Iowa State’s bid for win at Toledo sails wide of the mark

Redshirt sophomore kicker Cole Netten completes a 32-yard field goal putting the Cyclones at 3-3 in the first quarter. Iowa State’s homecoming game against Toledo in 2014 ended in a victory for the Cyclones, 37-30.

Max Dible

It wasn’t easy for Iowa State. It was never supposed to be.

But with five seconds remaining against the Toledo Rockets in the Glass Bowl, the Cyclones were poised to capture their first lead of the night, and in the process, clinch a victory.

But instead of glory, Iowa State encountered only heartbreak. Kicker Cole Netten’s errant 32-yard boot sailed wide left, carrying the Cyclones’ chances at their second victory of the season with it.

The Cyclones forged into overtime but four possessions later, quarterback Sam Richardson was sacked on 4th and goal from the 10-yard line, ending his team’s bid against Toledo in a double-overtime loss, 30-23.

ISU coach Paul Rhoads said that despite Netten’s miss, there were a number of plays that could have changed the game, and that blame could literally lie anywhere in the litany of deficiencies that characterized his team’s effort.

“There [were] a lot of plays that affect the outcome of the game,” Rhoads said. “Win or lose, you can probably always say that about any game — that it could have been decided way earlier by this or by that and doesn’t need to come down to that final opportunity.”

That Iowa State even had the opportunity to seize as the clock dwindled down was a deviation from professional expectations, not to mention a testament to the team’s fortitude — specifically after trailing by 10 points in both the first and second halves.

The Cyclones rolled into Toledo, Ohio, as 6.5-point underdogs against the Rockets, their Mid-American Conference opponent, who had upset No. 18 Arkansas on the road the week before.

“I didn’t feel we were underdogs coming into the game, and I would stand by that after the game,” Rhoads said. “Had we [not] done some things that Iowa State football usually doesn’t do, then we’re outside a loud locker room right now.”

Trailing 13-3 in the first half and 20-10 in the second half, a number of moments might have defined the Cyclones’ comeback upset of the favored Rockets, had Iowa State actually polished the comeback off, that is.

A blocked punt in the second quarter by Toledo’s Cody Thompson led to a recovery at Iowa State’s two-yard line.

Then, a defense that had struggled against the run through the first two games of the season finally stood up — against Kareem Hunt of all people, one of the best and hardest-running backs in the nation.

Stuffing Hunt on three consecutive rushes, the Cyclones robbed the Rockets of their fuel, co-opting it instead for themselves and somehow turning a punt-block score against the ISU special teams/defense into momentum for the ISU offense.

“That’s the kind of play that’s a game changer too,” Rhoads said. “It could have been 17-3 at that point, and [Toledo] could have been in position to run us out of the Glass Bowl. Huge, huge momentum change for our football team. … And really, that energy catapulted us down the field to get a touchdown.”

Any number of conversions for Richardson also stick out, whether it was the double pass to fellow quarterback Joel Lanning, the high completion across the middle to D’Vario Montgomery — who was lit up by a Rocket defender but somehow managed to hold on to the ball — or the 21-yard wheel route to Trever Ryen that brought the Cyclones into field goal range on the final drive of the game.

Yet when it was all over, the lasting image from Saturday night remained Netten’s “gimme” drifting wide of the goal post.

On a night when Iowa State out-gained and outgunned Toledo on both sides of the ball, finishing the night with a 481-309 yardage advantage, it was player error that cost the Cyclones the game — and that encompasses a lot more than just Netten’s blunder.

Iowa State committed 14 penalties on the evening and were penalized a total of 113 yards, which largely negated the Cyclones’ overall offensive advantage.

Iowa State also coughed up a fumble inside the red zone late in the first half, and mustered only a 2-for-4 effort inside the Toledo 20-yard line on the evening.

“I believe we made too many mistakes to win,” said defensive back Brian Peavy.

“Uncharacteristically high penalties tonight for our football team,” Rhoads said.

“Just hurting ourselves, some dumb penalties here and there,” Richardson said.

Now entering their bye week, the Cyclones are left with an extra seven days to stew in their disappointment before hosting Kansas to open the Big 12 schedule.

Whether that’s viewed as an extra week of torment and anxiety or as an extra week to recuperate and move on from the loss is a matter of opinion.

“It’s coming regardless,” Rhoads said. “[There] is too much read into about [whether it’s arriving at a] good time or bad time. It’s coming next week. We’ll have a great week, and we’ll take advantage of it.”