• Home
  • /
  • Iowa State Cyclones
  • /
  • Peterson: Inside the craftiness and chicanery of Iowa State’s crazy, game-winning final 2 minutes

Peterson: Inside the craftiness and chicanery of Iowa State’s crazy, game-winning final 2 minutes

CLOSE

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

AMES, Ia. — You left the thriller that was the Iowa State-Texas football game Saturday night raving about the second-chance field goal that enabled the Cyclones to reach bowl eligibility.

You raved about beating once-mighty No. 23 Texas for the first time since Matt Campbell’s been the coach.

You raved about Connor Assalley’s 36-yard field goal on the final play that turned a game Iowa State statistically dominated into a 23-21 Cyclones squeaker at Jack Trice Stadium.

I heard you rightfully saying all kinds of positive stuff about the walk-on. It’s his name that will forever be associated with this big win.

But you know what?

The guy Matt Campbell calls the nation’s best long-snapper — that’d be Steve Wirtel — played just as big a part, if not a bigger part, than the guy who split the uprights that ended one crazy final few minutes.

“That’s the craftsmanship of Steve Wirtel, honestly,” Campbell said. “Those are things we work on and practice. Steve’s one of the best in the country. To not snap the ball on the ‘ready,’ and have the discipline of our guys to do that — that was great.”

Let’s back up to the point where Brayden Narveson missed a 42-yard field goal and where the Cyclones got second life, thanks to that Wirtel craftiness.

Texas (6-4, 4-3 Big 12 Conference) had been anticipating snap rhythm throughout the game Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) led 20-7 with 12:09 left in the third quarter. That’s how the Longhorns had been able to block four kicks this season, and Wirtel noticed that it was happening again.

“I noticed throughout the game that they were timing our cadence,” Wirtel said. “We gave our cadence, and in my peripheral vision at the time, I saw No. 43 jump. I snapped it at the time. He jumped offside, and I saw our guys engage with him. They were keying on our cadence throughout the game.

“When I saw that color (of uniform) break the plane, I snapped it. I heard the ref say offside, 43 on white. The rest was history.”

Instead of wide right, Iowa State had new life. First down, at the Texas 20-yard line.

Without taking risks, the offense was geared to keeping the ball in the middle of the field, which it did.

“Brock did a good job setting up the middle of the field, and from there, it was our (place-kicking) crew,” Wirtel said.

Finally, on fourth down at the Longhorns 19, Campbell let the clock run to 4 seconds. He sent Assalley onto the field, because shorter field goal tries are his thing.

A perfect snap from Wirtel. A perfect hold by Blake Clark. A perfect kick by Assalley.

A Cyclones win.

“The confidence we have in Connor — he’s earned the right to do everything he’s done,” Campbell said. “He’s had some up-and-down moments, but a lot more ups than downs.

“I don’t know if anybody would have given him a chance to be our kicker two or three years ago. He’s earned it. Nobody was more fitting to kick the winning field goal for us than Connor.”

Wirtel’s heads-up snap and Assalley’s kick capped a game Iowa State dominated.  It was in the statistics — 466 Cyclones yards to 327 for Bevo. It was in what we saw with our eyes. It was the kind of game we expected to see Iowa State play all season.

The offensive line was dominant. Breece Hall was spectacular again, with 101 tough yards on 24 tough carries.

And what can you say about Purdy? He went 30-for-48 for 354 yards and two touchdowns.

It was one of the most overwhelming Iowa State efforts against a Texas team — ever.

A 10-7 Iowa State lead after a first half showed that this team doesn’t always have to play from behind. The first play of the third quarter was a 75-yard Brock Purdy to Deshaunte Jones touchdown pass. The second possession? A 48-yard field goal by Narveson for a 20-7 advantage.

Yeah, this is what we every Iowa State fan expected to see throughout the entire season, not just this one game and parts of others.

Hall was wonderful. Purdy. was outstanding. The defense had its moments.

And the snapper, holder and Assalley combination that won the game?

“I’ve never been part of a game-winning field goal,” Wirtel said. “You see them all the time, but it’s never happened with me. With 5 minutes left in the game, I thought it through — that one time, it’s going to happen to us.”

Boom. It happened.

“I figured it’d probably be me, unless we got a penalty,” Assalley said. “I’m the short-range guy, and he’s the long-range guy, and that field goal he made earlier was huge

“I just kicked a few in the net and envisioned.”

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of five decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.

Source: Des Moines Register