Momentum-shifting play leads to offensive halt, defeat for Cyclones

Running back Mike Warren celebrates a touchdown during a game against TCU on Saturday. The Cyclones would go on to lose 45-21.

Luke Manderfeld

The Cyclones’ offense couldn’t be stopped.

Rattling off 21 points in the first quarter, Iowa State and the No. 3 Texas Christian Horned Frogs were knotted at 21 early in the second quarter. 

But while in the red zone just more than six minutes into the second, the Cyclones ran a simple option play that went wrong: an errant pitch and catch that turned into a TCU fumble recovery.

“Huge momentum swing,” said quarterback Sam Richardson. “I think if we punch that in — I think if we get that handoff, it was going to be a big play. But it definitely killed momentum a little bit.”

The cost would be greater than the team imagined.

The Horned Frogs scored 24 straight points in the next three quarters and kept trending in the right direction, and the Cyclones fell downward — all the way down to a 45-21 defeat.

But that crucial drive didn’t look doomed. It spanned more than six minutes and brought Iowa State into the red zone. At the Horned Frogs’ 10-yard line, quarterback Sam Richardson ran to the left side with running back Mike Warren right with him.

Feeling the defensive pressure, Richardson pitched a short ball to Warren, who couldn’t handle it. TCU recovered the fumble, and with it, the momentum.

The toss appeared to be behind Warren, not allowing him to properly get in position to catch the ball. Warren didn’t see it that way, though, putting the blame on himself.

“[Richardson] pitched it and I just dropped it. It’s all on me,” Warren said. “It was a big momentum shift.”

Warren and Richardson were right, it certainly did shift the momentum of the game. After the turnover, TCU took control, and the ISU offense almost completely halted.

After the Iowa State’s last score that give the team a 21-14 lead with 1:49 left in the first quarter, the Cyclones failed to add on for the rest of the game. 

They put up 112 yards of total offense in the second and third quarters and 199 in the last three quarters combined. It was a far cry from the offense that put up 262 yards in the first 15 minutes alone.

The team was disappointed with how the offense performed on crucial third downs to try and swing momentum back in the Cyclones’ favor.

“There was a lot of things that you could say [the TCU defense did],” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads. “Third downs is something that is very discouraging for us right now. That was a big contributing factor to our struggles in the last 45 minutes.”

Despite the unfavorable outcome, the Cyclones do have some bright spots to look upon for the rest of the season. Just a glance at Iowa State’s first quarter statistics reveals the story that the Cyclones can keep pace with any team around the Big 12, at least in stretches.

The Cyclones were streaking, taking the lead twice, including the first lead of the game. The first play of the game, a 31-yard pass from Richardson to Dondre Daley, set the precedent for the rest of the quarter.

Receiver Allen Lazard looked like he was on his way to a record-setting game. His 147-yard performance was on track at one point to shatter the ISU single-game receiving record of 217.

The key to the offense, which it has been all season, was to be consistent throughout all four quarters, something that the team knows needs to happen to become successful.

“We’ve just got to keep clicking on the same page,” said receiver Quenton Bundrage. “Once we get everything rolling again, we’ll see what happens with the rest of our season.”

But it is hard to recognize the bright spots when the Cyclones left Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday night with the feeling of frustration boiling inside their stomachs.

“It’s very frustrating,” Bundrage said. “I personally feel like we could have won the game. We sort of, like, let it slip out of our hands. But they’re the No. 3-ranked team in the nation, so they’re a great team.

“We just lost, it’s as simple as that.”