IOWA CITY - When Jake Knott got to Iowa State, he was a little-known linebacker from Waukee.
When the senior ends his career at Iowa State, he will be known forever as a pivotal member of the Cyclone football transformation under head coach Paul Rhoads.
Knott secured the Cyclones' second straight win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday when he intercepted a James Vandenberg pass with 1:11 to play in the game as the Cyclones defeated Iowa, 9-6, in front of a sold-out crowd at Kinnick Stadium.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Iowa State’s Jake Knott (20) celebrates his game-clinching interception with teammates A.J. Klein (47) and Jacques Washington (10) in the closing moments of Saturday’s Cyclone victory over Iowa, 9-6, in the annual Cy-Hawk rivalry game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. It marks the first time that Iowa State has won consecutive games in the series since the Cyclones claimed five straight from 1998-2002.
"It was a big win for us today," Rhoads said. "Both teams were kind of waiting to find the win. No. 20 decided he was going to go win this game. He'll go down in history as being a key component in this rivalry. You don't make better plays in this game than that one."
The interception was just one of several plays that did not go right for both teams offensively. The game featured just one touchdown and six turnovers - four by the Cyclones and two by Iowa.
Iowa got the ball down to the Iowa State 24-yard line and had a chance to either tie it with a field goal or win it with a touchdown, until Knott saved the day for the Cyclones by tipping a pass intended for tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and coming down with the interception.
"When I got to Iowa State, Iowa beat us up pretty bad those first two years," Knott said. "We knew we could play with this team and one day be as good as the Hawkeyes. The win last year and this year's win were both huge for our program. It shows how far this program has come the past two years."
It the first time Iowa State had beaten Iowa inside Kinnick Stadium since 2002. Iowa State also improved to 17-1 under Rhoads when it holds an opponent under 24 points. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, have only scored one touchdown this season in two games.
"This win goes straight to the defense," said Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz, who accounted for the game's only score but also threw two interceptions in the win. "Anytime a defense plays like that, you'll have a good chance to win. I do feel fortunate because we turned it over way too many times in the red zone. We'll learn from this, but it was good the defense played so well."
Iowa State out-gained the Hawkeyes 342-304 and the Cyclones defense held Iowa to just 68 rushing yards. And the score could have been much more lopsided if the Cyclones wouldn't have turned it over four times.
The Cyclones scored on their opening drive of the game and had several other chances to put up more points. Iowa safety Tom Donatell picked off Jantz in the second quarter, and linebacker James Morris also recorded an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Shontrelle Johnson also fumbled twice in the game as Iowa State was driving deep into Hawkeye territory.
"We certainly don't want to make the turnovers a habit in this series, but we knew it would be a 60-minute game," Rhoads said.
The Hawkeye defense kept the game close and gave the offense multiple chances to win the game. The offense sputtered most of the game though, converting just 5-of-17 on third down and coming up with field goals instead of touchdowns in two red zone trips.
"We didn't finish drives, and certainly the fact that we did not score a touchdown on that drive early in the fourth quarter was a big sequence," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We're certainly disappointed with the loss. The credit goes to that Iowa State defense. We'll go back to work tomorrow."
The Hawkeyes scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that was eventually called back because the officials determined during a review that wide receiver Keenan Davis stepped out at the 3-yard line. The Hawkeyes then had three cracks at the end zone but ended up settling for a Mike Meyer 22-yard field goal.
"I am sure he did step out," Ferentz said. "It was still a makeable situation, but it did not go well for us."
Davis, who finished with a team-high 75 yards receiving, thought he scored on the play. And admitted the overturn was a big play in the game.
"It was big, especially since we were struggling on offense," Davis said. "The issues we are having though are fixable. We were a lot better this week than we were last week."
The Iowa passing game was better, but the Hawkeyes dropped way too many passes. And Vandenberg can still be better. He finished 20-of-42 for 236 yards. Everyone had a hand in the drop passes, but Don Shumpert dropped a wide-open pass on fourth and 10 late in the game that would have given Iowa a first down at the Cyclone 35. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz made some big plays in the game but also had multiple drops late in the contest.
"We're not there yet," Ferentz said of the passing game. "It is what it is right now. It's a collective thing. We'll keep pushing for improvement. We didn't throw it well enough to win though."
With just 68 rushing yards, the Hawkeye offense did not run it well enough to win either. For the most part, the Cyclone defense dominated the Hawkeyes throughout the game. The running backs all averaged less than three yards per carry and the Hawkeyes did not get to 100 yards of total offense until late in the second quarter.
"Our defense made a lot of great plays," Rhoads said. "It was a great team effort defensively. We controlled the line scrimmage on that goal-line stand. The defenses made so many plays in this game."
Jantz finished 24-of-36 through the air with 241 yards and the game's only touchdown. He also rushed for a team-high 40 yards and kept a few drives going by scrambling for first downs with his feet. Aaron Horne was on the receiving end of the touchdown pass as he finished with six catches for 73 yards.
The interception by Donatell was the first of his career. Morris finished with 12 tackles and the interception. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens led the Hawkeyes with a career-high 19 tackles. Durrell Givens and A.J. Klein each had a team-high eight tackles, while Knott finished with six. Iowa QB James Vandenberg said the problem with the Iowa offense involves all 11 members. "I think we'll find out that there is something that all 11 of us can improve on to help the offense. It will take an effort by the entire unit." The Cyclones are 2-0 on the season and will next face Western Illinois at 7 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. The Hawkeyes will face their second straight in-state rival as the Northern Iowa Panthers invade Kinnick Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.