The ‘perfect storm’ leads to the biggest upset in ISU history


The ISU defense celebrates after one of their five forced turnovers. The defense held the Cowboys to six of 14 on third down conversions.

Jeremiah Davis

No one predicted it. No one expected it.

But believe it: Iowa State defeated the No. 2 team in the nation on Friday night, 37-31 in double overtime against Oklahoma State.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort [the players] put forth tonight,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads after the game. “It was a complete team effort. That’s what we needed for victory, and that’s what we gave.”

The loss for Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) ruins any hopes the team had for a potential BCS National Championship berth, and caps off a 24-hour stretch that could be described as one of the worst times in school history following the death of women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in a plane crash.

For Iowa State (6-4, 3-4), it was the first time the football team beat a team ranked sixth or higher in the nation. Cyclone football was 0-56-2 all-time against top-six-ranked teams prior to Friday night.

“People, they try to rank [the victories]; put them here, put them there,” Rhoads said. “They’re all fantastic. This was really neat because it’s another historic victory for Iowa State.

“I’m very proud for the Cyclone nation that they got to experience it [at home].”

Fans in attendance swarmed the field as Jeff Woody crossed the goal line in the second overtime to win the game. Players and coaches celebrated among the swarm, soaking it all in and basking in the celebratory atmosphere.

The game-winning drive came after senior defensive back Ter’Ran Benton intercepted a Brandon Weeden pass. ISU quarterback Jared Barnett — who is now 3-0 as the starter — said he and his teammates knew what would happen next.

“We knew. We knew that when we stepped on the field that it was our time and it was time for us to shock the world,” Barnett said. “We gave it to our big bruiser and let him put it in the end zone.”

The Cyclones have adopted an “All In” mantra for this season, and are a self-described “blue collar” team. There’s no better example of that than the “big bruiser” Woody. The running back put the win into perspective after the game.

“Senior night, Friday night, ESPN, only show in town, never beat a top-five team in Iowa State’s history,” Woody said. “All those factors combined together just combines them [into] the perfect storm of finding a way to win and prove that we are a good team once again.”

The Cyclones fought back from a 24-7 deficit in the third quarter on the strength of five OSU turnovers. In addition to Benton, senior cornerback Leonard Johnson had an interception, as did safety Jacques Washington — the first of his career.

It being senior night for Iowa State, the leadership shown by players such as Johnson and Benton backed up the leadership they’ve shown off the field.

“The impact that they had on the game starts off the playing field,” Rhoads said. “Ter’Ran was elected a captain for a reason: because his teammates believe in him. I’ve never seen Leonard more focused. He had a great opportunity tonight to go up against [Justin Blackmon] and he stepped up in a big way.”

Fans who had filed onto the field left it in shock, and the same feeling was evident in talking to players after the game. Holding Oklahoma State — the No. 3 offense in the nation — to just 17 offensive points in regulation was a feat in and of itself. The other seven points for the Cowboys came off the interception returned for a touchdown by linebacker Shaun Lewis.

The “blue collar” bunch got the job done by any means necessary, which is becoming a trait of Rhoads-coached teams.

“I love the fact that our defense played well, our special teams played well,” Woody said. “We made mistakes, we battled back from it and we managed to pull out a win no matter what the cost, no matter what the odds slanted against us.

“That’s just a testament to the seniors and the coaching and just the character of this team.”