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Football

WILLIAMS: ISU fires early, falls flat in loss to TCU

AMES — For about 25 minutes, visions of the Cyclones stunning TCU seemed realistic. And then that blasted second half had to be played.

Iowa State scored 21 points in the game’s first 11 minutes and actually led the third-ranked Horned Frogs by a touchdown at the end of the first quarter. The Cyclones then went the final 46 minutes and 49 seconds and did not score the rest of the way. 

Final: TCU 45, Iowa State, 21.

Compared to last week’s beat down in Lubbock, it was an improved performance so from that standpoint, give credit where it is due. The Cyclones came out of the locker room and played with fire. The defense flew to the football. Iowa State’s coaching staff clearly had these guys ready to play. For a quarter, the offense clicked in a way that we hadn’t seen all season long. 

Inside of the game though, Iowa State’s coaching staff let this team down. 

There was one play call – or a lack thereof – that will and should be discussed ad nauseam after a loss that dropped the Cyclones to 2-4 (1-2) on the season.

The scenario: Iowa State trailed 31-21 with just over three minutes to go in the third quarter. It was 4th and 3 with Iowa State’s ball on the TCU 45.

Back against the wall, upset on the mind, this is a no-brainer to go for it, right?

Iowa State surrendered (punted) and for the life of me, I cannot understand why.

Why dare a Heisman Trophy front-runner and the second-ranked offense in America?

Why eliminate any ounce of energy left in the smallest crowd (52,480) that Jack Trice Stadium has seen this season?

That wasn’t even “playing not to lose.” That’s playing not to win. 

That one specific play call didn’t lose Iowa State the football game. Across the board, TCU was better than Iowa State. We all knew it entering the game and it was proven on Saturday night. 

But there wasn’t just one decision that the Cyclone Nation has a right to be questioning.

Here’s another: With 6:01 to go in the first quarter, sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning threw a beautiful 74-yard touchdown pass to Allen Lazard (who caught five passes for 147 yards). 

Joel Lanning did not play again in the game.

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In his postgame press conference, Paul Rhoads said that examining why Lanning did not play again would be "a part of our Sunday analysis."

Is Mark Mangino to blame? I’ll be anxious to hear what comes from this during Monday’s weekly press conference. 

This isn’t a specific commentary on Sam Richardson (22-36, 251 yards) either. The swapping (and sometimes sharing) of quarterbacks worked early. Iowa State’s coaches choose to play Lanning. He converted on a 74-yard bomb and is done for the night?

It’s mind-boggling.

That first half was fantastic. The Cyclones faked a punt, fired an onside kick and went for it on fourth down. It was old school night in Ames. Even in a loss, it was fun to watch and an effort I’m confident this fan base would have appreciated. 

As the second quarter went on and then at halftime, TCU made adjustments. Iowa State did not.

The Cyclones gained 308 yards in the first half (262 of those came in the first quarter) compared to only 153 in the second. 

What should have been an encouraging performance flat lined and as a result, the natives have never been more restless. 

Up next for the Cyclones is a road trip to Baylor (11 a.m. on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2), who most recently housed West Virginia 62-38.