AMES | After being battered for 212 points and 2,252 yards in its last four games, Iowa State's defense was very solid in the Cyclones' 21-17 loss to TCU Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Horned Frogs had seven possessions where they went three-and-out, and an eighth drive that resulted in five plays for zero yards.
The Cyclones picked off two passes, both of them huge, one at the goal line with 36 seconds left in the first half and another that stopped a TCU drive deep into ISU territory in the fourth quarter.
Additionally, ISU had five tackles for loss and held the Horned Frogs to 3.2 yards per carry on 38 rush attempts.
"Tremendous," ISU head coach Paul Rhoads said of his defense's performance. "They kept us in the football game. They gave our football team hope that we could play 60 minutes and win a football game."
Challenged to play with emotion, ISU's defense got a big game as usual from senior linebacker Jeremiah George as well as defensive lineman Cory Morrissey and Rodney Coe, and junior linebacker Jevohn Miller.
"We played with swagger," said George who finished with nine tackles, seven of them solo. "That is what we talked about, having emotion and not just playing X's and O's out there and really flowing to the football."
ISU also saw an outstanding effort from its defensive backfield as the Cyclones recorded six pass break-ups.
"I think we played pretty much lights out except for that last drive," safety Deon Broomfield said. "I think it was probably one of our best games defensively this year."
TCU finished with just 368 yards on 74 plays.
SPECIAL, SPECIAL TEAMS: DeVondrick Nealy's 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown to start the second half was ISU's second kickoff return for touchdown of the season. That is the first time ISU, which didn't have a kickoff return for touchdown from 2005-2012, has had two kickoff returns for a touchdown in the same season since 1963.
"Outstanding," Rhoads said of his team's special team units. "You can't have a kickoff return without a lot of contribution, but DeVondrick's individual effort on that play was one of the better we've seen this season. Strength, grit and speed."
ISU's other kickoff return for touchdown this season was by Jarvis West for 95 yards against Texas Tech.
The Cyclones also executed a successful fake punt/pass that resulted in a 25-yard completion from punter Kirby Van Der Kamp to Justin Coleman in the second quarter. The play set up a 15-yard Sam Richardson touchdown run one player later.
QUARTERBACK ROTATION: At times even the play-by-play and color commentator on Fox Sports Net got confused on whom was playing quarterback for the Cyclones.
Freshman Grant Rohach got the start Saturday and played the majority of snaps, but Richardson played between 10 and 20 of ISU's 82 snaps. And sometimes, Rohach and Richardson swapped out on consecutive plays.
"Yeah, we knew it was going to be a two-quarterback system," Rohach said after the game. "I knew I was going to get the start and that Sam could come in at any time and to be prepared for it."
There was speculation that a thumb injury that Richardson's been trying to play through was the cause of Rohach starting and throwing 38 of ISU's 40 attempted passes. Richardson only attempted one pass which came late in the fourth quarter and was batted down.
Rhoads confirmed Richardson had a thumb injury, but added there were pass plays in Richardson's offensive package of plays.
"There are certain things right now that we think Sam does better for us and without divulging all of those things that was the plan," Rhoads said. "There were certain things that we wanted to take advantage with both quarterbacks.
"He did not, not attempt a pass because of the thumb."