Wow... just wow.
For literally hours after the end of the Nebraska game I was numb with disbelief. I even told my wife I wished that I could be in the alternate reality where Colin Franklin caught that pass. Alas, that is not to be. After the fake 2 pt conversion attempt, I almost screamed "All I wanted was the PAT!" but I was wrong.
Paul Rhoads made the right call.
Not just because when you have a chance to win the game you take that chance, not even because since the debacle in Arrowhead stadium last year makes me nervous whenever ISU lines up for a PAT. No, the reason it was the right call is because Iowa State plays to win, not to not lose. That sounds awkward, but it's true. Paul Rhoads rolled the dice, and lost, but we should be happy that he rolled the dice. Why? Because I thought the game was over when Rex Burkehead scored a TD in overtime. I was certain we couldn't do the same under that pressure. When we did, I was ecstatic, thinking we were going to go to a 2nd overtime, but what I didn't consider is that ISU couldn't hope to keep up with NU in multiple overtimes.
Done is done, but I want to consider something else. Look at these statistics:
Blaine Gabbert vs Nebraska: 18 for 42, 199 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 74 yards rushing, 0 TD
Austen Arnaud vs Nebraska: 21 for 32, 203 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT. 63 yards rushing, 1 TD
Austen Arnaud is not more talented than Blaine Gabbert, by any stretch of the imagination, but at the same time, he led his team in a way that Gabbert didn't. Gabbert looked frustrated and angry in the 2nd half against Nebraska when they were down. Arnaud, even after his interceptions, looked poised and fired up. That's the difference between a blowout and a game so close it goes to overtime.
That's the difference Coaching can make. It's a demonstration of how Coach's can get players who are not All-American class talent and stand up to a top ten team. I literally could not be prouder of the Cyclones than I am right now.
Review of "What to watch for" points after the jump
I said on Friday that Turnovers were going to be the key to this game. I just got it wrong that Nebraska would commit them all. Nebraska was true to form, putting the ball on the turf multiple times on Saturday. Sometimes they fell on it, twice ISU grabbed it. Both of the times ISU grabbed the ball, the Cyclones scored touchdowns. That's a massive improvement over last year, when we had trouble even seeing the endzone, let alone finding it. Even after turnovers.
The part I didn't see and was heart broken to see, was the three ISU turnovers. All of which led to points scored by Nebraska. One was even a direct pick 6 in the 3rd quarter. Never-the-less, the fumble by Niles Paul on the Kickoff return in the 4th quarter was game changing on Saturday. Guessing he got a talking to on the sideline, because he let the next one sail over his head.
The ISU running game was beautifully executed. I thought ISU was going to need to get it done on the ground alone, but Tom Herman showed me that he could read the Nebraska defense better than anyone except Texas. He and Austen Arnaud gouged the pass efficiency defense that ranked 1st in the nation for more yards than any other Nebraska opponent this year, except Oklahoma State. That to me speaks of some excellent preparation.
Alexander Robinson had his third game in a row of over 100 yards rushing. He's not in the running this year for the best back in the Big 12, but he's been outstanding down the stretch. We're going to miss him next year, but Shontrelle Johnson should slide right into place.
For most of the game, there was literally no Nebraska QB to pressure. It was very strange to see the Wildcat used so frequently, but without Taylor Martinez, the Nebraska Offense had to do something back there. Nebraska continually proved that they could run the ball, and ISU could do very little to stop them. I was happy that Bo Pelini was so conservative because there were multiple fourth and shorts that I was sure they could convert.
In the end, it was a game I'll remember for a long long time.