AMES — Maybe it should never have come down to “upon further review.” But should the ruling on that review have come down the way it did?
They’ll complain about the fumble that wasn’t in Cyclone Country from now until Texas forgets Mack Brown was ever the Longhorns’ football coach. And they’ll start forgetting that after this season is over, if not sooner. Like when Oklahoma tramples the Horns next Saturday in Dallas.
Did Cyclone linebacker Jeremiah George’s strip of the football from Texas running back Johnathan Gray at the Iowa State 1-yard line come before the official’s whistle Thursday night, two plays before the Longhorns scord with 51 seconds left for a 31-30 victory in Jack Trice Stadium? Judging from social media reactions, much of the ESPN viewing audience said yes.
The officials said no. Then they said the review confirmed their original opinion .ISU Coach Paul Rhoads had a different take in his postgame press conference, a loud and angry take.
"I've got pretty good eyesight," Rhoads said, swaying at a podium with figurative steam billowing out of every pore. "The view I had of that gigantic (video) screen in the north end zone showed a player that was not down and our guy with the football."
"They didn't call the whistle till Jeremiah was about 10 yards down the field," said Cyclone safety Jacques Washington.
Take Iowa State’s men’s basketball loss against Kansas here last winter and couple it with this, and you wonder when an episode of "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura" will be taped in Ames.
Wow, did this one ever get away, by hook or by crook or by "Hail Mary." It all wasn't completely the officials' fault, even if you think it was the officials' fault. But better to get beat cleanly than to always have a judgment call hanging over the result.
Yes, allowing that 44-yard pass for a Texas touchdown at the end of the first half was a 44-yard “Hail Mary” at the end of the first half was unacceptable, unforgivable. Mug receiver John Harris if you must. What was 15 yards in that spot compared to six points? That’s all the penalty Texas receiver Mike Davis got when he cheap-shotted ISU safety Deon Broomfield in the end zone following a Longhorn touchdown.
If the Big 12 reviews that and suspends Davis for the Oklahoma game, it will only add to Iowa State's ire. Bad enough what will happen if the league makes a ruling next week that says the Cyclones got jobbed. Or if it doesn't.
"The conference office reviews all things," Rhoads said. "I'm sure they will review this, and I'm sure they will come forward with what they feel the play should have been called."
The Cyclones would certainly have been better off had Davis been ejected after his totally needless late hit of Broomfield. They collected one of their vast number of pass-interference penalties (Were theyall legit?) trying to cover Davis on the game-winning drive that featured Fumble, Not a Fumble. That penalty took Texas to the 50-yard line, and away the Horns went.
At least until they got to the ISU 1 and the result was all but decided on a non-call of a call.
"I got the same explanation everybody in the stadium did," said Rhoads. "The call was confirmed."
Of course, Iowa State could have been confident it and no one else had decided the outcome had it turned a 2nd-and-1 at the Texas 4 into a touchdown. Instead, two plays combined to lose two yards, and a chip-shot field goal to increased their lead to 30-24 with 3:40 left.
In hindsight, going for the three yards instead of the three points on fourth-down was the way to go. But the way ISU’s defense played in the second half, you couldn’t really fault Rhoads for taking the points.
However, 3:40 was way too much time for a Texas team whose most-effective play — besides the aforementioned answered-prayer from quarterback Case McCoy to receiver John Harris — was Cyclone pass-interference. The Horns torched Iowa State’s cornerback Sam E. Richardson for two interference calls on that last drive, including one in the end zone on a 3rd-and-8 at the ISU 11.
That Sam Richardson played an otherwise-great game, breaking up passes and making sound open-field tackles. ISU sophomore quarterback Sam B. Richardson was pretty nifty himself, showing what a difference he makes when he can use his feet for running. So did all sorts of Cyclones on offense, defense and special teams. He was the best quarterback in the stadium, leading the best offense in the stadium.
But ISU's 463-363 advantage in yards was a little deceiving, because the Cyclones had 118 yards in penalties. Yet, it did tell the story of which team was more dynamic, on both sides of the ball.
Ohhhh, the heartache. Iowa State has sold more season tickets than ever before and built major goodwill with its fans with games like this.
Or rather, games like this almost was, could easily have been ... should have been.