Cyclones overcome chaos to get past Baylor

Iowa State fans cheer on the Cyclones during the game against Baylor on Nov. 10, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Bears 28-14.

Noah Rohlfing

Unsportsmanlike penalties for every player on the field, a fight resulting in two ejections, a quarterback getting tossed for arguing with a ref and the scoreboards going out?

Saturday’s game between Baylor and Iowa State was flat-out weird. But it may not have seemed like it looking just at the score itself.

After four drives, the Cyclones were cruising, up 14-0 and capitalizing on two stalled Baylor drives to grab command of the game. They led 17-0 at the half. The 28-14 final score may seem pretty standard fare, too.

Digging into the stats is where the wackiness begins.

Baylor outgained Iowa State by more than 100 yards, carving up what was the best defense in the Big 12 heading into Saturday’s game to the tune of 505 yards. All game long, the Bears gashed the Cyclones through the air and the ground, finding the red zone on seven of their nine drives. Charlie Brewer excelled for the Bears, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 80 yards on 12 carries.

Yet, Baylor was limited to 14 points.

The 505 yards was the most the Cyclones’ defense has given up since the Oklahoma game on Sept. 15 (Oklahoma had 519 total yards of offense and 37 points).

Campbell said the defense was off, but held firm when it needed to.

“We struggled to sustain any consistency tonight,” Campbell said. “Our red zone defense certainly was the difference in the football game, at least early in the game.”

On the other hand, Iowa State only had 355 yards of offense, but scored points on five of their nine drives and capitalized on every red zone opportunity it created. Brock Purdy had his most efficient game as a Cyclones, completing 18-of-23 passes for 230 passes and a touchdown while carrying the ball 12 times for 65 yards.

But the Cyclones had two field goals and a touchdown with a “Philly Special”-esque two-point conversion tacked on, as Purdy caught a pass from junior wideout Deshaunte Jones to put the Cyclones at 28 and put what felt at the time like a stamp on a big November win.

Jones said he’s been wanting to run that play for awhile.

“I was talking to coach Campbell about that in the tunnel throughout the whole season how I should throw the ball,” Jones said. “He finally let me do it.”

Despite the Cyclones’ offensive efficiency, the Bears felt they had a chance to win this game if they had taken advantage of their red zone chances.

Baylor coach Matt Rhule bemoaned the Bears’ ability to finish drives.

“This was a case of us beating ourselves and not taking advantage of opportunities, most importantly in the red zone,” Rhule said.

Three of those opportunities came in the first half, when Baylor had the ball in the red zone its first three drives in the game. Those drives ended in a punt and two missed field goals. Even before halftime, the tenor of the game was off.

The third quarter, though, is where everything went off the rails.

With all of the fights, the penalties and the randomness of the situation, the third quarter dragged on, but the Bears scored a touchdown on a catch by Denzel Mims late in the period to bring the score back to 20-7. It was a signal that the Bears weren’t going away, and Iowa State needed to respond.

Respond they did, coming right back with a quick touchdown drive capped by an 8-yard run from Johnnie Lang Jr.

A talk from Campbell after the skirmish got the Cyclones back on track, redshirt junior wideout Hakeem Butler said.

“Every time coach Campbell talks to us as a group, it’s pretty important,” Butler said. “[Campbell] put us on the right path, told us to focus and just be ourselves.”

After Baylor scored a touchdown to pull back within two touchdowns and the Cyclones were forced to punt, a driving Baylor team was stifled by a fitting ending to a crazy night in Ames: a quarterback ejection.

After Brewer was gone, the Bears stalled out on two red zone possessions and the Cyclones ran out the clock with a 28-14 scoreline in hand.

Saturday’s game was touted as a normal, no-frills November conference game. What transpired was madness.

Hakeem Butler summed it up in one sentence:

“The whole game was crazy.”