Maybe Cyclone fans were deluding themselves thinking the team could go down to Stillwater and win for the first time in the Mike Gundy Era, and for the first time since 2000. Maybe we were deluding ourselves thinking that an up and down offensive performance against Baylor would be a predictor for a better performance against a young defense. Maybe we were deluding ourselves thinking that the defense could capitalize on the boom or bust arm of Daxx Garman.
Then again maybe we witnessed all of these things come to fruition in the first half and then completely disappear in the second after the Cowboys scored 14 points in 20 game seconds. You can't ignore the end of the first half when talking about this game, and with that in mind I'm going to flip the script on how this column works and devote more attention to The Call than is probably reasonable, but is still somewhat necessary.
What Went Well
Nearly the entire first half. The Cyclones manufactured yards early, got to the red zone twice, and put points on the board. 3rd down sacks and poor execution kept Iowa State out of the end zone, but their ability to move the ball began to put pressure on the Cowboys' offense to match the pace.
When Oklahoma State tried to do that the Cyclone defense was up to the task. Two first half interceptions by Sam E. Richardson and Nigel Tribune kept field position squarely in the Cyclones' control, and Oklahoma State didn't even tie the game up at 6 until late in the first half. Big plays were hard to find on both sides of the ball and that played right in to Wally Burnham's hands. The defense rallied to the ball in space and did so against a much faster opponent. It was encouraging to see the defense understand their assignments and finally find some success.
What Went Wrong
The wheels started coming off on the botched kick return and the special teams units, which is the best thing about the 2014 edition of this program, all but cost the rest of the team an opportunity to remain in the game. To field a kick return like that without someone calling a fair catch or taking charge is unacceptable, and not what you expect from a unit laden with upperclassmen. Mental errors by a team should never be an excuse for poor officiating, but it stands to reason the end of the 1st half doesn't happen the way it did if that ball is caught.
The running game is still fantastically awful and while I like the I form look in short yardage situations; I think Mangino and company missed an opportunity to use that in other situations and build off the triple option look they showed on the first 3rd and short conversion. Option plays are classic constraint plays and it's fairly apparent this team would benefit from manufacturing defensive mistakes with principles found in an option game.
Defensively, the unit finally wilted under the sustained pressure from Oklahoma State and the great pass rush in the first half was mitigated as the defensive line started to wilt. How much of that is due to the distraction caused by the end of the first half is unknown, but at the end of the day the unit still lacks depth and losing some steam late should not be a surprise to anyone.
The Good Stat
E.J. Bibbs set a school record with a catch in 17 straight games and went for six catches for 69 yards and two (difficult) touchdown grabs.
The Bad Stat
In a horrible case of deja vu, Richardson once again went 17-39 for a 43.6% completion percentage. Two bad performances in a row has now dropped his overall completion percentage to 56.5%.
The Ugly Stat
Catches by people not named E.J. Bibbs: 11. Yards by those people: 131. Remove DeVondrick Nealy's 54 yard reception and that drops to 10 catches for 77 yards.
People stand in one of two camps with the call.
Iowa State fans/unbiased observers: It was a goal line stand, the camera isn't on the goal line, and you can't even see the ball in the jersey. Call stands, not confirmed, but stands.
Oklahoma State fans/anyone who wants to troll Iowa State: Don't screw up the special teams play and this doesn't happen, or ball clearly broke the plane, quit yer whining, or it didn't directly affect the game.
Here's a grab of the play in question:
Here's the take from the ever trolly and great Big XII Refs Twitter account:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Looks good to us. <a href="http://t.co/7drgJMZ4il">pic.twitter.com/7drgJMZ4il</a></p>— Big 12 Refs (@Big12Refs) <a href="https://twitter.com/Big12Refs/status/518459943578763267">October 4, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
The tweet raises a pretty good point that not a lot of people pay mind to: the camera isn't fixed on the goal line. It's centered about a half yard out, and the perspective can easily influence the determination of whether or not the ball crossed the plane. Don't believe me? Check out this image from last year's Clemson and North Carolina State game when NC State returned a punt for a touchdown and swung momentum.
One perspective shows him staying in bounds, one gives the appearance of stepping out of bounds.
I'm not going to go out and say replay is bad for football because I firmly believe the opposite, but referees in multiple instances at the collegiate and professional level have forgotten about the term "indisputable video evidence" when it comes to overturning calls. It's exactly why there are three levels of calls on replay: overturned, confirmed, and stands.
For the first two you need indisputable video evidence to change the call on the field. The third exists when you can't tell either way and you defer to the what the refs saw and called in real time. That is exactly what should have happened on Saturday. Both line judges spotted the ball short of the goal line, and there's no reasonable way to tell from the camera angle if the ball held by Desmond Roland broke the plane. The angle makes it appear he might have, but you can't tell for sure given the ball blending in too closely with the jersey and the fact the camera wasn't positioned directly on the goal line.
This call reminds me too much of the 2005 Kansas game when the Jayhawks attempted a sneak in to the end zone, were stopped, and the play was overturned upon review despite no angle showing where the ball was in relation to the goal line. That call was far more egregious than this one (at least you can kind of make out the ball here), but the principle is the same.
If the glove don't fit, you must acquit. If you can't definitively say the ball broke the plane, then the call has to stand.
Now to the other point: It didn't directly impact the outcome of the game.
Like hell it didn't.
6-6 at half is different than 13-6 at half and kicking the ball away. The kick return touchdown was likely to happen no matter the situation due to poor coverage, but going down by two touchdowns in a matter of 20 seconds will ruin just about anyone's confidence. Despite the fact that the Cyclones scored on the next possession it makes a world of difference to be kicking off in a tied game versus one where you're down a possession on a dubious overturn.
At the end of the day these players are still kids and are learning to fight their way through adversity. When the world feels like it's out to get you despite your best efforts on the field it can be easy to fold up shop.
Should poor officiating affect on field performance? No. Should the Big XII replay officials go to vocabulary school in the off season? Yes.