Saturday’s 24-23 loss to Kansas State ranks right up there in the annals of most heartbreaking Iowa State football losses ever (or at least the ones in recent memory). Just when things are looking up, the rug gets pulled out from underneath the Cyclones.
I’ve been covering the team regularly since 2000, so my history of heartache spans nearly a decade. I’ve seen some dousies, believe me.
Here’s my top five:
— Missouri 17, ISU 14 OT on Nov. 27, 2004: This was the ultimate blow. With its first football championship since 1912 there for the taking in front of a home crowd, the Cyclones could not beat a Missouri team playing out the string on the final weekend of the regular season. Bret Culbertson’s 24-yard FG that was hopelessly wide right will never be forgotten. Missouri made good on its FG try in overtime and Bret Meyer threw an INT in the end zone to end the game and ISU’s Big 12 North title celebration.
— Kansas 24, ISU 21, on Nov. 26, 2005: Deja vu. Another chance to take the Big 12 North crown slipped away in overtime. Culbertson again misfired and KU hit a 34-yard FG that culminated an improbable rally. The Cyclones led 14-3 early, had an official’s review on the goaline go against them and were up a touchdown late when the Jayhawks scored with 1:05 to play. Just like ’04, Cyclone fans watched Colorado play in the conference title game. Would Dan McCarney still be coaching this team had ISU won this one?
— Florida State 38, ISU 31 on Aug. 24, 2002: The first trip to Arrowhead Stadium was just as killer of an ending. Seneca Wallace was stopped at the 1-yard line as time expired, one play after the quarterback was ruled out of bounds on a fantastic run and leap for the pylon. Was he in? It still is up for debate. The Cyclones nearly came back from way down against the No. 3-ranked Seminoles in what was a dream start to the season that would’ve been even dreamier had this been a victory.
— Alabama 14, ISU 13 in the 2001 Independence Bowl: This is where Cyclone fans and officials really began to dislike one another. Tony Yelk’s 47-yard field goal in the final minute was ruled wide right, despite what replays showed looked more like the ball went over the top of the upright. Alabama blocked a Yelk punt late that set up the go-ahead score and the kicker was 2 of 5 on FGs for the game. ISU out-gained ‘Bama 456-269, but lost anyway. Tough way to end a great follow-up season to first bowl win in school history.
— Oklahoma 49, ISU 3 on Oct. 19, 2002: There was no drama in this game, but plenty of heartbreak. The No. 9 Cyclones came in 6-1 and with their highest-ever national ranking. Oklahoma was No. 2 in the polls and looked it in front of a national television audience. The Sooners scored on a blocked punt within the first two minutes and the rout was on as the rain in Norman, Okla., poured. ISU was outgained 225-4 in the first half and had just 60 yards total offense on the day. Seneca Wallace was 4 of 22 passing for 43 yards and three interceptions in a performance that killed his Heisman Trophy hopes and set off a 1-6 finish to the season.
— Toledo 36, ISU 35 on Sept. 22, 2007
— Nebraska 27, ISU 20 OT on Oct. 1, 2005
— Missouri 27, ISU 24 OT on Oct. 15, 2005
— Texas A&M 24, ISU 21 on Oct. 27, 2001
— Kansas State 35, ISU 28 on Sept. 25, 1999