Iowa State unable to overcome controversial calls

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State seems to have a knack of getting tangled up with close calls that generate frustration, controversy and, in the latest case, some sharp criticism by the athletic director.

The Cyclones have brought much of it upon themselves because they haven’t been able to overcome whatever has gone against them. In three recent games that included disputed calls, the Cyclones lost all three – two of them by less than a touchdown.

”We’ve just got to respond to stuff like that,” offensive lineman Jake Campos said Monday. ”There’s been a lot of plays in film we’re watching when we’re one block away or one cut away. We’re like, we’re so close. There’s a lot of plays we could bust wide open. We’ve just got to get the little tiny things cleaned up and those things will start breaking for us.”

The latest flare-up occurred during and after Saturday’s 37-20 loss to No. 16 Oklahoma State.

With the score tied at 6, the officials ruled that Oklahoma State’s Desmond Roland was stopped short of the goal line at the end of the first half. The play was reviewed and the replay official reversed the call, giving the Cowboys a 13-6 lead.

Frustrated by that decision and some earlier calls, athletic director Jamie Pollard lashed out at Big 12 officiating after the game and said the Cyclones ”have been on the short end of the stick” time and time again.

The Big 12 responded Monday with a public reprimand and a $25,000 fine for Pollard, with league commissioner Bob Bowlsby saying his rant was ”irresponsible and completely baseless.”

Iowa State also has taken issue with a catch by Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett along the sideline earlier this year – the replay official and replay communicator were suspended for one game for failing to review the play – and a play in last year’s game with Texas when the Longhorns’ Johnathan Gray was ruled down while ISU linebacker Jeremiah George was running the other way with the ball. In both cases, the opponent scored on the next play.

In the Oklahoma State game, the Cyclones could have avoided any controversy if they had simply fielded a kickoff. Instead, OSU recovered at the Iowa State 11 and Roland scored five plays later. Then the Cyclones allowed Tyreek Hill to return the second-half kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and the Cowboys dominated the game from then on.

”Our special teams didn’t have the best day,” kicker Cole Netten said.

The offense didn’t, either.

”You can say whatever you want about the call on Saturday, whatever it is, it should or shouldn’t have been a touchdown, I don’t think it won or lost us the game by any means,” quarterback Sam Richardson said. ”We shot ourselves in the foot too many times as an offense. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win that game, honestly.”

In the Kansas State game, Lockett’s catch came late in the first half with Iowa State leading 28-13. The Wildcats rushed to the line of scrimmage after the play and quarterback Jake Waters scored to cut the lead to 28-20.

With plenty of opportunities to increase the lead in the second half, the Cyclones went scoreless and lost 32-28.

The Cyclones also had their chances against Texas last year. They had second-and-goal at the Texas 4 late in the game and a touchdown could have put it out of reach. But they ended up kicking a field goal and Texas went on the decisive drive that produced a 31-30 victory.

Also in that game, Iowa State gave up a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play of the first half.

Richardson said the Cyclones have to figure out a way to overcome such setbacks.

”You can’t fret about it, you can’t think about it at all,” he said. ”You’ve just got to play the play in front of you.”

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads declined to comment on the specifics of Pollard’s remarks. But he did welcome the support.

”I am privileged to have a boss that is that passionate about this athletic department and this university that he was willing to stand up and say the things that he did,” Rhoads said. ”I benefit from that as the leader of this program and certainly our coaching staff does as well.”