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Sunday, October 21, 2007 6:46 AM CDT
ISU delivers gritty effort despite loss
By JIM SULLIVAN, Courier Sports Writer

AMES -- College football's wise men never gave Iowa State a prayer to beat Oklahoma before Saturday's opening kickoff.

Then the Cyclones nearly brought the fourth-ranked Sooners to their knees.

ISU scored first, clung tightly to its lead through the first half and battled OU for 60 minutes. Eventually, though, Oklahoma rose to the occasion and came from behind to edge, ISU, 17-7, before a Homecoming crowd at Jack Trice Stadium.

"I thought we played well today," said Cyclone head coach Gene Chizik after his team fell to 1-7 overall and 0-4 in the Big 12. "I didn't think we played well enough to win. I didn't think we took advantage of the opportunities we had. But I'm proud of the effort."

Jason Scales' 2-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter gave ISU its first lead over Oklahoma since the 1998 meeting in Norman five games ago. The Cyclone defense pitched a shutout. It held the Sooners scoreless in the first half for the only time in 2007.

A 29-point underdog stood just 30 minutes away from a huge upset and Iowa State's first home victory over OU in 20 meetings, dating back to 1960.

"I think they overlooked us," said linebacker Jesse Smith. "They didn't think we were tough physically and mentally, and we showed them."

The passion that had been missing in recent blowout losses to Texas Tech and Texas suddenly resurfaced.

"I don't really know if there was a transformation," said wide receiver Marquis Hamilton, who matched his career high with seven catches Saturday. "We just came out there and played. We didn't worry about anybody else. We had no believers. Nobody thought we could even hang with the Sooners. No one gave us a chance, so we went out and played. We didn't worry about who we were playing."

Reviving in the final half, Oklahoma gave ISU plenty to worry about. The Sooners scored 17 points over the last 30 minutes on two Chris Brown touchdown runs (8 and 4 yards) plus Garret Hartley's clinching, 43-yard field goal with 5 minutes and 20 seconds to play.

OU gained 207 of its 316 total yards in the second half, most of it produced by a power running game. Quarterback Sam Bradford, wild for most of the first half, locked in on his targets in the second.

"If you're going to be a championship team, we have to respond in difficult situations," said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.

And OU did just that.

As for Iowa State, the Cyclones lamented the missed chances that knocked down its shot at an upset.

Yes, the Allen Patrick fumble -- forced by Alvin Bowen and recovered by Rashawn Parker -- set up Scales' score, but Iowa State came up dry after that.

"OU gave us every opportunity to win the game in the world," said Hamilton. "We didn't cash in."

For example:

- A 51-yard Cyclone drive ended at the OU 19 when Bret Culbertson missed a 36-yard field goal with 4:20 left in the first half. Since beating Iowa with five 3-pointers, Culbertson is 3-for-6 in this department.

"I don't have any answers for that," said Chizik of Culbertson's against-the-wind miss. "I just don't."

- Allen Bell's twisting, grinding, 26-yard interception run put Iowa State at the Sooner 18. Three Scales rushes moved the Cyclones to the 9. On fourth down, Scales tried the middle of Oklahoma line. Sooner tackle DeMarcus Granger and linebacker Curtis Lofton threw the ISU back for a 1-yard loss.

"I thought it was just the right time to try and get it and spark it," said Chizik of going for the first down rather than a Culbertson field goal. "I thought we could get it on fourth-and-an-inch instead of taking a loss."

- After Kurtis Taylor recovered Oklahoma's second fumble at the Iowa State 43, a holding call on Hamilton slowed another threat that parked at the OU 38. This time, on fourth-and-2, the Cyclones punted.

- Finally, with the Sooners holding a one-score edge, Iowa State got one final chance midway through the fourth quarter when Michael Cohen shanked a punt 14 yards. The Cyclones moved to the 6, converting a fourth down on the way.

One Bret Meyer pass sailed incomplete. On second down, Meyer aimed for R.J. Sumrall on a slant pattern near the back of the end zone.

Instead, Lofton tipped the pass, The ball, veering like a skier on a slalom course, was deflected again and then once more. Finally, Oklahoma strong safety D.J. Wolfe grabbed it in the end zone.

From there, OU moved downfield and gave Hartley a shot at the clinching tree points.

On four trips to the red zone, Iowa State converted once. Oklahoma was a perfect 3-for-3.

"There are a lot of plays you'd like to have back," said Meyer, who played a solid game Saturday with 19 completions in 32 attempts plus 41 rushing yards. "A couple plays here, a couple plays there. We had our chances. We took the ball downfield. It didn't work out."

And any post-game suggestions of a moral victory didn't work well for the majority of Iowa State's players and coaches.

"We did play well," said free safety James Smith. "But a loss is still a loss."

Contact Jim Sullivan at (319) 291-1434 or jim.sullivan@wcfcourier.com