Iowa State needed close call to upset No. 8 OSU

Oklahoma State receiver Rashod Owens slips out of the grasp of an Iowa State defender to continue up the sideline during Saturday’s game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

AMES, Iowa — The home crowd at Jack Trice Stadium erupted when the results of the review were announced, sealing the Oklahoma State football team’s inevitable fate.

Officials determined the Cowboys were barely short of a first down, so Iowa State regained possession for the final minute, holding onto its narrow lead. At the end of a seesaw matchup, the Cyclones slipped past OSU 24-21 on Saturday in Ames, shattering the Cowboys’ undefeated record.

OSU coach Mike Gundy said he had expected a fourth-quarter game, and throughout the opening stretch of the No. 8 Cowboys’ Big 12 Conference schedule, close matchups had worked in their favor.

This time, a few missed opportunities kept a victory out of reach.

“Early in the week, we talked about when two good football teams go against each other, you’re gonna exchange blows, just like we did last week,” Gundy said. “...And in the end, (ISU) made another play, one more than we did.”

The Cyclones led 24-21 with a little over a minute left, so OSU (6-1 overall, 3-1 Big 12) decided to go for it on fourth and two, making a last-chance effort to regain the lead.

Starting quarterback Spencer Sanders delivered a one-yard pass to sophomore receiver Brennan Presley, whose two massive touchdown catches had given the Cowboys an early spark.

After securing the ball, Presley lunged forward onto the turf, but the chaotic pile of Cyclones and Cowboys obscured the football’s spot, making it difficult to tell if he had reached ISU’s 40-yardline for the first down that would have given OSU a glimmer of hope.

The chain crew measured the distance. A lengthy review occurred. At the end of the waiting period, officials ruled that the Cyclones had stopped Presley just short of a first down. Soon, the Cowboys were filing toward the locker room while a sea of red-and-yellow-clad fans descended upon them, storming the field like underdogs, though the odds had indicated ISU (5-2, 3-1) was the favorite.

From a rankings standpoint, the Cyclones managed to grind out an upset victory. As an unranked team, they defeated a top-10 opponent and ultimately had the edge in a showdown of stout defenses. Although the Cyclones denied the Cowboys their last opportunity when they wrapped up Presley short of the 40-yardline, momentum had slipped away from OSU before the fourth-down review.

In all but one of their games this season, the Cowboys haven’t scored in the third quarter. This time, giving up those points made a difference in the outcome.

“We need to try to find a way to play better in the second half,” Gundy said. “...Halftime adjustments are the only thing that I could hang my hat on and say that we need to maybe look at a different way to present ourselves with opportunities in the second half.”

Midway through the third quarter, OSU and ISU were tied at 14 when the Cowboys settled for a field goal on fourth and one. It could have been a safe decision, but it turned out to be costly.

Senior placekicker Tanner Brown, who entered the game 5 for 5 from field-goal range, attempted a 32-yarder that sailed outside the right goalpost. In the second quarter, he had missed a 50-yarder, and the shorter distance after halftime didn’t work to his advantage.

After Brown’s second attempt that went wide right, ISU responded on the next drive with Andrew Mevis’ 29-yard field goal, taking a 17-14 lead.

The Cowboys came roaring back in the fourth quarter with Sanders’ 25-yard pass to senior receiver Tay Martin, who carefully kept his feet in bounds as he secured the ball near the pylon in the right corner of the end zone.

With Breece Hall on the move, OSU’s advantage didn’t last long.

At first, ISU running back Hall couldn’t carve out a pathway against the Cowboys, who held the Cyclones to a measly nine rushing yards in the first half. The defense bottled up Hall through most of the game, limiting him to 70 yards on 21 carries, but one efficient sequence for Hall put ISU in the driver’s seat again.

With a 30-yard catch from quarterback Brock Purdy, Hall set the stage for his four-yard touchdown rush that gave the Cyclones their 24-21 lead. Purdy constantly created challenges for the Cowboys, going 27 for 33 with 307 passing yards.

“He’s great at the RPO game,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “Draw you into the run, throw it over your head. He’s great at improvising.”

Purdy’s efficiency, OSU’s missed field goals and the final turnover on downs haunted the Cowboys, but they never let ISU run away with the game.

At times, OSU reflected its top-10 identity. Presley dived into the end zone and later beat double coverage for his second touchdown. Sanders compiled 225 passing yards, connecting with five teammates and throwing no interceptions. Although Jaylen Warren had a relatively quiet day with 76 yards on 18 carries, a few dynamic rushes boosted the Cowboys’ energy.

Their luster faded when they needed it most. As the Cowboys attempted to rally back from their 24-21 deficit, ISU’s Will McDonald sacked Sanders on back-to-back plays, sending Tom Hutton on the field to punt. On OSU’s last offensive drive, a dropped pass and a short rush forced the Cowboys to go for it on fourth down, resulting in the final outcome.

OSU will look to bounce back during its homecoming matchup against Kansas at 6 p.m. next Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium.

“The game is over now,” Presley said. “So all we gotta do is just, we can’t get complacent. ... People are not going to feel sorry for you. Polls are not going to feel sorry for you. So we gotta come back tomorrow at practice, and we gotta get to work.”

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