Missouri misery

Lucas Grundmeier

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Brad Smith was far too much for Iowa State Saturday.

But then, no Big 12 opponent provided a manageable challenge for the 2003 Cyclones, who dropped their 10th straight game by a 45-7 tally in the season finale at Faurot Field.

“I wish we could go back to the beginning of the season and make things different,” said senior defensive tackle Jordan Carstens.

Smith, the Tigers’ scintillating sophomore quarterback, ran 17 times for 195 yards and two scores, giving him 18 touchdowns on the season. Iowa State’s offense scored 20 touchdowns in 2003.

“They’ve been putting up huge points the whole season,” ISU head coach Dan McCarney said.

Missouri moved to 8-4 (4-4 Big 12) and will await a bowl bid after its first undefeated home season since 1974.

Iowa State finished 2-10 (0-8 Big 12) — the first time since 1964 the Cyclones went without a win or tie in conference play.

Freshman tailback Stevie Hicks ran for 123 yards on 28 carries — both season highs for the Cyclones — but was stymied with the rest of the offense in attempts to keep up with a 382-yard Tiger rushing attack.

“There’s not many [positives],” McCarney said.

“Missouri just took control of the line of scrimmage on many plays.”

Iowa State used tough run defense, strong Tony Yelk punting and a Jon Davis field goal block to keep Missouri scoreless through the first 26 minutes of the game.

But Smith’s 19-yard run and a fourth-down, 18-yard scoring gallop by Zack Abron put Iowa State in a 14-0 hole with just 33 seconds left in the first half.

For one of precious few times this season, the Cyclones had an offensive answer.

Waye Terry, who made his third start of the season at quarterback, threw a deep desperation pass for senior wide receiver Lane Danielsen, who split two Missouri safeties to catch the ball over his shoulder and sprint 20 yards for a 62-yard score with 2 seconds remaining.

It was Danielsen’s 14th career touchdown catch, moving him into a tie with Tracy Henderson for third on the ISU all-time chart, and cutting the Missouri edge to 14-7 at the half.

“We felt like we had the momentum,” Danielsen said. “We were confident.”

But Danielsen, Terry and the Cyclones struggled all day on third down, misfiring on their first seven conversion opportunities. Terry was constantly harassed by Tiger blitzes, losing three fumbles before being taken off the field on a stretcher after fumbling a snap on fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter.

“They took the wind right out of our sails,” Danielsen said.

On the Cyclones’ first drive of the second half, Hicks fell down in the backfield with a clear route to a first down in front of him on third-and-3, forcing a Yelk punt.

Marcus James fielded the ball at the Tiger 31, eluded Danielsen’s grasp and ran 26 yards to the ISU 41 to set up a Mike Matheny field goal.

James averaged 23.5 yards on four returns, easily the best outing by a punt returner against Iowa State this season.

“He’s tough to get your hands on,” Danielsen said. “They got a few breaks on a couple of those where you let it bounce … They did a good job of holding up the linemen.”

Two plays after the Tigers took a 10-point lead, Atiyyah Ellison hit Terry from behind, forcing a fumble that Xzavie Jackson returned to the ISU 4-yard line.

Missouri scored a play later, well on its way to a 31-0 second-half whitewashing of Iowa State that included touchdown runs of 61 yards by Smith and 64 by sophomore tailback Damien Nash.

After compiling a 13-11 Big 12 record from 2000—02, the Cyclones’ 0-8 skid this season included just 13 minutes, 21 seconds in which they held the lead — a 7-6 advantage Nov. 22 at Kansas. The closest finish in a conference game was a 40-19 Homecoming defeat against Texas on Oct. 18.

“None of us ever wants to go through another season like this again,” McCarney said.

Hicks said he felt sorry for Iowa State’s 27 seniors, who contributed to the school’s first-ever run of three consecutive bowl bids.

“Seeing those guys go through a season like this, it hurts me too,” he said. “They worked so hard. They’re not used to losing.”