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Iowa State's Losing Streak Continues After Loss To Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Okla. Call it a lesson in momentum. Call it a great play by a great player.

No matter the description you choose, it was another painful twist in a tough season for Iowa State.

Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders returned a punt 91 yards for a game-tying touchdown right before halftime, and the No. 17 Sooners ran all over Iowa State (1-9, 0-7 Big 12) in the second half for a 48-10 victory Saturday in front of 84,776 fans at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

It was a play so jarring, Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads huddled his team together for a quick pep talk before retreating to the locker room.

"They were downtrodden in their faces," Rhoads said. "'Woe is me. Why us? I can't believe this is happening again.' That was the look and the expression I saw."

With 1:29 remaining in the half and Iowa State up 10-3, a Kirby Van Der Kamp punt sent Saunders back to his 9-yard line. Saunders eluded Levi Peters' ankle tackle, raced past a diving Charlie Rogers and hit the right sideline for the tying score.

"Usually, Coach tells me that if it's behind the 10-yard line to just fair catch it," Saunders said. "I thought I'd just chance it."

The play killed the positive flow for ISU quarterback Grant Rohach, who had directed a drive at the end of a scoreless first quarter, hitting 6 of 7 passes for 63 yards into a 23 mile-per-hour wind to take the Cyclones to the Oklahoma 12-yard-line.

Backup quarterback Sam Richardson entered to begin the second quarter and three plays later executed a perfect tailback fake to Shontrelle Johnson and strolled around right end for an easy 4-yard touchdown to put Iowa State up 7-0.

Rohach said there were no concerns about a potential loss of rhythm.

"Coach talked to me about being prepared for that," said Rohach, who threw for 179 yards on 21-of-34 passing and two interceptions of deflected passes. "Clearly, it worked. Sam got us the touchdown. No negative thoughts ran through my head when Sam runs out there. I have full faith that he will perform."

But once Saunders tied the game, Rhoads didn't even want to make the trot to the locker room without conveying his message to a team that was losing faith.

"I wanted to make sure we were going to relax, let it go, stay energized, stay upbeat and keep playing the style of football that we had played for 29 minutes of that first half," he said.

But the punt return bled into the second half, starting an Oklahoma avalanche of 45 unanswered points. On the second play of the half, Oklahoma tailback Damien Williams raced 70 yards down the right sideline for a 17-10 Sooners lead that had been a seven-point deficit just five plays earlier.

After the encouraging first half, the Cyclone offense went into an unproductive shell, tallying just 93 total yards in the second. Tailback Aaron Wimberly ran for 45 yards in the first half, but just five in the second.

Williams led the Sooners with 128 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, while backup quarterback Trevor Knight entered the game in the second quarter and ran for 123 yards on 10 carries, including a 56-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to put OU up, 34-10. In the Cyclones' four blowout losses of 31 points or more, the run defense is averaging over 316 rush yards allowed per game.

Iowa State hosts Kansas this Saturday.

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