AMES - Iowa State's defense deserved better.
So did its fans who have continued to support in full during a season that's snowballed to 1-8. And the coaches and players who have stuck together through a rash of injuries and questionable calls in Paul Rhoads' most turbulent season at Ames.
Though no one deserved a victory more than the defense Saturday.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson (9) slips through the attempted tackle of Iowa State linebacker Jevohn Miller for a 13-yard gain during the second quarter Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Doctson had four receptions for 48 yards in the Horned Frogs’ 21-17 win.
Supplying the backbone for the Cyclones all day, Iowa State's bend but don't break defense finally cracked in the final minutes.
Handcuffed by short fields, an inconsistent offense and another controversial call that came at its own expense, the Iowa State defense came up one stop short. TCU navigated 58 yards on 10 plays and Trevone Boykin plunged in for the go-ahead 1-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left - sending the Horned Frogs to a 21-17 victory over the Cyclones on Homecoming at Jack Trice Stadium.
Boykin rushed for all three TCU touchdowns and Casey Pachall threw for 245 yards as the Horned Frogs broke their three-game slide.
"I wish I could put into words the pain that's associated with a loss like this," said Rhoads. "For all those young men, for everybody in the program working so hard for success, for all our fans."
The pain started to dissipate into the clear skies over Jack Trice Stadium Saturday as the Cyclones (1-8, 0-6 Big 12) were within minutes of snapping a five-game skid and claiming their first home victory this fall.
After completing a pair of passes for 76 yards, Pachall was picked off by Jeremiah George on the ISU 22, before Grant Rohach and the offense milked the clock down to 2:34.
It wasn't enough.
Aaron Green broke off runs of 22 and 17 yards to move TCU (4-6, 2-5) to the Cyclones' 3 before Boykin punched in his third rushing touchdown on third-and-goal. Iowa State had one final shot as Rohach connected with Daley Dondre on a hook-and-ladder near midfield though a series of laterals sent the Cyclones in reverse as the ball sailed out of bounds and time expired.
It was a fitting end for the offense that failed to consistently support a stout defensive effort. The Cyclones were held to 283 yards of total offense, lost two fumbles and converted just 7-of-20 on third down.
ISU's defense limited TCU to 123 rushing yards, a 6-for-19 third down conversion rate and picked off Pachall twice.
"They kept us in the football game," Rhoads said of his defense. "They gave our football team a hope that we can play 60 minutes and win the football game. Several key third down stops, tighter coverage than we've had, plays on balls.
"In the end we got caught in a couple positions where we didn't make good tackles and that contributed to the loss."
Grant Rohach completed 18-of-39 passes for 148 yards in his first career start and traded snaps with Sam Richardson, who was 0-for-1 throwing but rushed eight times for 26 yards including a 15-yard keeper to knot the score at 7 early in the second. Kirby Van Der Kamp preceded the play with a 25-yard fake punt pass to Justin Coleman.
TCU moved back in front with 9:51 left in the first half on a controversial 30-yard pass from Pachall to Brandon Carter, who ran out of bounds several yards before returning to the field and making a catch at the 3. The officials ruled that Nigel Tribune pushed Carter out of bounds and the play was upheld after Iowa State's challenge.
Boykin scored on the ensuing play from 3 yards out to reclaim the lead at 14-7. Pachall and the Frogs threatened again late in the quarter though the senior was intercepted by Deon Broomfield at the ISU 2.
DeVondrick McNealy sparked ISU with an electric 98-yard kickoff return to open the second half. The redshirt sophomore shed several tacklers on his way to tying the game at 14 and further igniting the Cyclone defense, which forced TCU into five straight punts including a trio of three-and-outs. Cole Netten's 35-yard field goal gave the Cyclones their first lead at 17-14 late in the third after Iowa State's 15-play drive stalled.
The Cyclones next scoring opportunity ended 30 yards out on a Tad Ecby fumble, though ISU's defense held firm on TCU's next two drives before the third and final trek gave the Horned Frogs the lead for good.
Iowa State came up empty on great field position early in the first quarter, going 3-and-out from the visitors' 31. TCU later took advantage of Albert Gary's muffed punt at the 23 and scored three plays later on a 18-yard keeper by Boykin, marking one of many times the ISU defense was put in a bind.
"This was probably one of our best games defensively this year," said Broomfield. "We came out determined, we really wanted to win it. We played with a chip on our shoulder."
The Cyclones travel to Oklahoma Saturday with kickoff set for 11 a.m.
If there's any moral victories to be taken from Saturday's loss to TCU, it's the ever-growing confidence of a young defense that will need to be in top form against the Sooners (7-2, 4-2).
"It wasn't a shock for us," said Jeremiah George of the Cyclones' strong defensive effort. "We were having fun, we were playing fast, we were playing physical and it allowed us to get our confidence up a little bit more, so we can go into Norman and try to get a big victory."
Iowa State's first Homecoming game was played in 1912 and ISU has hosted a Homecoming game every season except one. The 1918 game was cancelled due to the Spanish Flu epidemic. ... Saturday's attendance was 54,922. ... Iowa State has two kickoff returns for touchdowns (Jarvis West, Nealy) in the same season for the first time since 1963 (Tom Vaughn, Dick Limerick) and it also ties the record originally set in 1959 (Tom Watkins, Don Webb). Nealy's 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown is the second-longest in school history to Troy Davis' 99-yard return at Colorado in 1994. E.J. Bibbs set new career highs in receptions (7) and yards (63). ISU is now 21-4 under Rhoads when leading after three quarters and 22-2 when giving up fewer than 24 points.