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Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State’s late comeback falls short in homecoming loss

Joseph Dicklin
Devin Neal of the Kansas Jayhawks gets chased down for a tackle by Joey Petersen of Iowa State during the Iowa State vs. Kansas football game on Nov. 4, 2023 in Jack Trice Stadium.

AMES — The Cyclones took on No. 22 Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium but could not pull off the homecoming win, falling by a score of 28-21.

Iowa State now sits at 5-4 on the season, 4-2 in Big 12 play, as its chances of potentially making an appearance in the Big 12 Championship game die following the loss.

Here are the three big takeaways from the Cyclones’ loss to the Jayhawks:

Offense struggles to get points on the board in the first half

The Cyclones struggled to get points on the board in the first half, as they were constantly shut down from any play they tried to throw at the Kansas defense.

In the first half, Iowa State had the ball seven times and they scored points in only one of those drives. Those points came at the end of the half by a 35-yard field goal from kicker Chase Contreraz in the waning seconds.

Other than that, nothing much came of note from the Cyclones offense. Quarterback Rocco Becht did not look his best in the first half, as his half was mainly highlighted from a missed throw to wide receiver Jayden Higgins that ended up being intercepted by Kansas’ Mello Dotson for a 50-yard touchdown that set the entire tone of the half.

“I just felt like we weren’t able to make the plays that were there,” Becht said. “I gotta be better and gotta be locked in with the precision within the details of the plays.”

The Cyclones offense was set up in great field position following a 52-yard kick return from wide receiver Jaylin Noel in the second quarter but still ended up with no points on the board as Iowa State elected to punt the ball from the Kansas 37-yard line.

Even though the offense ended up turning it around in the second half, one of the main reasons why the Cyclones lost Saturday’s game was the lack of points scored in the first half.

Defense fails to limit big plays from Kansas’ offense

Coming into the game, Iowa State’s defense had previously struggled with giving up big plays to opposing offenses.

The Cyclones seemed to not have an answer for Kansas’ offense and their ability to make big plays, as the Jayhawks had eight passing plays that ended up going over 17 yards or more.

One of the better defensive performances on Saturday night came from defensive back Beau Freyler, who had 10 total tackles, three solo tackles, one tackle for a loss and two pass breakups.

Freyler gave his thoughts on how the big plays ended up happening and how the team has to improve if they want to limit them from happening anymore.

“It just came down to discipline,” Freyler said. “In general, I don’t think we played up to standard at all, and we just gotta clean up some things especially with our discipline.”

The biggest play of the day from the Jayhawk offense came midway through the fourth quarter, when Kansas quarterback Jason Bean found wide receiver Lawrence Arnold for an 80-yard touchdown that killed the momentum that Iowa State was building.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell gave his thoughts on how he plans on keeping these big plays from happening in the future and how it ended up being the killer in Saturday’s game.

“It starts with having discipline in our eyes,” Campbell said. “In the end, you can’t be a hair off, and we ended up having those moments today.”

Late comeback push falls short in the end

While it all seemed that Kansas had control over the entire game, Iowa State seemed to get in its groove following the Jayhawks’ opening second-half drive that resulted in a touchdown.

Following that touchdown, the Cyclones scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the three drives they had to open up the second half. 

The Cyclones did however end up taking their time with their touchdown drives, as both drives went over five and a half minutes long, when they knew that time was definitely not on their side. 

Offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase even mixed up the offense with a trick play that ended up having Jaylin Noel throw a pass to wide receiver Jayden Higgins for a 42-yard catch.

Running back Eli Sanders finished his night rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown, as he gave his thoughts on how the team ended up coming out of the half.

“We came out with more tenacity than we did in the first half,” Sanders said. “We really wanted it in that second half and came out with a different demeanor overall.”

While it may have seemed that Iowa State could take control of the game for the first time of the night, it ended up not being the case. What ended up sealing the Cyclones’ fate was more big plays given up by the defense.

The Cyclones will look to brush off this loss to the Jayhawks, as they travel to Provo, Utah, to take on BYU.

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