After a frustrating first half of the Alamo Bowl that saw two of his top defenders get ejected and the Cyclones down 21-10, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell told ESPN, “They’ve [the officials] got a hard job, so the reality of it is we have got to keep our composure and it starts with our head football coach. But we’ve got to control what we can control in the second half and take care of the little things… just stay the course, this team has dealt with a lot of adversity and we will.”
Well, his team responded, did stay the course, but did not take care of enough of the little things and still came up short in a 28-26 loss to the Washington State Cougars.
The opening two quarters were full of confusion and emotion. Iowa State true freshman quarterback Brock Purdy got an ugly introduction to his first bowl action, with an interception to start each of his first two drives. The second was picked by Marcus Strong, and it was returned for a touchdown, but it was wiped off the board due to taunting. There were the two ejections of Iowa State defenders Willie Harvey Jr. and Enyi Uwazurike. There was the Matt Campbell sideline explosion. And that was just 30 minutes.
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Washington State got out to a 14-0 with two touchdowns, the first on a Gardner Minshew pass, the second on a seven-yard run by the QB. Iowa State finally got on the board late in the second half on a four-play, 69-yard drive, which included a 25-yard and 36-yard hook up with Hakeem Butler. But there were more points to be had as Minshew added his second touchdown pass of the game and then Iowa State ended the half with a field goal to trail 21-10.
The third quarter was dominated by the Cyclones, outscoring Washington State 10-0. Iowa State opened the half with a beautiful seven-play, 73-yard drive ending in an eight-yard touchdown run by David Montgomery. The next drive ended with a 23-yard field goal by Connor Assalley and the Cyclones were down 21-20. Assalley did miss a 49-yard attempt later in the third. He had the distance but hit the right upright. So the Cyclones entered the fourth quarter down one.
This game can also be defined by costly Iowa State mistakes, which is very atypical for Matt Campbell’s team. David Montgomery fumbled the ball on the team’s first drive of the fourth quarter and Washington State responded with its only points of the second half, a 10-yard touchdown run by Max Boroghi. The next ISU drive included a controversial catch/non-catch situation where Matthew Eaton looked like he successfully caught Purdy’s pass on a third down, but it was ruled incomplete after the officials reviewed the play and determined he never had control of the ball.
But with 6:15 remaining, the Cyclones got the ball back again and this time took it 5 plays and 74 yards for a touchdown to pull to within two points. The Cyclones had to attempt the two-point conversion from the eight-yard line after another false start penalty set them back five yards. Purdy did not see a wide open Hakeem Butler in the end zone, instead trying a pass to Montgomery in the flat, which failed.
Washington State was able to run out the clock and pick up the first bowl win for the Pac-12 in over a year, while Iowa State’s loss sent the Big 12 to a 0-2 day and 2-2 record in this bowl season.
There’s no question the officiating was suspect for the Cyclones, but there were plenty of self-inflicted wounds. The Cyclones had 10 penalties for 63 yards and lost the turnover battle 3-1.
Regardless, Matt Campbell’s program remains in fantastic shape heading into 2019, but this is one that is going to give the head coach and his players some sleepless nights in the coming weeks.
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