Zac Reicks

IOWA CITY – Thirty-three steps.

Covered in frayed duct tape and shabby carpet, the steps were the route Seneca Wallace and the Iowa State Cyclones took from behind the woodshed to a stunning second-half, 36-31 victory over intrastate rival Iowa.

Trailing 24-7 at the half, the Cyclones followed their unquestioned leader out of their locker room, down the steps and into the state of Iowa’s football lore.

Wallace led them onto the field and to a second-half comeback that left the sellout crowd of 70,397 fans in awe.

The shifty ISU signal-caller left Hawkeye fans pulling out their hair and screaming obscenities as time and again he completed passes on his way to three third-quarter scoring drives that helped the Cyclones regain the lead and momentum, 28-24.

Wallace finished the day 23-for-37 for 361 yards and with both a passing and rushing touchdown.

The only mistake he made during the game was an errant second-quarter pass that was intercepted in the end zone by Iowa’s freshman cornerback Antwan Allen.

Allen then had the ball knocked from his hands into the arms of safety Bob Sanders, who promptly returned it to the Iowa 32-yard line, setting up the Hawkeyes’ third touchdown of the first half.

ISU head coach Dan McCarney claimed his fifth win over the Hawkeyes and couldn’t have been prouder of his senior quarterback.

“He did his usual, but he stayed within our system and our calls and didn’t play street ball,” McCarney said. “He’s a winner and a leader, and thank God that he is with Iowa State.”

Wallace put together a second half that was comparable to the Cyclones’ season opener against Florida State, when he rallied Iowa State back from a 31-7 second quarter deficit to within a yard of tying up the game.

Operating from a shotgun formation for much of the second half, Wallace picked apart a soft Iowa secondary that was reeling under a constant barrage of bullets from his right arm.

When Sanders went down with an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter, Iowa’s fate was sealed.

“We been in the situation before with Florida State, and we knew we were capable of coming back,” Wallace said. “We just had to keep our poise and focus and go out and play a strong second half.”

Early in the fourth quarter, facing third and 10 from his own 5-yard line, Wallace stepped up and completed one of the biggest passes of his career.

With the Iowa student section and much of the sellout crowd reaching a deafening pitch, Wallace rolled to his left and threw a 20-yard dart to receiver Jack Whitver, giving Iowa State a fresh set of downs and the chance to breathe a sigh of relief.

Throwing from positions that have believers of conventional technique furrowing their brows, Wallace showed that he is as good as anyone in the nation throwing on the run.

“I was going out there and trying to make a play,” Wallace said.

“Jack went out there and got open. He is a big time playmaker, just like anyone else.”

Senior center Zach Butler has seen Wallace pull rabbits out of his hat since he came to Iowa State, and the magic he created on Saturday was no surprise to him.

“I am just proud to play on the same field with that guy,” Butler said. “He is unbelievable.”