AMES, Iowa – Not even Sam Richardson's career night and the longest pass play in school history could keep Iowa State from another loss in a Big 12 opener.
The Cyclones were bedeviled by penalties throughout the game and finally fell in the final minute, losing to Texas 31-30 on Thursday night when quarterback Case McCoy scored on a 1-yard plunge with 51 seconds left.
It was Iowa State's 11th straight loss in a Big 12 opener — and this one might have been the most heartbreaking of all.
"It hurts pretty bad," Richardson said. "This is the one where you stay up all night and think about the two or three plays that you messed up that can change the game.
"It'll drive you nuts, but you have to put it to bed and move on to the next game because it's going to be just as tough."
Helped by two pass-interference penalties and a 15-yard walkoff for a horse-collar tackle, Texas drove 75 yards in just under 3 minutes for the winning touchdown, which came after two near fumbles by Jonathan Gray at the 1.
One the first, Gray appeared to be fighting for the end zone when Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George wrenched the ball from his grasp. But the officials ruled Gray was stopped and a review upheld the call.
"To make a play on the 1-yard line with our backs against the wall ... and have it taken away from them, that's hard to express," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said, his voice rising with each sentence. "You don't just put an arm around a guy and tell him it's OK when that happens to him."
Gray fumbled on the next play but fell on the ball, giving Texas another chance. McCoy squeezed in on the next play.
McCoy threw for 244 yards for the Longhorns, (3-2, 2-0), who will head into next week's game against Oklahoma with at least a share of first place in the Big 12. Iowa State (1-3), penalized 10 times for 118 yards, will try to regroup facing road games with Texas Tech and Baylor.
"Not everything went right," McCoy said. "We made mistakes, plenty of mistakes. But at the end of the night we battled, we fought and we came through and got a score at the end."
In a crucial game for both programs, momentum swung back and forth with every drive.
Iowa State's energy was seemingly squashed when McCoy found John Harris for a 44-yard touchdown strike to end the first half. McCoy heaved the ball toward the zone and Harris, surrounded by three defenders, leaped to make the grab.
"That was a killer for them," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
But the Cyclones revitalized a near-sellout crowd with the longest pass play in school history.
Richardson found Quenton Bundrage on a simple slant, and Bundrage outran the Texas secondary for a 97-yard score that gave Iowa State a 20-17 lead. Richardson finished 16 of 26 passing for 262 yards and added 83 yards rushing for a career-best 345 total yards.
Texas answered the big play with a 6-yard TD run by Joe Bergeron — which was set up by a pair of pass-interference calls that Iowa State fans also weren't happy about.
On the touchdown, Mike Davis lunged at the knees of Iowa State's Deon Broomfield, drawing a personal foul that could end up being much more than that once the Big 12 reviews the tape.
Aaron Wimberly, who rushed for 117 yards, gave the lead back to the Cyclones after a fumble with 11:32 left. Cole Netten's 29-yard field goal made it 30-24 with 3:40 to go.
It wasn't enough though, as the Longhorns embarked on the winning drive that might end up saving their season.
Jackson Jeffcoat's interception with 8 seconds left sealed the win for Texas.
McCoy started for the second time this season in place of the injured David Ash, who was out with concussion-like symptoms, and helped put Texas take a 10-0 lead before Iowa State rallied for 13 straight points.
McCoy was far from perfect. But on a night when the Longhorns and Mack Brown desperately needed a win, McCoy did just enough to help give them one — and deal an extraordinarily frustrating blow to Iowa State.