AMES — Sam Richardson was in no mood for a self-appraisal following Saturday’s oh-so-close 32-28 Big 12 season-opening loss to 20th-ranked Kansas State.
So, Sam, how did you play?
The Iowa State quarterback paused briefly, then spoke.
“We didn’t win,” Richardson said. “So I don’t really care, honestly.”
For the record, he played well — at one point completing 14 consecutive passes.
The team played well, too — outscoring the Wildcats 28-0 in an 11-minute first-half span.
“Tremendous progress,” Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said.
But in the end, not well enough, for a variety of reasons.
1. Replays and non-replays alike broke badly against ISU.
The most glaring one came late in the first half, as K-State receiver Tyler Lockett tip-toed the sideline for a catch at the one-yard line.
“50-50,” ISU safety Kamari Cotton-Moya said of his view of the play from the sideline. Those seem suitable odds to provoke a review, but a buzz from replay official Mike Angelis never came — or didn’t come quickly enough.
Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters rushed for a touchdown one play later, ending a string of 28 unanswered points from the Cyclones and making the score 28-20 at halftime.
Why no review?
“I haven’t got an explanation yet,” Rhoads said after the game. "I saw a reviewable play."
A pool reporter obtained an official one from referee Greg Burks, that read: “Every play goes under review, number one. Two, it’s just a question of timing as to when we are paged. No one on the field received a page prior to the snap, by rule once we have a snap it’s too late for us to stop and review the play.”
Angelis was not available for comment after the game — and two reviews that actually happened went badly for the Cyclones.
The first confirmed an interception early in the fourth quarter made by K-State’s Randall Evans, who jostled a pass away from ISU receiver Jarvis West. The Cyclones still led 28-20 at the time and would have had a first down at the Wildcats’ 48-yard line.
The second upheld another sideline catch by Lockett on K-State’s winning drive.
“We did certain things necessary to put us in position to win the football game,” Rhoads said. “We did other things not good enough in the end to win the football game. You learned lessons today. You learn greater lessons tomorrow as you see them first hand and really get taught off of them.”
2. Kansas State converted five of eight second-half third downs after being held to one-for-six on such conversions in the first half.
The Wildcats closed the game with 19 unanswered points one week after NDSU scored 34 straight after trailing ISU 14-0.
“We had a lot of toughness to win a ball game and we didn’t quit,” said K-State running back Charles Jones, who like Waters rushed for two touchdowns. “We finished like we wanted to.”
3. ISU (0-2 0-1) went scoreless in the second half for the second straight game and fell to the Wildcats (2-0, 1-0) for the seventh time in a row.
The two-minute drill got the Cyclones to the Kansas State 39-yard line with 40 seconds left, but Richardson was sacked for an 11-yard loss two plays later and Waters kneeled down to run out the clock.
On the previous offensive possession, the Cyclones faced third and one at K-State’s 41, but a botched play resulted in a three-yard loss for Aaron Wimberly, and a subsequent punt. The Wildcats’ winning 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive came next.
“At the end of the day if we’re going to lose it’s our own fault,” said Richardson, who finished 21 of 30 for 185 yards, a touchdown and the reviewed interception. “Going into halftime with 28 points and coming out of the game with 28 points, it’s obviously frustrating.”
Positive elements partly countered that frustration, though:
1. West reemerged as a big-play threat with his legs and his arm. The speedy senior threw his first career touchdown pass to freshman Allen Lazard — a 29-yard trick play that also put Lazard in the end zone for the first time in his two-game career.
We practiced it all week,” said West, who also scored on an 82-yard punt return that gave the Cyclones a 14-13 lead and caught a touchdown pass of his own. “I was ready when he called it. I saw Lazard and just threw it to him.”
“Jarvis had a phenomenal day today,” said Lazard, who had three catches for 42 yards. “I don’t think he could have played any better, but that pass: I couldn’t ask for a better pass right there.”
2. The defense forced K-State to punt five times after surrendering points on the first three drives and also rose up for a fourth-down stop.
And with ISU clinging to a 28-26 lead with four and a half minutes left, the defense stuffed three straight pass attempts, giving the offense what turned out to be a missed chance to effectively put the game out of reach.
“Our energy on the field,” Cyclone linebacker Jevohn Miller — who slid to the MIKE position and made 11 tackles — said to help explain the improvement. “We were having a lot more fun as a defense playing and that’s one thing we talked about in our players’ meeting last night. We just played with a lot more energy today and together as a unit.”
Wait — a players’ meeting?
Miller said he called it and the frank closed-door session clearly made an impact on the field.
“We prepared hard and we prepared fast,” said Cotton-Moya, who added seven tackles and a key hit on Waters that foiled a two-point conversion attempt. “We wanted to play fast and that’s what we did. We didn’t want to take any breaks at all. We wanted to show who we really are.”
And who they can be.
Another sellout crowd of 54,800 left Jack Trice Stadium with at least some semblance of hope after this loss.
But hope doesn’t equal wins, obviously.
Not yet anyway.
“It’s a step forward,” said Cyclone defensive end Cory Morrissey, who sacked his former Iowa Western teammate Waters once. “The team’s here and we’re not backing away from anything.”