Once you look past the controversial fumble where Jeremiah George potentially ripped the ball from Johnathan Gray’s hands in the middle of a pile, it was Texas’ big plays in the first half that were a momentum-killer for the Cyclones.
“[Rhoads] told us he felt for us,” said George, linebacker for Iowa State. “He understood how bad we wanted this game. He said we did everything he asked us to do.”
For the Longhorns, 14 of their 17 first-half points came on two plays.
Early in the first half, Gray scampered on a cutback run, knifing through the Cyclones defense for a 45-yard score to silence the 52,762 fans in Jack Trice Stadium.
“We knew he was going to cutback all night,” George said. “He found the cutback lane, and I was cut, and he ran right by me.”
After answers from Iowa State in the second quarter in the form of two field goals by Cole Netten and a touchdown pass by Aaron Wimberly from Sam Richardson, Texas had a chance to steal momentum back from Iowa State.
Texas quarterback Case McCoy threw a desperation pass into the end zone where four ISU defensive backs couldn’t stop Texas’ John Harris from snatching a touchdown to end the half and with it, Iowa State’s momentum.
“We should’ve batted that down, that was a big change in momentum, but we came back and responded in the second half,” said ISU safety Jacques Washington.
Aside from those two deflating plays from Texas, the Cyclone defense held the Longhorns to a mere 97 yards on offense in the first half.
For the second-straight game, Iowa State received strong input from the three major points in their offense — Richardson, Wimberly and Quenton Bundrage.
Wimberly ran for more than 100 yards for his second-straight game, finishing with 29 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns and adding two catches for 23 yards.
“Our kids fought hard: They blocked; they ran,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads. “Wimberly dropped his shoulder and ran hard. Very pleased with that continuing transformation of our football team from where we started the season.”
Bundrage caught five passes for 137 yards and a 97-yard touchdown — the longest pass play in Iowa State’s history.
Richardson finished the fourth quarter on a gimpy ankle but completed an efficient 16 of 26 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns, along with the game-sealing interception at the end of the fourth quarter.