FERG: Close, but not perfect – Comebacks are harder to come by in 2023’s C.F.B.

Iowa State Cyclones’ punt returner Jaylin Noel (13) runs with the ball after breaking a tackle during a punt return in the second quarter at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

AMES – Iowa State was in the process of clawing back from a 21-3 deficit on Saturday night.

It needed more things to go right. It also needed fewer mistakes to occur. And the Cyclones could have likely scored another touchdown had Jaylin Noel’s kick return been called correctly in the eventual 28-21 loss to No. 21 Kansas.

Noel didn’t step out. That’s the end of that story.

“I kind of knew how much room I had when I made the kicker miss,” Noel said. “I felt like I was (in bounds) the whole time.”

The play was called dead while he was inside the 20, on his way to the end zone because an official thought he saw something.

It’s a shame that in 2023, we have so much access to technology and yet, still allow arbitrary rules to determine when it’s allowed to be utilized.

But, it is 2023.

That’s the year where college football implemented new timing rules that regularly shorten games, and have trimmed the total number of possessions in several of Iowa State’s games already this season.

It didn’t trim that on Saturday – Iowa State and Kansas combined for 19.

What it does, or did, to Iowa State tonight, is make it that much harder to complete a comeback. The clock continues to run on a completion or running play, no matter if a player makes the line to gain.

Iowa State’s second touchdown drive in the game, which trimmed the Kansas lead to three, lasted eight minutes and nine seconds. That’s over half a quarter taken off the clock in 12 plays. Take off the eight seconds left in the third when the drive started and it’s 11 plays in 8:01.

Kansas scored a touchdown on its first offensive play of the ensuing drive – that was a mistake on Iowa State’s part.

Down 21-3 in 2022, it was pretty hard to come back. In 2023, you’ve got to be damn near perfect.

The Iowa State fans older than the age of 20 will get a kick out of what arguably was a near-perfect second half, aside from some clock management that could have been better.

Rocco Becht was 11/12 for 212 yards in final two quarters. Noel pulled out the trick play deep ball to Jayden Higgins. Chase Contreraz made his kicks.

Iowa State had three chances on the defensive side to force a stop that would have given it another drive.

But Kansas made winning plays.

The Cyclones will come back to practice next week with three games left in its season. They still have a remote shot to make a trip to the Big 12 championship, and it’s next game will be a faceoff with a team in BYU that got ran off the field in Morgantown tonight.

The thing is, Iowa State may have to be perfect, at least if it’s playing from a deficit.

That’s college football in 2023.