WACO, Texas — Creating turnovers, particularly in the second half, is the identity the Iowa State football team has created for itself.
The Cyclones came up with two timely takeaways in the fourth quarter to shut down a Baylor comeback.
“I think everybody’s kind of waiting to watch us fold our tent,” coach Matt Campbell said after Iowa State's 23-13 win, “and our kids keep playing. So I think that’s kind of been our niche. It’s what’s allowed us to have success.”
There might have been no better opportunity for Iowa State (7-4, 5-3) to fold its tent than early in the opening moments of the fourth quarter. Baylor (1-10, 1-7) engineered a 16-play drive to set them up at the Cyclone two-yard line.
Freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer handed the ball to John Lovett, who ran into the heart of the defense and lost a yard. That’s when junior cornerback Brian Peavy saw an opportunity to pounce, came off the right edge and he ripped the ball from Lovett’s hands before falling on it.
“There are 10 other guys on the field, they did their job and my job was just to fill my cap and my number was called and I answered,” Peavy said. “Other teams think they have it their way but we refuse to just give up.
“So we use the model just one step, one breath and just play another down.”
It was a crucial play at the time Iowa State needed one the most. The Cyclones are 7-0 this season — plus-two against Baylor — when winning the turnover margin and 10-2 in Campbell’s tenure.
“Peavy made a great play,” said senior linebacker Joel Lanning. “People can bag it in the red zone when teams are driving on you pretty good. It’s a long drive too and kind of frustrating as a defense. Props to our guys for sticking to it and keep playing. We needed that big time.”
The win clinched a winning season for Iowa State for the first time since 2009, and was record breaking day for Allen Lazard.
Lazard, with a 36 yard touchdown reception from Zeb Noland, passed Todd Blythe as Iowa State's all-time receiving yards leader.
It was Iowa State's defense that sealed it.
The Cyclones maintained their one-score lead for the next seven minutes before senior kicker Garrett Owens tacked on his third field goal of the day to extend Iowa State's lead to 10. The defense would have to answer the bell again, though.
Brewer threw six-straight completions to help march the Bears to the Iowa State side of midfield. A 16-yard pass to Pooh Stricklin had Baylor set up at the Iowa State 25-yard line.
The next play, Brewer launched the ball toward the end zone, but senior safety Reggie Wilkerson picked it off and returned it 31 yards before going down. It put an end to Baylor’s last possession of the game.
“I thought that was a great pick,” Campbell said, “and they were dinking and doinking, kind of moving their way down the field and boom he steps into a play over the middle and does a great job. Big time by both of those kids.”
Baylor picked apart ISU’s defense in the first quarter, accumulating 130 yards of offense — including 79 on the ground. The Cyclones started to bow up in the second quarter and got stops at crucial points in the second half, allowing just 201 total yards the final 45 minutes.
“At the end of the day, the defense has to get a stop,” Peavy said. “It’s 11 guys out there and when we’re playing together, I feel like we’re one of the best in the country.”
Noland got the start at quarterback, finishing the day with 180 yards and two touchdowns while completing 14 of 28 attempts.
His two touchdowns were each long passes, the first to Lazard.
Noland’s other long touchdown came on a 67-yard rainbow to Hakeem Butler, with the majority coming after Butler snagged the ball one-handed and then broke Baylor tackles on the way to the end zone.
“I thought he did a really good job,” Campbell said of Noland. “He’ll continue to get better and continue to grow. Boy, I think you’ve got to leave here being pretty impressed with what you saw from Zeb Noland today.”
However, not all news out of Baylor was good for the Cyclones.
David Montgomery, who finished his day with 27 attempts for 144 yards, was helped off the field after an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter, and was later carted to the locker room.
Campbell said the X-rays done came back negative for breaks or strains. Montgomery wasn’t available for comment.
“If I know David,” Campbell said, “he’ll ready to roll. But that’s an early prediction and we’ll see where he’s at. We’ll just kind of have to play it by ear.”
The Cyclones close the regular season at Kansas State on Nov. 25.