December 4, 2023

Cyclones’ second half rally falls short as Longhorns steal road win

Iowa State Cyclones Football

Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell glances up at the scoreboard during a replay review in the third quarter against Texas Saturday November 18, 2023 at Jack Trice Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

AMES, Ia. — It was Senior Day for Iowa State, and Coach Matt Campbell wanted to send his players off on a high note in front of a sold out crowd.

The Cyclones were trying to make it three in a row at Jack Trice Stadium over the No. 7 Longhorns. However, the third time wasn’t a charm for Campbell as Texas defeated Iowa State 26-16, and silenced the raucous crowd. There’s no denying the Longhorns outplayed the Cyclones in all phases of the game, but what frustrated Campbell was the fact that his team couldn’t make the necessary plays in the clutch.

Iowa State (6-5) drew first blood, and held Texas scoreless in the first quarter. It was the first time this season that the Longhorns were shutout in the opening period. Campbell gives credit to Jon Heacock’s defense for setting the tone early on. After all, the first half was a defensive slugfest, and neither team scored a touchdown. Campbell thought his team was in a great position, considering they were only down 6-3 to start the third quarter.

“I think we’re kind of right where we wanted to be, at least in terms of a football game,” Campbell said. “We really played a style of game where we wanted to play, and try to give ourselves a chance to go in the game in the fourth quarter.”

Texas made the necessary adjustments though. The Longhorns orchestrated a nine-play, 91-yard touchdown drive midway through the third quarter, and the Cyclones found themselves down by double-digits. Iowa State responded with an impressive drive of its’ own. Quarterback Rocco Becht led the offense on a seven-play, 83-yard touchdown drive, but the extra point was blocked and returned for a score.

Within a blink of an eye the momentum shifted back to Texas’ side. The Longhorns later went up by 14 points in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Cyclones refused to go away. Campbell dialed up a play on fourth down, that resulted in 66-yard touchdown strike from Becht to tight end Easton Dean. It ignited the fans and pulled Iowa State within a touchdown.

“You’ve got to make the play to totally swing the tide, and obviously it was a great throw from Rocco, and a great catch from Easton,” he said. “It’s the second time in a row in the second half that you got the momentum back of the football game, and you’re just never able to capitalize on it.”

Iowa State’s defense couldn’t get off the field late in the fourth quarter, and Texas was able to chew up the clock. The final blow was delivered when kicker Bert Auburn nailed his third field goal of the evening, and the Longhorns never looked back. Once the smoke cleared, Texas led Iowa State in total offense, plays, first downs and time of possession. Campbell knows that didn’t help his team, but they were scrappy, and went down swinging in his eyes.

“We were never able to get the stop when we needed to get the stop of a football game defensively,” the 43-year old coach said. “Offensively, we were kind of playing catch-up during the football game.”

The Cyclones did average more yards per play than the Longhorns, and that’s what Campbell wants to build on. Becht completed 24 of his 32 passes for 323 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Iowa State’s rushing attack was abysmal though, and did nothing to help Becht. The Cyclones were held to a season-low, nine yards on the ground. Campbell believes Texas’ defensive line was very disruptive and didn’t allow Iowa State’s offense to get into a groove.

Wideout Jayden Higgins finished with a game-high, seven catches for 104 yards. It was the ninth time in program history that a Cyclone eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards against the Longhorns. Heacock’s defense had a solid outing, but was on the field for too many plays, which resulted in several missed tackles down the stretch.

Defensive back Malik Verdon tallied a game-high, 10 tackles, and broke up two passes. Linebacker Caleb Bacon generated eight stops. Will McLaughlin, T.J. Tampa and Beau Freyler were active the entire night, and recorded seven tackles apiece.

Campbell is proud that his players showed character, and persevered, despite they didn’t catch the needed breaks, and it resulted in losing fashion.

“We just, in all three phases, we were an inch away from making the right play or the critical play that we needed to make to win the football game.”

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