Iowa State analysis: What a fitting way to end the regular season for Iowa State

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MANHATTAN, Kan. — If there was a game that epitomized the 2019 Iowa State football season … it was Saturday’s. In a season full of close contests and missed opportunities, it seemed fitting that Iowa State went through another nail-biter, dropping a 27-17 game to Kansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. 

That’s how Iowa State’s 2019 regular season will be remembered: The Cyclones were always close. They were always within striking distance of whoever they were playing. But the close calls were what kept Iowa State from taking that next step as a program in 2019. In most of those close calls, the Cyclones missed out on valuable opportunities. 

Iowa State has been plagued by slow starts, like the giant hole the Cyclones dug themselves into at Baylor and at Oklahoma. The Cyclones have been doomed by late game meltdowns against Iowa and Oklahoma State. The inconsistencies led Iowa State coach Matt Campbell to plead for his team to play a full game.

It didn’t happen Saturday. Iowa State fell into an early hole just 13 seconds into the game when Joshua Youngblood housed a 93-yard kickoff return to put the Wildcats up instantly. The lead grew to 14-0 on a 12-yard run by Jacardia Wright. Iowa State, meanwhile, struggled to get going offensively. The Cyclones punted away their first four possessions and tallied just one first down and only 50 yards of total offense.

Iowa State never could seem to get into a flow offensively. The Cyclones needed a 13-yard catch by La’Michael Pettway in the second quarter to keep their first scoring drive alive. A 1-yard touchdown run by Breece Hall on fourth-and-goal tied the game 14-14 on Iowa State’s next possession.

Even when great opportunities popped up, Iowa State couldn’t take advantage of them. The Cyclones went three and out on the first series of the second half. They failed to capitalize on a forced fumble by Will McDonald, going three and out again on the second series. When Iowa State got great field position again on a Greg Eisworth interception, the Cyclones settled for a field goal to take a 17-14 lead.

That was the last time Iowa State would lead the Wildcats. 

If Iowa State is going to play a complete game like Campbell wants this season, it’ll have to come in the bowl game. Ultimately, Iowa State’s inability to do it during the regular season is what stopped the Cyclones from making their successful season a special season.

It was still a season the Cyclones can be proud of. The Cyclones reached bowl eligibility for the third-straight season for just the third time in school history. They’ll finish .500 in conference play for only the fourth time in the Big 12 era.

But as great as those things were, the Cyclones can’t help but wonder about missed opportunities. Iowa State was a team that many national pundits had picked to make a run at a spot in the Big 12 championship game. It never happened.

The close calls rarely went Iowa State’s way. What would have happened if Iowa State had taken advantage of its last opportunity against Iowa? What if Iowa State hadn’t fallen into a 20-0 deficit at Baylor? What if the Cyclones had played complete games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma? 

If anything, the 2019 season showed that Iowa State is close to taking that next step as a program.

“We’re right there,” said Iowa State safety Greg Eisworth. “And I think that’s the thing that’s tough. You can feel team just being so close to being where we want to be but yet so far.” 

Source: Des Moines Register