Dec. 31, 2009
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Iowa State made its two-win 2008 season seem like a long time ago.
With a 14-13 victory against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl on Thursday night, the Cyclones locked up their first winning season since 2005.
Then they partied on New Year's Eve with a band of followers in Sun Devil Stadium.
"By finishing with a winning record, you go into the offseason with a program that certainly is on its way," first-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "The program has credibility based on what we've done thus far."
Alexander Robinson ran for 137 yards, and Austen Arnaud threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Cyclones (7-6) won for only the third time in 10 bowl games - and the second in Arizona.
As for the Golden Gophers, they can't wait for next year - and, they hope, a chance to end a four-bowl losing streak. Minnesota (6-7) made an unwanted bit of history by becoming the first three-time Insight Bowl loser.
"We came here to win the football game and we didn't get it done," Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said. "It's a great group of kids...and their hearts are broke and they're bleeding."
Minnesota's Adam Weber threw for 261 yards and a score, and Kyle Theret picked off two passes and caught a 40-yard pass on a fake punt, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Big Ten's fourth straight Insight Bowl loss to the Big 12.
The Insight pitted two 6-6 squads that needed to defeat a team from the Dakotas to become bowl-eligible. A crowd of 45,090 turned out on a 63-degree afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium, capacity 56,000, for a game that was more interesting than pretty.
The Cyclones won it the hard way.
They overcame four turnovers by Arnaud, who threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles.
"Our football team showed a lot of grit to overcome four turnovers and still be in a position to win a football game," said Rhoads, the first Iowa State coach to post a winning record in his debut season since George Veenker in 1931.
The Cyclones nearly had a fifth turnover, when Robinson fumbled on a long completion and the Golden Gophers recovered. But the officials gave the ball back to the Cyclones after a lengthy video review.
"I felt my knee go down," Robinson said. "I knew the whole time I was down."
Iowa State also conceded 434 yards and committed eight penalties.
But the Cyclones' defense twice came up with turnovers to repel the Gophers deep in Iowa State territory.
The first came with the Cyclones leading 7-3 late in the first half. Iowa State's David Sims picked off a pass in the end zone with 1:23 to go.
That led to the Cyclones' most impressive possession - a lightning 89-yard drive in 1 minute. Arnaud hit Jake Williams for a 38-yard score after Theret fell down, leaving Williams all alone.
That gave the Cyclones a 14-3 halftime lead, and they romped off the field to the cheers of their red-and-yellow-clad faithful.
Still down 14-3 midway through the third period, the Gophers stunned the Cyclones with a brilliant trick play. On fourth-and-4 at Minnesota's 37-yard line, punter Blake Haudan hit a wide-open Theret for 40 yards - the junior defensive back's first career reception.
One play later, Weber found tight end Nick Tow-Arnett for a 23-yard touchdown to cut Iowa State's lead to 14-10.
It was Minnesota's first offensive touchdown since Nov. 7, a span of 10 quarters.
The Gophers took advantage of another Arnaud fumble - this one at Minnesota's 40 - to drive 50 yards for a 21-yard field goal by Ellestad, trimming the deficit to 14-13 after three quarters.
Minnesota had trailed in all six of its regular-season wins, and four times rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to win. The Gophers seemed poised for another comeback when they marched to Iowa State's 17 late in the fourth quarter.
But backup quarterback MarQueis Gray, inserted as a running threat, fumbled on a keeper, and Iowa State's Ter'ran Benton recovered.
"We didn't lose a game because of MarQueis Gray's fumble," Brewster said. "He's hurting. He's hurting bad."
The Cyclones ran out the final 4:04, with Arnaud and Robinson each rushing for first downs.
As a full moon rose over the mountains to the east, the Cyclones raced onto the field, then hoisted the Insight Bowl trophy.
"It means a lot to us because we get to go out the right way - on a bowl win," Iowa State senior defensive end Christopher Lyle said.
Iowa State beat its border rival for only the third time in 26 meetings - and for the first time since 1898.