Cyclones get defensive for win

Jeff Stell

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The ISU offense has received most of the attention this season, but it was the defense and the special teams that allowed the Cyclones to escape with a 20-14 win Saturday against Missouri.

Senior strong safety Adam Runk deflected a fourth-down pass in the end zone in the final seconds to preserve the victory. The Tigers had marched down to the ISU 6-yard line but the Cyclone defense stepped up with a critical stand.

“We knew that this was going to be a really tough game and it didn’t surprise us that it went down to the last play,” ISU head coach Dan McCarney said. “It doesn’t get any better than a goal line stand at the end. It’s dramatic, big-time football and I think our defense will grow from it.”

The Cyclones went ahead 20-14 on a Tony Yelk field goal with 3:49 left on the clock.

The Tigers moved down to the 6-yard line but an incomplete pass and two runs for no gain set up Runk’s heroics.

On the fourth down play, Tiger quarterback Kirk Farmer tried to hit tight end Dwayne Blakley cutting across the middle of the end zone. Runk knocked away the pass just in time as Blakely was open.

“I saw the tight end try to hook under and the quarterback kind of looked me right at him, and I just broke underneath and got a hand on it,” Runk said.

Yelk had a busy day and was a vital factor in the victory.

Yelk hit two fourth quarter field goals and kept the Tigers in bad field position all day long with a stellar punting effort. Yelk averaged 49.5 yards per punt on six punts.

“I said earlier that Tony might be worth two scholarships and he was out there today,” McCarney said. “Field position is so huge in any game and Tony had a major role in our win. He’s only a freshman in his fifth game so I’m really proud of him.”

Yelk’s second field goal in the fourth quarter was set up on the kickoff after his first.

Hiawatha Rutland stripped Tiger kick returner Tay Jackson of the ball and Lane Danielsen fell on it, giving the Cyclones possession at the Tiger 12-yard line.

Danielsen was in the right place at the right time as he was inserted into the kick return defense unit after Marc Timmons was shaken up.

“[Timmons] was out and they asked me to go in and Hiawatha stripped in and the ball was there so I just scooped it up. It worked out pretty good,” Danielsen said.

The Cyclones’ defense was shaky at times, giving up some big plays, but kept coming up with a big play to slow down the Tiger momentum. The Tigers were held on fourth down at the Cyclone 14-yard line in the first quarter and Harold Clewis intercepted a pass at the 1-yard line late in the first half.

The Tigers’ main weapon to tallying 366 yards of total offense was tailback Zach Abron, who chewed up 147 yards on 21 carries. Leading the Cyclone defense were Runk and Atif Austin with 11 tackles each.

“As long as we bend and don’t break and can still win the football game, then we played good enough defense to win,” McCarney said. “That goal-line stand, we’ll build on that.”

Playing in rain and wind, the weather slowed a normally high-powered Cyclone offense.

The Cyclones finished with 282 yards in total offense, including just 75 through the air as quarterback Seneca Wallace struggled against an aggressive Tiger defense.

“They did a good job with some of their coverages, they mixed it up really good,” McCarney said.

Wallace helped the Cyclones come back with his feet instead of his arm. Trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, Wallace turned in a 35-yard run down to the four-yard line and Ennis Haywood scored on the next play.

Haywood scored both ISU touchdowns and recorded 120 yards on 27 carries.

“I told the kids that that’s the measure of a football team; it’s coming off that embarrassment in Lincoln,” McCarney said.

“You find out about coaches and players in the immediate game after a loss. We’re looking forward to coming home for our Homecoming game at 4-1. I’m hoping and praying that we can come home to a packed house without one empty damn seat in our stadium.”