SAN ANTONIO— Three turnovers, seven false start penalties and missed opportunities set the tone in Iowa State's 28-26 loss to Washington State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
The Cyclones trailed 21-10 after two quarters, and Iowa State failed to dig itself out of the first-half deficit.
"Now, to take the next step in this program — it's detail," said coach Matt Campbell. "Really, it's what got us tonight — really in all three phases of the game.
"Big kickoff return right before half, some silly mistakes in the pass game early, obviously a tough fumble and then some missed tackles early in the football game, and I think it comes down to that."
Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy turned in a solid performance in his bowl debut, tossing 18 completions for 315 yards. On the ground Purdy ran 10 times for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the strong numbers, the freshman made mistakes early in the game, preventing Iowa State from jumping out to a lead.
After senior cornerback Brian Peavy forced and recovered a fumble on Washington State's opening drive, Purdy threw an interception with Jalen Thompson plucking the ball out of the air in Washington State territory.
Iowa State's defense bailed out Purdy, forcing a punt. On his second drive, Purdy and the Cyclones approached the red zone before he threw his second interception.
Redshirt junior Hakeem Butler strolled across the middle of the field on a slant pattern. The Cougars' Marcus Strong jumped the pass and returned it to the end zone (the touchdown was negated by an unsportsmanlike penalty).
Butler won the battle against the Cougar secondary from then on, snaring nine passes for 192 yards.
"We studied them a lot," Butler said. "I mean, we had a long time before we got to play them, so we got to understand them really well."
Despite the slow start, Iowa State remained in the game in the fourth quarter. Down 28-20, Purdy scored on a quarterback sneak with 4:02 left, trimming Washington State's lead to 28-26.
After the touchdown, the Cyclones lined up for a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game. Upon the snap, the referees blew their whistles. Play stopped because of a false start penalty on Bryce Meeker.
Backed up five yards, Iowa State completed a pass but failed to cross the goal line. The penalties appeared as a common theme for the offensive line throughout the game.
A pair of false starts occurred on short-yardage situations, spoiling a second-and-3 and third-and-2. Near the goal line, redshirt freshman center Collin Newell tacked on two more false starts — once on the 1-yard line and once on the 6-yard line.
Outside of the false starts, a pair of Cyclone defenders left the game early after targeting calls on hits against Gardner Minshew II. First redshirt senior linebacker Willie Harvey left, and redshirt sophomore Enyi Uwazurike followed, triggering an unsportsmanlike penalty from Campbell after.
"That's a tough way to leave your last game," Peavy said about Harvey's ejection. "I guess when you're going full throttle, it's hard to let off."
The miscues didn't exclude one of Iowa State's biggest stars, either. Junior running back David Montgomery gained a first down on a rush attempt, but as he fought for more yardage, Washington State stripped the ball.
The fumble marked Montgomery's second career fumble (the first fumble occurred at the Liberty Bowl last season). The Cougars capitalized with a 10-yard rushing touchdown.
During the two-point loss, Iowa State received the opportunity to secure three more points. Kicker Connor Assalley drilled a 50-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter, and he had his number called again in the second half.
Ties Dan Bailey and Clinton Greathouse. https://t.co/iCWxBksNm0— Trevor Holbrook (@TrevorHolbrook) December 29, 2018
After being stopped on third down, Matt Campbell turned to the redshirt sophomore for a 49-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.
Assalley had good distance on the kick, but the ball doinked off the upright and landed in the crimson and gray-painted end zone of Washington State's.
Iowa State looked like a better team at times during the Valero Alamo Bowl, outrushing and outpassing the Cougars, but the Cyclones failed to overcome their own mistakes.