Iowa State out-done by Ohio in headscratching road loss

Sep 16, 2023; Athens, Ohio, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Rocco Becht (3) fumbles the ball and retains possesion against the Ohio Bobcats at Peden Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Lunsford-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio outplayed Iowa State on Saturday. Plain and simple. From start to finish.

The Cyclones (1-2) ran the ball 23 times for a total of 38 yards in the 10-7 loss, averaging a mere 1.7 yards per attempt.

“It’s a team loss and tip your hat to (Ohio),” head coach Matt Campbell said on the Varsity Network postgame radio broadcast. “They were the more physical football team and deserved to win the football game.”

That’s true and deeply troubling.

Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht tallied 31 of those rushing yards, through improvised scrambles to evade Ohio defenders, but otherwise, the Bobcats treated the Cyclone backfield like their backyard. Cartevious Norton’s 15 yards on nine attempts were the most of any player from the running back room.

The offensive struggles stifled Iowa State for the first 55 minutes of the game. In desperation time, Becht attempted his longer passes of the game, converting on a two-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a Jayden Higgins touchdown grab. The defense got a late stop to give Becht a chance to lead the Cyclones on a potential game-tying or game-winning drive, but his first pass was intercepted and Ohio celebrated its first win against Iowa State in nine meetings.

“Today, we thought we could go out there and do what we wanted,” Becht said on the Varsity Network. “I think it’s just a lack of preparation, you know the urgency I was talking about – and we’ve just got to have that throughout the whole week.”

Iowa State was behind the 8-ball from the jump, with a number of players affected by food poisoning including wide receiver Jaylin Noel, who did not play.

Becht — who was also reportedly affected by it — threw up during the halftime break. Despite that, he threw for 233 yards and a touchdown in what may be his best game in cardinal and gold to date.

“I think that’s probably the most frustrating part for me is, I watched the team respond (to last week’s loss to Iowa) and really practice well,” Campbell said. “It’s translating in their intent in practice to the football field and sometimes that’s part of youth and that’s part of growing up.”

Special teams errors returned to plague the team once again, with a pair of missed field goals proving to be big in a bad way in the three-point loss. They didn’t miss by much, either.

However, the Cyclones’ offensive gameplan was stagnant throughout the game. It played into Ohio’s strengths. The kicks could have made a difference, but so could a lot of things on both sides of the ball.

It obviously won’t be an easy loss for Cyclone fans to take, and the schedule won’t get easier either.

Iowa State will return to the field to face Oklahoma State at 3 p.m. Saturday in its Big 12 opener at Jack Trice Stadium.

“The thing that’s going to be really exciting is now we’re going to find out who we are and where this thing’s going,” Campbell said. “I know we’ve got great kids and we’ve got a great coaching staff. I look forward to the opportunity ahead.”