AMES - Austen Arnaud said last year's upset of Nebraska, which featured numerous Iowa State players afflicted with the flu, was "an act of God."
This year, fate didn't smile on the Cyclones.
Iowa State's fake extra-point pass in overtime fell incomplete Saturday evening, handing the host Cyclones a stomach-churning 31-30 loss to Nebraska in the schools' final meeting as Big 12 rivals.
Cyclone holder Daniel Kuehl saw his potential game-winning two-point toss to end Collin Franklin get intercepted, bringing an abrupt and shocking end to a back-and-forth ballgame.
"I slipped out toward the corner of the end zone," Franklin noted afterward, "and out of his hand it just wasn't there - I don't know if the wind picked it up ...
"It's difficult, man. It's hard to lose one like that."
Said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads: "I made the (fake-extra-point) call. The play was there. They say it's a game of inches, and it exactly is - I've got a lot of grown men crying (in the locker room)."
"It looked like he was open," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "I thought it was a gutsy call by Coach (Paul) Rhoads, and our guy made a play."
According to Iowa State receiver Jake Williams, the Cyclones mastered that fake in practice. Still, Williams was surprised to see the play called in overtime.
"It was kind of shocking," said Williams, who added that he fully supported his coach's decision.
Ninth-ranked, 8-1 Nebraska survived thanks in large part to its running game, which produced 235 total yards, including 129 yards and two scores from I-back Rex Burkhead. The sophomore, who took several directional snaps in the Wildcat formation due to Nebraska's ailing quarterbacks, scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 19-yard sprint on the first possession of overtime.
The Cyclones, now 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Big 12 action, led 10-7 after a first half that featured 76 of Alexander Robinson's eventual 101 rushing yards.
The major swing in momentum came at the 8:42 mark of the third quarter, when Nebraska safety Austin Cassidy stepped in front of a pass over the middle and raced 29 yards the other way for an interception-return score. That helped Nebraska wrestle away the lead, and the Huskers led 24-10 entering the game's final 15 minutes.
Yet, the Cyclones stood tall and battled back, sending the game into overtime thanks to two late scores engineered by ailing quarterback Austen Arnaud, who played through an ankle injury. Arnaud hit Robinson for a 14-yard scoring strike with 10:40 left in regulation, knotting things at 40-all.
Iowa State got the ball back with 40 seconds left and all three timeouts, but Rhoads opted to play for overtime with his squad stuck on its own 20-yard line.
"Too many (plays required) with that far to travel. Too much risk," Rhoads explained, when asked why he played for OT.
Now, after Burkhead's overtime score and Kuehl's incompletion, the Cyclones have two games remaining to try to secure bowl eligibility: at Colorado this week and versus Missouri the next.
"This team has no quit in it," Robinson noted.
With the Huskers' pending departure from the Big 12, Saturday marked the last meeting between Nebraska and Iowa State for the foreseeable future.
When the dust settled, NU largely owned the all-time series, posting 86 wins in 105 encounters with ISU.
But multiple moments from the Nebraska series will live on in Cyclone lore, like "Marvelous" Marv Seiler reeling off a 78-yard quarterback keeper in 1992.
Saturday, one of those memorable moments slipped out of the Cyclones' grasp.
"It's very emotional," said Arnaud, whose team was a 19-point underdog. "This program has no interest in moral victories. It's a tough pill to swallow."
EXTRA POINTS: Iowa State's schedules are set through the year 2021, meaning it can't play Nebraska again in the regular-season for at least 12 years. ... As it stands right now, here's the all-time score in the Huskers' and Cyclones' series: Nebraska 2,684, Iowa State 1,095.
Nebraska 0 7 17 0 7 - 31
Iowa State 0 10 0 30 - 30
- NEBRASKA - Helu 6 run (Henery kick), 13:13.
- (Drive: 12 plays, 79 yards, 5:36. Key play: Green 1 yard sneak on third-and-1, to ISU 35 yard-line.
- ISU - J. Williams 13 pass from Arnaud (Mahoney kick), 6:38.
- (Drive: 7 plays, 47 yards, 2:08. Key play: Darks 17 reception, to NU 15).
- ISU - Mahoney FG 57, 0:55.
- (Drive: 4 plays, 2 yards, 1:11. Key play: Maggitt recovered NU fumble, at NU 42).
- NEBRASKA - Henery FG 25, 9:25.
- (Drive: 12 plays, 55 yards, 5:30. Key play: Reed 10 reception on third-and-6, to ISU 37).
- NEBRASKA - Cassidy 29 interception return (Henery kick), 8:42.
- (Drive: NA).
- NEBRASKA - Burkhead 2 run (Henery kick), 0:21.
- (Drive: 11 plays, 56 yards, 5:06. Key play: Reed 29 reception to ISU 4, on third-and-12).
- ISU - Arnaud 1 run (Mahoney kick), 11:29.
- (Drive: 13 plays, 75 yards, 3:47. Key play: Lenz 31 reception on first-and-10).
- ISU - Robinson 13 pass from Arnaud (Mahoney kick), 10:40.
- (Drive: 3 plays, 13 yards, :44. Key play: NU's Paul fumbled kickoff return, ISU recovered at NU 13).
- NEBRASKA -- Burkhead 19 run (Henery kick).
- (Drive: 2 plays, 25 yards. Key play: NA).
- IOWA STATE -- Williams 9 pass from Arnaud (pass failed).
Att. - 51,159