I didn't watch a single second of the game on Saturday (my heart thanks me), as the Godfather John Walters and his co-hort Eric Heft brought me through a whirlwind of emotions in what was one of the most elating and deflating games I've ever been a part of on a Saturday afternoon drive.
If you've been living under a rock, Iowa State went into halftime with a 35-14 lead, only to run a Dan McCarney-esque conservative gameplan in a second half full of fumbles, blunders and the ever-too-often kick to the nuts that this fanbase has been a part of for far too long. Kansas State capitalized on two late fumbles to score 10 points in the final 40 seconds and win by a score of 38-35.
It's been a recurring theme this year as good first halves turn into better second halves by the opposition due to timely adjustments. It causes the fan base to hold on for dear life (and drink a lot), only to see the rug pulled out from underneath them once again.
Here are the good (and bad) things that went down in Paul Rhoads' "nail in the coffin" game.
What Went Well - The First Half
Offense - Mike Warren ran for 195 yards on 22 carries, including the longest run by a Cyclone running back since 2011, a 76-yarder where he had nothing but green grass in front of him. The offensive line dominated the trenches in the first half, as ISU ran for 158 yards on the ground, and scored touchdowns on five of the first seven drives.
Joel Lanning looked superb, displaying touch on his passes and finding the open receiver in space. The receiver more often than not was Allen Lazard, as the two hooked up for two touchdowns in the second quarter, including a tip-toe catch in the back corner of the end zone. Lanning ended the day 15 for 20, with 210 yards and 3 touchdowns passing.
Trever Ryen was a burst of energy before he got knocked out with a concussion, running a beautiful run-fake and then streaking down the sidelines catching a touchdown.
Defense - What helped the offense in the first half was a short field and clutch stops by the defense. After ISU was stopped on the goal line on fourth down, linebacker Brian Mills forced a fumble and it was recovered by Luke Knott. ISU was right back in the driver's seat and momentum shifted back the Cyclones' way.
Mills led all Iowa State players with eight tackles, including two for loss on the day. Brian Peavy was all over the field, as he was covering receivers like white on rice, and also got in the sack column. ISU did not give up any big plays on the defensive side of the ball and held most K-State runners in check.
Special Teams - Lazard had a 46-yard punt return to set up a short field for the offense in the first quarter. Netten was not called upon for any field goals, and both punters were average.
What Went Wrong - The Entire SECOND HALF
Offense - The Cyclones were unable to keep any sustained drives going in the second half, due in large part to a lack of a running game. They stepped on their own feet along the way, not converting on a 4th and 2 run by Lanning where he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Other than the last play of the game, the offense had 116 yards of offense in the second half to go along with five turnovers.
They stubbed their toe in the first half as well, missing an opportunity to score at the goal line, as the short yardage bug bit the Cyclones yet again.
Defense - The K-State offense finally got moving in the second half behind the legs and arms of QB Joe Hubener. The 6-foot-6 sophomore didn't wow anyone, but he methodically drove the Wildcats down the field on multiple possessions in the second half. ISU missed their chances, especially on a huge fourth-down conversion in the red zone that brought the game within seven.
Brian Peavy had a missed opportunity on an interception in the fourth quarter.
Special Teams - Writing the preview, I knew K-State had a weapon in their return game. It was evident, as Morgan Burns brought one back 100 yards in the 2nd quarter. Also, Holden Kramer was brought in for his patented pooch punt, only to kick one into the end zone late in the game.
Offensive Grade: First half: A. Second half: F-.
Defense Grade: C+. Needed to make more stops in the 2nd half.
Special Teams: C-. Field position was big in this one again.
Turnovers - This is not a misprint. ISU had EIGHT FUMBLES and lost four.
Next up for the Cyclones is a road trip to West Virginia in Paul Rhoads' final game as ISU's head coach. You can go back to drinking now.