Emotions run high following close loss to Nebraska


Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Quarterback Austen Arnaud reacts to the end of the game between Iowa State and Nebraska on Saturday. Nebraska defeated the Cyclones 31-30 in overtime.

Jake Lovett

The hurt was evident on Jake Williams’ face.

The senior was quiet, not knowing what to say after the loss, a game in which he had two touchdowns, including a pivotal score in overtime.

Tight end Collin Franklin — the would-be receiver on the botched two-point try at the end of overtime — struggled to describe the scene in the locker room following the Cyclones’ 31-30 loss to Nebraska.

Quarterback Austen Arnaud stopped mid-sentence to collect himself on multiple occasions, fighting back tears, after losing in one of his best games as a Cyclone.

Even Paul Rhoads’ voice wavered while he talked about his team’s performance and defending one of his most controversial play calls as the Cyclones’ coach.

“This is definitely a tough one,” Williams said.

It was tough, because Williams had a career-high two touchdowns, because Franklin was open in the end zone on the two-point try, and because it took a 14-point fourth quarter comeback to even send the game to overtime.

Williams’ 9-yard score in overtime gave the Cyclones the chance. Instead of playing for the tie, Rhoads made the call to go for the win.

The kick team lined up, but holder Daniel Kuehl went for a pass instead.

The ball never made it to Franklin in the end zone and the game was over.

The Cyclones were one point short.

“That’s a tough way to end the game like that, after a hard-fought battle throughout,” Williams said.

Franklin figured to be the hero if Kuehl’s pass had gotten to him in the end zone. He said the team was proud of the performance, but it stings to come up short, especially against the ninth-ranked team in the country.

“Oh man … we’re hurt. We’re hurting,” Franklin said. “It’s tough to lose like that.”

Rhoads’ emotion following the game mirrored his team’s.

He said his team played well and executed for 60-plus minutes, but couldn’t make some of the necessary plays to come away with the win, leaving the team drained physically and emotionally.

“We had chances to win this football game, and we did not capitalize when we did,” Rhoads said. “I can escort you back to the locker room and show you how much it hurts.”

The Cyclones outplayed the Cornhuskers in nearly every aspect of the game — excluding the third quarter, in which Nebraska scored 17 unanswered points to take a 24-10 lead.

The ISU offense outgained Nebraska 360-314, many of those yards coming in the second and fourth quarters when the wind — estimated at 15 miles per hour — was at Arnaud’s back.

The ISU defense often bent but rarely broke, allowing the Cornhusker offense into the end zone just twice in regulation.

Iowa State committed three fewer penalties, only had to punt three times and gained nine more first downs.

“We’ve known all season long that we can match up with anybody; we’ve just got to show up and we’ve got to execute,” Franklin said. “We have a lot to be proud of, but at the same time, we all wanted that one. It’s tough.”

Arnaud’s performance — completing 21 of his 32 pass attempts for 203 yards and three touchdowns, and running 13 times for 63 yards and a touchdown — prompted his coach to call it his best game in three years as a Cyclone. The three touchdowns also pushed Arnaud into second place in ISU history with 42 career scoring passes.

His roommate, Williams, had five catches, 46 yards and the two touchdowns, one of his best outputs as a Cyclone as well.

The positives, individually or collectively, didn’t outweigh the sting from the loss, though.

“There’s not a lot to take from this game,” Arnaud said. “Wish we could say, ‘A win is a win,’ and we had won that game, but a loss is a loss and that’s how we’ve got to take it.”

Now, the Cyclones must pull themselves up off of the mat and rebound if they want to earn their second straight bowl berth under Rhoads.

Iowa State sits at 5-5, one win shy of bowl eligibility, and a trip to Boulder, Colo., to face the 3-6 Buffaloes awaits. The Cyclones clinched bowl eligibility against the Buffaloes in 2009, too, with a 17-10 win in Ames.

“We’ve still got a lot ahead of us,” Williams said. “I have no doubt this team will bounce back. We’ll come back ready to play next week, no question.”