NEW YORK In a game of inches, Iowa State's football team fell an yard short every time it needed a foot.
From dropped passes to misfires, from penalties negating touchdowns to third-down misery, Iowa State failed to execute in the clutch time and time again in a 27-13 loss to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl on Friday at Yankee Stadium.
The Cyclones (6-7) struggled mightily on offense, especially on third down. Iowa State converted just 2-of-13 third-down opportunities and one was from a penalty. Iowa State quarterbacks completed 17-of-39 passes and ran the ball for only 91 yards on 29 carries.
There were critical dropped passes, like from receiver Darius Reynolds on third-and-9 in Rutgers territory early in the third quarter. And there were misfires, like Jared Barnett's pass way behind Josh Lenz in the first quarter than could have been a big gain.
Even a quarterback switch early in the second quarter couldn't guide the Cyclones to a comeback. In a word, it was frustrating for Iowa State.
"If it wasn't the most frustrating, it certainly was one of the most frustrating (games) because we just weren't executing," Iowa State running back Jeff Woody said. "It wasn't anything that they were doing that we didn't know they were going to do. It was just we didn't do it well.
"We couldn't execute. We couldn't complete a pass. We couldn't stop blitzes when they were coming. We didn't execute the way we needed to."
But offensive problems weren't the only issue for the Cyclones. On defense, Iowa State allowed Rutgers which ranked 115th nationally in rushing to run for 173 yards on 42 carries. The Cyclones didn't force any turnovers and allowed a pair of fourth-down conversions.
On special teams Iowa State had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown wiped out because of a holding penalty. With the Cyclones trailing 10-6 in the second quarter, kick returner Jarvis West burst up the middle but it was called back to the 26-yard line after Tyler Leo held a Rutgers player about two steps after West had passed him.
Still, the Cyclones had an opportunity to win midway through the fourth quarter. Iowa State trailed 20-13 with 6:40 left in the game and had Rutgers backed up on its 13. On second down and 9, Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd found 6-foot-6 wide receiver Brandon Coleman isolated one-on-one with 5-7 ISU cornerback Jeremy Reeves down his left sideline. Dodd hit Coleman in stride, and the receiver ran past Reeves for an 84-yard touchdown strike to push the lead to 27-13.
"Great play, great play," Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said. "Yeah, 20-13 and I thought the momentum was all ours and field position was good. We created a second-and-long situation. Our corners, especially the second half of the season, have played very well.
"When the ball went up, I saw where Jeremy Reeves was positioned, and I was very hopeful for an interception. They both went up and made the play. Timing was good and their kid made a great, great catch and run for a touchdown."
Despite the two-touchdown deficit, Iowa State rallied, driving the ball to the Rutgers 12. But four passes to the end zone fell incomplete, virtually ending any comeback hopes for the Cyclones.
Iowa State kicked field goals on its first two possessions to take a 6-0 lead. But Rutgers rallied after missing a field goal to put together a 10-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Jawan Jamison on fourth down and goal.
The Cyclones gave the ball back to Rutgers on the next possession. Barnett was hit and stripped by linebacker Khaseem Greene on third-and-12, and defensive end Scott Vallone picked up the ball and rambled to the 4-yard line. Iowa State's defense stiffened, however, and held Rutgers to a field goal.
"Not firing on all cylinders to start the game off," Barnett said. "We just couldn't get in a rhythm. We were running the ball pretty well, but I just couldn't in a rhythm throwing it."
Barnett hurt his knee on the play, and was replaced by Steele Jantz. Barnett said he could have re-entered the game but stood behind Rhoads' decision to play Jantz.
Barnett completed just 2-of-7 passes for 23 yards. Jantz missed several open receivers and completed 15-of-31 passes and had two interceptions.