AMES – Iowa State football was dead to rights in the fourth quarter with 53 seconds left in the game on Oklahoma State’s 22-yard line. The Cyclones trailed 49-42.
It was fourth and 13 and redshirt freshman backup quarterback Zeb Noland had just been sacked. Iowa State had no timeouts.
But on the fourth down play he found David Montgomery on an underneath route. Montgomery broke two tackles and worked his way down to the four-yard line for the first down.
On the first play, Noland threw a back-shoulder fade to Allen Lazard in the end zone, a play that worked twice previously in the high-scoring game. The defender got his hand on it and broke the play up.
On the next play, Noland tried the other side and threw a jump ball to Marchie Murdock. Oklahoma State defensive back A.J. Green jumped with Murdock and it looked like both players came down with it. The referees ruled Green controlled it.
Interception Oklahoma State.
Iowa State lost 49-42 in Ames that featured circus catches, great individual efforts, a quarterback change and a heart-breaking loss for the Cyclones, all of which were on display on the last three plays of the game.
“Today’s tough,” coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s a gut wrenching loss and it’s not easy but college football isn’t easy. It’s a game of inches and our job is to get the inch and we came up a little bit short today.”
Iowa State exploded out of the gates jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Then Oklahoma State reeled of 21 unanswered and Iowa State starting quarterback Kyle Kempt left the game due to injury in the second quarter, thrusting Noland into the spotlight.
He lit a spark and Iowa State scored a touchdown before the half to tie it at 21-21.
“Boy how about Zeb Noland to come in and be able to play like he did,” Campbell said. “The poise that he showed today was really special. We’re fortunate to have guys that keep getting better.”
It wasn’t just Noland that took the reins of the offense, linebacker Joel Lanning came in during a few critical situations.
Lanning rushed the ball in from the one-yard line after it looked like he was stuffed at the three. And, in a play that encapsulated Iowa State’s will-power in the game, threw a back-shoulder fade to Allen Lazard for the 22-yard touchdown.
“Absolutely crazy catch,” Lanning said. “To keep his feet in, to keep his eye on the ball. They were in single-high coverage so I knew they weren’t going to get over to Allen. I just tried to give him a chance, give him a high enough ball and he came down with it.”
The defender tried to break up the play, but Lazard tipped the ball to himself, kept both feet in bounds and reeled the ball in with one hand.
“I think the reality of that play is so indicative of this football team and this season,” Campbell said. “Just the ability to keep fighting and keep believing and keep playing. Allen was in slo-mo and he keeps fighting for the ball and Joel comes in and he’s playing linebacker and he’s got the ability to throw a fade in bounds to give him a chance to have success. It tells who those two are but I really think it’s a baseline to what our football team is. They believe and they keep fighting to the very end.”
While the Cyclones came up seven points short, they gave themselves an opportunity in the final seconds of the game. Campbell believes there is nothing for this team to hang its head about. Iowa State kept fighting and he has no doubt the team will bounce back.
“It hasn’t been an easy ride for any of them,” Campbell said. “Today’s a tough loss but they can look themselves in the mirror after today. I think there have been a lot of times in this program where it’s hard to look yourself in the mirror. I just got done telling them it’s really the most enjoyable year I’ve ever coached because these kids get it and they understand and they just keep coming back and keep working to get better.
“You never feel like you’re out of a game and you always feel like you have a chance because of who they are.”