Brought to their knees: ISU football suffers late loss against Texas, 31-30

Coach Paul Rhoads drops down in reaction to a would-be fumble from Texas in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones lost 31-30 to the Longhorns on Oct. 3, 2013, at Jack Trice Stadium.

Alex Halsted

Paul Rhoads has always been known for his emotional postgame victory speeches. But he has never given one like he did after Iowa State’s loss Thursday night.

With 1:08 remaining in the game against Texas, ISU linebacker Jeremiah George emerged from the pile at the goal line with an apparent fumble recovery, which would have sealed an ISU victory. It wasn’t until George was 30 yards down the field in the opposite direction with the ball that he knew the play had been blown dead.

Instead, the officials ruled Texas running back Johnathan Gray was down, and the Longhorns scored two plays later with 51 seconds remaining to take a 31-30 lead and ultimately the win after the Cyclones couldn’t counter.

Rhoads didn’t hold back on the call following the loss.

“I’ve got the privilege as the head football coach of this football program to face my players win or lose and look them in the eye and feel how proud I am of the work they put forth — the effort they gave tonight,” Rhoads said. “To make a play on the 1-yard line with their backs against the wall clear to everybody and have it taken away from them — that’s hard to express.

“You don’t just put an arm around a guy and tell him it’s OK when that happens to him. I’m so proud of the effort my kids gave to win this football game tonight.”

The call was later reviewed and stood, keeping the Longhorns at the 1-yard line with three downs to score.

“He was trying to score a touchdown,” George said. “As a defender you don’t stop until you hear the whistle; the whistle never blew. The whistle never blew until I had the ball in my hands, and I was 30 yards down the field.”

Iowa State fell behind Texas 10-0 in the first quarter, but used two field goals  from Cole Netten and an 11-yard touchdown reception from Aaron Wimberly to take a 13-10 lead. With four seconds to play in the first half, Texas quarterback Case McCoy found receiver John Harris in the end zone on a 44-yard desperation pass to take a halftime lead.

The Cyclones moved back ahead with 6:34 to play in the third quarter when ISU quarterback Sam Richardson found receiver Quenton Bundrage on a 97-yard touchdown, the longest passing play in ISU history. Texas responded, but Iowa State used a 20-yard run from Wimberly and another Netten field goal for a 30-24 lead.

That’s when George found the loose ball.

“I’ve got pretty good eyesight,” Rhoads said. “The view I had of that gigantic screen in the north end zone showed a player that was not down and our guy with the football.”

Richardson, who threw for 262 yards and rushed for 117, was intercepted on the drive that ensued after Texas’ go-ahead score.

“It hurts pretty bad,” Richardson said of the loss. “This is the one you stay up all night tonight and think about the two or three plays you messed up. They can change the game and will drive you nuts.”

Iowa State won’t have time to ponder the loss as it moves into the final eight weeks of its Big 12 schedule, beginning with Texas Tech next week.

“We can’t let it linger,” George said. “If you think the Texas Tech Red Raiders care about Iowa State getting the game stolen from them, they really don’t.”