Nov 11, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback A.J. Green (4) intercepts a pass in the end zone against the Iowa State Cyclones in the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Cyclones 49-42. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — It was fourth and 13 on the Oklahoma State 22-yard line after Zeb Noland was sacked with 53 seconds left. No. 24 Iowa State would have one chance to keep the game alive trailing the No. 12 Cowboys 49-42 at Jack Trice Stadium.
Oklahoma State took a timeout to set up its defense. Iowa State went to the sideline to regroup offensively after marching more than 70 yards in two minutes before stalling inside the 15.
Now backed up following the sack with the game on the line, Iowa State’s redshirt freshman quarterback, who had replaced senior walk-on Kyle Kempt during the second quarter, turned to star tailback David Montgomery.
The do-it-all running back from Cincinnati described the conversation like this.
Noland: “‘David, it’s 33 press. I’m getting you the ball.’”
Montgomery: “No. Just throw it to Allen (Lazard). Unload it.”
Noland: “No. It’s 33 press. Run to the middle of the field.”
Montgomery: “All right.”
The Cowboys were lined up with most of their defenders playing beyond the first down markers when both teams broke huddles. The throw Noland was hoping to make would be there, but the success of the play would come down to Montgomery’s ability to avoid defenders.
“Just run,” Montgomery said when asked what went through his mind as he caught the ball and turned to see a wall of Cowboys.
Montgomery, who finished the game with 111 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 21 carries plus six receptions for 44 yards, weaved his way for 18 yards. He set Iowa State up for a first and goal at the four-yard line with 42 seconds left to play.
That’s when controversy hit.
Noland, who completed 17-of-28 passes for 263 yards in the game, looked to Allen Lazard, who already had two touchdowns and nine catches for 126 yards, on a fade route to his left. The pass fell incomplete after hand-fighting between Lazard and the defensive back. Most of the 61,500 people in attendance at Jack Trice Stadium wanted a defensive holding penalty.
After all, the Cyclones had been hit with three of them in two plays several drives earlier as Oklahoma State tried to score a two-point conversion to even the game at 42. No flag was thrown.
Regardless, it was still only second down with close to 30 seconds left in the game.
“Sometimes you get calls,” Noland said. “Sometimes you don’t.”
What happened next is sure to live in Cyclone infamy for quite some time, right alongside Jeremiah George on the goal line against Texas in 2013, the failed two-point conversion against Nebraska in 2010 or the many near misses against Kansas State.
Noland dropped back to pass and looked to his right in the direction of Marchie Murdock. Murdock and Oklahoma State defensive back A.J. Green went for the ball simultaneously.
They rolled to the ground. The officials got together and discussed.
“I seen two guys fighting for the ball,” Montgomery said. “I think we scored, but the refs have the last say.”
The white hat turned on his microphone and announced the play had been ruled an interception in the end zone. Touchback. The play was put under review, but no matter how many times the replay was shown on the video board it was tough to see them changing the ruling on the field.
After several minutes, it was announced that the play stood.
Game over. Big 12 championship game hopes dead.
No. 12 Oklahoma State 49, No. 24 Iowa State 42.
“They felt like he had possession of it when they came down on the ground,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s one of those bang-bang calls. I could sit here and complain about it, but that’s not who we are, and that’s not what we do. There’s a million different plays that we could have made in the game to not be put in that situation.”
“That was a tough situation.”