AMES, Ia. — Give Connor Assalley the game ball.
His 36-yard field goal on the final play of the game gave Iowa State a 23-21 victory against pesky Texas Saturday afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium.
The bowl-qualifying victory came in the aftermath of Brayden Narveson’s 42-yard miss, but it didn’t matter — Texas was off-sides.
This time, Assalley got the call, making coach Matt Campbell’s long-guy, short-guy place-kicking combination look like money.
This coaching decision will be rehashed for a while, Iowa State choosing to take an offensive pass interference penalty against Texas late in the fourth quarter Saturday. If declined, it would have been third-and-20 for the Longhorns at the Texas 42-yard line.
Instead, Iowa State accepted the flag, giving Texas a second-and-35 situation.
Sam Ehlinger completed two passes to convert what was a second-and-forever into a new set of downs.
Suddenly the Longhorns were fourth-and-seven at the Iowa State 7-yard line, trailing by six points.
On that play, Ehlinger scrambled around the backfield until someone became open in the end zone. Touchdown Texas, and the score became 21-20 Longhorns with 5:37 to play.
Do you agree with declining the penalty, instead of giving the Longhorns more plays?
It was a tough call, and who’s to say Texas wouldn’t have got the first down, anyway?
Breece Hall solidified his status as an elite Big 12 Conference running back Saturday while owning a team that often has been known to own Iowa State. If he doesn’t earn one of the two first-team slots for running backs on the all-conference team — then voters haven’t been watching the same games as I have.
The true freshman was outstanding while running behind an offensive line that had its best game this season. Don’t forget quarterback Brock Purdy, who did exactly what he had to do against a team that allowed close to 300 passing yards a game.
The way Matt Campbell’s team played Saturday, you’re really starting to wonder if his team can turn a two-game losing streak into a season-finishing three-game streak.
It’s Kansas next Saturday in Ames, and then at Kansas State in the final regular-season game.
If Iowa State plays like it did Saturday, then it’s an eight-win regular season.
At least Iowa State didn’t force itself into playing catch-up early in the game. The Cyclones led Texas 10-7 at after the end of a solid first half, however, it could have a more sizable advantage. Stat-wise, it seemed like something like a 21-0 Cy first-half advantage.
Iowa State had the ball inside Texas’ 20-yard line with less than a minutes left in the second quarter, but ended up settling for Assalley’s 35-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
With the Cyclones kicking off into the wind, the Longhorns had a first down at their 25-yard line.
Iowa State’s offensive line was dominant on Saturday, and that’s no misprint. Against mighty Texas, the Cyclones’ road-graders were in control. Not content with running the clock out, the Longhorns scored — but not after the longest replay in college football history, or so it seemed.
An Iowa State defense that played so well most of the first half was on its heels even before a very significant passing play was reviewed.
On first blush, refs ruled Brennan Eagles out inside the 1-yard line. Replay officials in Dallas over-ruled, determining Eagles’ left toe was in the end zone at the point of the catch.
It looked like the right call, from the various angles of the replay, so it was 10-7 Cyclones at the break.
Everything went so well for Iowa State Saturday that Assalley and Brayden Narveson each kicked field goals, Assalley from 35 yards in the second quarter, and Narveson with a 48-yarder on the end of the Cyclones’ second drive of the third quarter.
After missing three of the most recent five field-goal attempts coming into the game, the team’s short and long place-kickers were perfect on this windy afternoon.
So, add them to the list of Iowa State playing like we thought they’d play all season.
Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of five decades. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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