive, the Cyclones’ defense once again flexed its muscle. Iowa State forced a punt, retaining possession at their own 12-yard line with 2:21 left in regulation. The Cyclones offense wouldn’t threaten the outcome, though. Becht threw a pass that deflected off of Higgins and was intercepted by Bobcats defensive lineman Rodney Matthews. The Bobcats would run the rest of the clock out after three kneeldowns.
The loss drops the Cyclones to 1-2 on the season. With Oklahoma State coming to Ames next week, all eyes will go to the health of the players affected by the food poisoning from Friday night. According to Connor Ferguson of Cyclone Fanatic, Becht was vomiting during halftime. The players should be healthy come Saturday, but can they be healthy enough to get a full week’s worth of preparation? And if they are, can the offense get back on track and help out a defense that is doing all the heavy lifting over the past two weeks?