OSU vs. Iowa State football: Five takeaways from Cowboys' first loss of season against Cyclones

Scott Wright

AMES, Iowa — In a game of inches, Oklahoma State came up short.

On fourth-and-2 from the Iowa State 42-yard line, OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders threw a pass to Brennan Presley, but he was tackled inches short of the line to gain and it ended the ninth-ranked Cowboys’ undefeated season with a 24-21 Cyclone victory on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. 

On the play — a quick pass in the flat to the sophomore slot receiver — Presley sped upfield but was swarmed by a pack of Iowa State defenders. Before he went down, he was grabbed by OSU offensive lineman Danny Godlevske, who pulled him forward toward the first-down line.

“I thought I had it,” Presley said. “I got stuffed, but I thought they would give forward progress for the push. 

“Gotta make a play. It comes down to a fourth-and-2 at their place. If they have the trust to put the ball in my hands at that point, then you gotta come through and make a play.”

The play was reviewed by officials, but the call was upheld, giving Iowa State the ball and the ability to run out the clock. 

The loss drops the Cowboys to 6-1 on the season.

Sanders finished 15-of-24 for 225 yards and three touchdowns. OSU running back Jaylen Warren rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries.

“It was a really hard-fought game,” OSU coach MIke Gundy said. “In the end, (Iowa State) made another play, one more than we did. We came up just short on the fourth down. They made the last play, or the last coach’s call.”

Here are four more takeaways from the game: 

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Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) scores on a 4-yard touchdown run during the second half of a 24-21 win against Oklahoma State on Oct. 23, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Defense contains Hall, not Purdy

The Oklahoma State defense kept tabs on Iowa State’s star running back, Breece Hall. He finished the game with 70 yards on 21 carries, but came through with the go-ahead touchdown with 5:39 left in the game. 

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy responded to the lack of run game with an impressive showing through the air. Purdy finished 27-of-33 for 307 yards and two touchdowns.

“We didn’t do a good job today, for whatever reason, of disrupting the quarterback,” Gundy said. “He got in a rhythm against us and started playing well.

“When he gets in a groove, like he got in a groove today, we couldn’t disrupt him much. In the second half, we didn’t get to him and disrupt his rhythm. In my opinion, that was the difference in the game.”

In all, the Iowa State offense had 374 yards on 66 plays, an average of 5.7 yards per play. 

“The quarterback got loose a little bit, and he’s a playmaker when he gets loose,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “We lost some one-on-one matchups, which really hadn’t happened this year. We fought hard. It was a tough battle. Hats off to them, they made one more play than we did.

“We’ll take a few hours and bleed a little bit, but we’ll be up. Quickly,” Knowles said.

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Fourth-and-short decisions costly

Oklahoma State twice opted for field goal tries on fourth-and-short situations, but missed both field goals.

In the second quarter, OSU faced fourth-and-2 from the Iowa State 33 with a 7-0 lead and decided to try a 50-yard field goal — the longest attempt by kicker Tanner Brown since becoming the kicker two games ago. Brown missed wide right.

In the third quarter with the game tied at 14, OSU had less than a yard to go on fourth down at the Iowa State 15-yard line and chose again to kick, but Brown missed from 32 yards. Iowa State responded with a drive to take a 17-14 lead. 

The two missed field goals were the mathematical difference in the game.

On the second missed field goal attempt, Gundy said he felt comfortable with the call because it would have given the Cowboys the lead in the second half of a tight road game.

“It gave us a chance — it’s hard to not take the lead when you’re on the road,” Gundy said. “It’s a fairly easy field goal and you’re on the road, and you got a chance to take the lead. If I had to do it again, I’d take the lead. I’d kick a field goal. If I knew he was not gonna make it, I wouldn’t, but if I was in the same situation, I’d do it again.”

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Early attention on Presley

Sanders completed five of nine first-half passes, and four of them went to Presley.

The 5-foot-8 sophomore had four grabs for 76 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Tay Martin had the other first-half reception for OSU, a 25-yard grab. Presley finished the game with six catches for 84 yards.

The second of Presley’s touchdowns came at a crucial moment late in the first half. 

On second-and-4 from the Iowa State 42, Sanders threw deep to Presley, who was double-covered, but outjumped both defenders for the TD grab. It gave OSU a 14-7 lead with 59 seconds left in the half. 

The Cowboy defense forced a three-and-out for Iowa State to preserve the lead going into halftime. 

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Scoreless third quarters

The Cowboys reached the red zone in the third quarter on Saturday, but a missed 32-yard field goal by Brown turned out to be their only legit scoring chance in the period. 

That makes six games in which the Cowboys have been held scoreless in the third quarter in seven games this season. 

For the year, the Cowboys have scored just three third-quarter points, a Brown field goal last week against Texas.