AMES — Iowa State’s defense forced seven three and outs.
It produced more than one turnover for the first time in a month and played with vigor, speed and alacrity.
But it wasn’t enough.
The Cyclones’ gut-wrenching season took another body blow Saturday — this time from TCU, which scored a touchdown with 38 seconds left to send a Jack Trice Stadium crowd of 54,922 shuffling toward the exits stinging from a 21-17 loss.
“Guys, I wish I could put into words the pain that’s associated with a loss like this,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said after his team tumbled to 1-8 overall and 0-6 in conference play. “For all those young men, for everybody in the program working so hard for success, and for all our fans. … There’s only one 'Cyclone Nation'; there’s only one program in the country that can do that with 1-7 (entering the game), and that’s ours.”
After suffering through three consecutive blowout losses, ISU seemed primed for a breakthrough despite another lackluster effort from the offense, which produced one touchdown and a field goal.
The field goal — a 35-yarder from Cole Netten — gave the Cyclones a 17-14 lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter.
The Horned Frogs (4-6, 2-5) punted their next two possessions, then quarterback Casey Pachall was intercepted by ISU linebacker Jeremiah George at the Cyclone 22-yard line with 5:17 left.
“We played with a swagger,” George said.
Have you watched this season?
“Anything can happen,” said ISU safety Deon Broomfield, whose second-quarter interception at his own 2 helped keep the score 14-7 TCU at the break. “And that proved correct.”
After George’s pick, all the Cyclones needed was a sustained drive, but that fell apart at their own 41-yard line when now-backup quarterback Sam Richardson saw his only pass of the game on 3 and 5 batted down.
The ensuing punt from Kirby Van Der Kamp went 17 yards and, with 2:34 left, TCU drove the field in large part with option runs — two taken by Aaron Green for 22 and 17 yards.
Off-and-on Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin triggered those options, then effectively sealed the win with a one-yard run into the end zone.
The Cyclones’ Grant Rohach — who started the game at quarterback and played most of the game — scrambled to his own 45 on the game’s final possession, but a subsequent hook and lateral play failed and his team tumbled to its seventh straight home loss.
“Rough,” said Rohach, who went 18 of 38 for 148 yards and no touchdowns. “It’s depressing not moving the ball, not scoring, not bringing the ball downfield. I think it was stressful and a lot of guys (are) just anxious to get our offense going.”
Iowa State’s first four offensive possessions ended in three and outs.
Their longest play from scrimmage came from Van Der Kamp’s hand, not foot — a 25-yard strike to Justin Coleman on third down that set up a 15-yard Richardson touchdown run.
The most electric play came from backup tailback DeVondrick Nealy, whose 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown opened the second half.
“(The defense) kept us in the football game,” Rhoads said. “They gave our football team hope that we could play 60 minutes and win the football game.”
Hope wasn’t enough.“It really hurts,” Broomfield said of the Cyclones’ fifth loss this season by eight or fewer points. “It’s bad. It hurts.”