Cyclones’ Senior Night follows a similar, painful script

ROB GRAY Lee Correspondent

AMES — Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell didn’t hide his emotions.

Senior Night for the Cyclones — and yet another one-score loss in a season already bursting with them — was understandably hard on Campbell from start to finish.

ISU once again failed to make positive plays at key times and it’s why the Cyclones lost, 14-10, to Texas Tech on a frigid Saturday night at Jack Trice Stadium.

“It’s been the hard part all season,” Campbell said after ISU fell to 4-7 overall and 1-7 in Big 12 play. “It’s what tears at me and it’s gut-wrenching — and I couldn’t care less about me. I could care a ton about our kids and this senior class has been nothing short of exceptional.”

Unfortunately the word “short” has formed a common theme for the Cyclones, whose seven losses have come by a combined 38 points. ISU kicker Drake Nettles missed two short field goals in the first half — although one was slightly blocked — and the Cyclones ran five plays from the Red Raiders’ two-yard line on consecutive second-half possessions that failed to produce points.

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ISU ran 20 more offensive plays than Texas Tech, won the turnover battle, outgained the Red Raiders 422 yards to 246, but watched helplessly at the end as its foe simply ran out the clock.

“I think it was just our detail,” said Cyclone senior defensive end Will McDonald, who notched his 34th career sack to push past his idol, Von Miller, on the Big 12’s all-time sacks chart and into a tie with former Red Raider Aaron Hunt tops that list. “We didn’t execute our detail and precision like we should. It was just a bad deal.”

ISU took a 10-7 lead on tight end Easton Dean’s 24-yard touchdown catch from Hunter Dekkers with 11:18 left, but the defense allowed Texas Tech to respond with a 13-play, 77-yard touchdown drive five minutes later that cemented the numbers 14 and 10 on the scoreboard.

The Cyclones failed to score points four out of five times they reached the red zone — and that flurry of futility began on ISU’s opening drive of the game. Safety Beau Freyler had returned a fumble to the Red Raiders’ 16-yard line, but the Cyclones gained just three yards and Nettles missed a 30-yard field goal wide right.

“You talk about those multiple opportunities,” Campbell said. “Yeah, you’re down there and still in a great spot to put points on the board, and the inability to do that twice (on missed field goals) in the game — you know, a great two-minute drive right before half , man, and the inability to kind of finish. At times offensively, it’s kind of been the story of the season.”

Dekkers completed 23 of 35 passes for 294 yards. ISU’s most prolific pass catcher in history, Xavier Hutchinson, set a new single-season standard for 100-yard receiving games by notching his seventh this season. And the Cyclones rushed for 128 yards on 43 carries — surpassing 100 yards on the ground for just the second time in Big 12 play.

None of that was enough. Barely and again. Even on Senior Night, which started with hugs and bouquets of flowers, and ended in another teeth-gnashing defeat in advance of next weekend’s regular season finale at fourth-ranked and unbeaten TCU.

“Every loss is a tough loss, but when you want to win for those seniors so bad because they’ve made such an impact on our program — it meant a lot for us to try to get that win for (them),” Dean said. “It definitely doesn’t feel good. I just hope that next week we can come back and send them off in the right way.”

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