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Thursday, December 31, 2009
Instant analysis: ISU 14, Minnesota 13

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Iowa State pushed the Big 12's bowl record to 3-2 with an upset victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

Here's how the Cyclones pulled off the victory.

How the game was won: Minnesota was driving for a winning score when quarterback MarQueis Gray fumbled at the Iowa State 20. Cornerback Ter’ran Benton made the recovery to kill the Gophers’ final possession with 4:03 left in the game.

It’s notable: ISU’s victory snapped a 21-game winless streak against Minnesota. It was ISU’s first victory over the Gophers since notching a 6-0 triumph over the Gophers on Oct. 22, 1898.

Turning point: After struggling offensively through the beginning of the game, the Cyclones scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions late in the first half to account for all of their scoring. ISU went 71 yards on 10 plays on the first touchdown and executed offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s no-huddle offense to perfection on the following drive. Austen Arnaud completed all four passes on that 89-yard drive drive, capping it with a 38-yard strike to Jake Williams that boosted them to a 14-3 halftime advantage.

Alexander Robinson
Alexander Robinson dominated the match with a game-high 137 rushing yards.
Player of the game: ISU running back Alexander Robinson dominated with a game-high 137 rushing yards and a key 26-yard reception that helped tilt field position in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: 168:51. The amount of time between offensive touchdowns for Minnesota. Nick Tow-Arnett’s 23-yard touchdown pass from Adam Weber in the third quarter snapped a touchdown drought for the Gophers’ offense that dated to their game against Illinois on Nov. 7 - a stretch of more than 11 quarters.

Best call: Despite some earlier struggles, Arnaud’s 38-yard TD strike to Williams gave the Cyclones a comfortable halftime lead they were able to barely maintain for the rest of the game.

What it means: The 7-6 Cyclones finished a remarkable turnaround in Coach Paul Rhoads’ first season, improving by five games over their 2-10 record last season. It enabled them to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2005 as they claimed only the third bowl victory in the 118-season history of the program. And while 2009 made the Cyclones one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12, Rhoads will be hard-pressed to duplicate this season’s surprising success. The Cyclones schedule will become much harder next year with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Northern Illinois and Utah added to the schedule. It will be a huge challenge for the Cyclones to duplicate their first-season success with Rhoads.