enCYCLONEpedia: The “little” big plays – Iowa

Wow. I don’t think anyone ruled out the possibility of the Cyclones leaving Iowa City with a win, but even after the improved performance over Kansas State and the Hawkeye struggles against Ball State and Northern Iowa, it didn’t seem like the most likely scenario. The paranoid ISU fan (read: all ISU fans) figured that Iowa would put things together any day now and that would likely happen against Iowa State.

Anytime you have a game winning field goal kicked with two seconds remaining there were likely innumerable big plays to be remembered. A fumble on the goal line, key fourth downs converted, controversial penalties, and more. But, hidden in each game and forgotten with the help of all of those Busch Light’s are the “little” plays that lead in to those big plays to make them possible in the first play. The “little” plays teed up the big plays and are detailed out below:

  • With 9:34 remaining in the second quarter the Cyclones just forced a punt and were starting a drive from their six yard line. They were facing a 2nd & 5 when P.J. Harris could not corral a pass. The ensuing third down pass play was blown up and the Cyclones had to punt as Iowa had successfully flipped the field.
  • On the following drive that Iowa started at their 39 yard line the Hawkeyes had just converted a 4th & 8 and reached the ISU six yard line. On the very next pass play, Jake Rudock threw the ball directly to Sam E. Richardson, which he promptly dropped. Iowa would go on to score and take a 14-3 lead over Iowa State.
  • It was the opening drive of the second half and ISU was moving. It was a crucial drive after the late fumble in the second quarter at the goal line from DeVondrick Nealy. ISU had just earned a first down and were at the Iowa 48 yard line. They ran right with Nealy who looked to gain three to four yards, but he fumbled again. While the Hawkeyes did not recover the ball shot back and resulted in a two yard loss. Pile on with a holding penalty on 3rd & 12 and the drive was killed.
  • On Iowa’s next drive, they were facing 3rd & 5 from their own 22 yard line when they were flagged for a false start penalty. Notable, because that forced them to 3rd & 10 where Rudock threw downfield (way off target) and was picked off by T.J. Mutcherson. Had the penalty not occurred the offensive play call likely would have been very different. Iowa State went on to get in the endzone and shorten the Iowa lead to 14-10.

  • On the following drive, Iowa looked to answer and was slowly grinding down the field before getting to their 46 yard line and facing a 1st & 10. On that down, Brandon Jensen notched a sack and a loss of two yards. That first down play put Iowa behind schedule on the series in which they ultimately punted with 2:49 left on the clock in the third quarter.
  • Early in the fourth quarter, the Cyclones were driving on a possession that started at their eight yard line. Jarvis West had just gotten crushed on the targeting call two plays earlier and ISU was facing a 2nd & 10 from the Iowa 46 yard line. Sam B. Richardson found Brett Medders over the middle for a forgettable six yards. But, those yards made third down so much more manageable. On that 3rd & 4, Richardson scrambled right for 12 yards and a first down. On the very next play, Nealy ran his wheel route to open space in the endzone and caught the go ahead touchdown pass.
  • Iowa was driving on their next possession and looking for an answer. They were facing a 2nd & 10 from the ISU 45 yard line on their sixth play of the possession. Rudock completed a pass to Tevaun Smith for nine yards and a very easy 3rd & 1 conversion for Mark Weisman. The Hawkeyes wouldn’t convert another first down but they had earned enough field position to get into field goal range and convert for the tie.
  • The game was tied at 17 and the Cyclones were embarking on their game winning drive. This isn’t one play but on three consecutive first downs for the Cyclones Aaron Wimberly rushed for seven yards, five yards, and four yards. Each time that setup the offense for success on second down and keeping the drive ahead of schedule.
  • Later in the drive, ISU had reached 3rd & 6 at the Iowa 43 yard line. A tough distance to convert for a first down and a very long field goal to send through the uprights. Richardson’s pass was incomplete to E.J. Bibbs but Iowa was flagged for a defensive holding (pass interference) call that earned a first down and crucial ten yards. The Cyclones would eventually get to 3rd& 9 at the 32 yard line before Iowa was called for another crucial penalty, this time an offside call that moved the ball to the 27 yard line. Wimberly would then gain three more yards before Cole Netten did his thing. (Why Ferentz didn’t use a timeout immediately to give his offense more time is a complete mystery to me, too.)

Bingo bango bongo, there’s a rivalry win and a game that could prove pivotal in turning the season for this young Cyclones squad. One play I did not mention was the second of the series on ISU’s game winning drive. Sam Richardson was oh so very close to not just throwing a pick but likely a pick six to Iowa’s Bo Bower. Instead, it went through his hands and Allen Lazard made the catch for a nine yard gain.

That play embodies why some call me “stoic” in my evaluations of wins and losses. Instead of a likely devastating loss in the biggest of nut punch ways, ISU went on to win and deliver the gut punch win. My point is that had Iowa intercepted that and gone on to win, we’d all be feeling soooo much worse right now and rightfully so. One single play after three and a half hours of football could’ve settled it all.

But it didn’t. Had the pick been made think how far the pendulum would’ve swung for ramping up the heat on Paul Rhoads’s seat. Yet, does that one play make Rhoads a better or worse coach? I say no, and that is how I keep my perspective. It’s all about the wins and losses over time but man, there sure is a lot of luck and timing that get mixed into the recipe of success, too.

Regardless, that was a big win for the 2014 Cyclones to get in the win column before having to deal with Baylor and Oklahoma State. 1-4 isn’t good, but it sure is better than 0-5. If the team can keep progressing, there are some winnable games on the back half of the schedule. Pull off one huge upset and…?


Kirk Haaland


Kirk has been a contributor at Cyclone Fanatic since the fall of 2009 and is a lifelong Cyclone fan. He eventually started his own website,, where he cultivated an interest in statistical analysis and historical Iowa State football and basketball data. In 2014, Kirk came to Fanatic and housed his works here. In 2015 he launched a new website,, as the co-founder. There you can find in depth analysis of all things involving advanced statistical analysis in college football for every FBS program. Kirk graduated from Iowa State University in 2006 with a degree in Industrial Technology and has worked as a Manufacturing/Quality Engineer ever since. He's married to his wife, Kelley, and has three daughters, Hannah, Hayley, and Kinley (plus his Golden Retriever, Clyde).

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