Second-half rally falls short for Hawkeyes

Sept. 15, 2007

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AMES — Iowa’s courageous second-half rally was erased by five Bret Culbertson field goals as host Iowa State earned the Cy-Hawk Trophy with a nail-biting 15-13 victory this afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium. The fifth and final boot came from 28 yards with one second remaining in the game.

“Culbertson is very representative of their football team,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He was 0-for-3 (in field goals this season) and he makes five today. He did a good job. Iowa State came ready to play and we struggled. They deserved the win.”

Iowa is now 2-1 in all games, Iowa State is 1-2.

The Hawkeyes came up on the short end of the score for the first time in three tries this season despite the fact the Iowa defense has yet to allow a touchdown. Iowa was in a fist fight in a hostile setting for the first time this season. The Hawkeyes rallied from a 12-0 deficit and took a one-point lead on a 41-yard field goal by Austin Signor with 3-minutes, 38-seconds left.

“We’re certainly disappointed, but our guys battled back and did some nice things,” Ferentz said. “We competed right down to the end and that’s all you can ask.”

Although it was a bitter pill for Iowa to swallow, it is obvious that the intrastate rivalry is alive and well. The Cyclones have now won two straight games in Ames and dropped the Iowa record to 3-6 in the series under Ferentz.

The Cyclones opened strong and controlled the first period by featuring a defense that put forth an effort that was almost Hawkeye-like in appearance and limited Iowa to 32 yards and three first downs on the first three possessions by the Hawkeyes. Meanwhile, Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer used his arm and legs to move the Cyclones into position to gather a 6-0 lead on two field goals by Culbertson. The first — a 21-yarder — gave the Cyclones a 3-0 edge with 10:02 left in the first period after a 10-play, 53-yard drive. Iowa State scored on its second possession as well, capping a 7-play, 49-yard drive with a 33-yard field goal by Culbertson at the 3:44 mark.

It was much of the same in the second period. Culbertson’s leg provided another lift for the Cyclones and gave them a two-possession lead early in the frame when he drilled a 42-yard field goal — his third of the game and into the wind — with 11:48 left in the half. While Iowa State was accomplishing many of its pre-game goals, the Hawkeye defense was showing a little bend, but no break. Iowa did not allow any of the first four Iowa State scoring drives to find the end zone and instead, limited Culbertson to field goals, including a 40-yarder that gave Iowa State a 12-0 cushion with 4:35 left in the first half. That series spanned 12 plays.

Whether it was the rivalry game or the first real road test of the season, Iowa simply did not look comfortable during the first 30 minutes. But there was never panic or lack of effort even as the Cyclones dominated in first downs (12 to 6) and total yards (177 to 59).

“They gave us a couple wrinkles we hadn’t seen on tape, but that was expected,” Ferentz said. “They had us rattled a little bit and we didn’t get into a tempo. We left our defense out there too much.”

The Cyclones survived a scare on the first play of the third period when Meyer’s pass went in and out of the hands of Iowa senior defensive back Adam Shada. Iowa State didn’t avoid the turnover bug two plays later when senior defensive end Bryan Mattison forced a fumble during a Meyer scramble. The ball was recovered by UI junior defensive back Harold Dalton.

The recovered fumble was a spark and the Iowa offense took full advantage. Christensen scored on a fourth-and-1 bootleg from the Iowa State 11 with 9:50 left in the third period on a gutsy call by offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe. Although well within field goal range, Ferentz decided not to try to match field goals with the Cyclones and the gamble paid off. It was the 24th point scored by Iowa State opponents off turnovers this season.

Iowa’s defense remained strong and forced a three-and-out that eventually resulted in a 36-yard field goal by Hawkeye kicker Austin Signor with 5:35 left in the third period. Iowa started the drive on its own 43 and benefitted from a 15-yard run by senior running back Damian Sims, which was followed on the next play by a 16-yard pass and catch from Christensen to freshman receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

With the deficit reduced to 12-10, the Iowa defense went back to work and forced the Cyclones into four consecutive third-and-5 situations. Iowa State converted on the first three, but stalled at the Iowa 30 as the third period came to a close. Culbertson had a costly miss on a 47-yard field goal attempt to open the fourth period. The ball caromed off the left crossbar and bounced harmlessly to the turf.

Iowa’s Mitch King brought the Iowa State punting unit back to the field on the next series when he batted a third-and-4 pass by Meyer to the ground, for yet another three-and-out for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa began its next drive from its own 36 and marched quickly into Iowa State territory. Sims caught an 11-yard screen pass from Christensen. Later in the drive great block by Sims allowed Christensen to connect with freshman receiver Colin Sandeman for 10 yards. On the next play Christensen was flushed from the pocket and scrambled for a 12-yard pick-up to the Iowa State. But the play of the drive was a leaping grab by Sandeman, who knew he would be hit hard. But the play put the ball on the Cyclone 10 and for the first time, it appeared that the Hawkeyes would soon take the lead. The yards started to get tough for Iowa and on third-and-goal Christensen was sacked and recovered his own fumble. With 7:01 remaining in the game, Signor’s 33-yard field goal was blocked.

If there was any panic on the Iowa sideline, it was not evident. The Hawkeye defense again rose to the occasion and Iowa State threw three consecutive incomplete passes. As the next drive began, it became likely that it would be Iowa’s final possession of the game. On third-and-3, freshman receiver James Cleveland had his hands on a pass from Christensen that would have given Iowa a first down, but he could not haul in the ball. Signor gave the Hawkeyes their first lead of the game at 13-12 with a 41-yard field goal into the wind with 3:38 left.

The lead was short-lived and the Cyclone prayers were answered on a 38-yard Hail Mary pass completion from Meyer to Phillip Bates on the final series that set up the winning field goal with 1:38 left in the game.

“It’s going to hurt today and tomorrow, but it’s a long season,” said Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal. “We’re going to keep working hard.”

Humpal and fellow linebacker Mike Klinkenborg both had 11 tackles for Iowa. Christensen completed 12 of 23 passes for 118 yards, but he was sacked four times. The blitzing Cyclone defense disrupted the Iowa passing game all afternoon. Tony Moeaki was the reception leader for the Hawkeyes with three grabs for 26 yards. Albert Young rushed for a team-high 63 yards on 14 carries and Sims added 50 yards on 12 rushes.

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