AMES, Iowa — Losing a game was nothing new for Iowa State. The difference this time was how it came about.
After consistently falling out of contention early in games, the Cyclones couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead and fell to TCU 21-17 on Saturday, their sixth straight loss.
A bad punt and a big TCU run on fourth-and-1 set the stage for Trevone Boykin's game-winning 1-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left.
The narrow loss in a game that easily could have gone the Cyclones' way came after they had been outscored 170-41 in their three previous games.
"I wish I could put into words the feeling that's associated with a loss like this for all those young men, everybody in the program, in working so hard for success for all our fans," Iowa State Paul Rhoads said.
Linebacker Jeremiah George did his best to express what his coach couldn't.
"It's like somebody knocking the wind out of you and you're trying to catch your breath and get ready for the next play," he said. "It sucks, but you have to overcome it eventually."
Redshirt freshman Grant Rohach threw for 148 yards in his first start for the Cyclones (1-8, 0-6 Big 12), whose effort to ice the game ended when his third-down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage at the ISU 41.
Kirby Van Der Kamp had pinned TCU at its own 1-yard line with his previous punt, but he followed that with a miserable 17-yarder and the Horned Frogs (4-6, 2-5) went 58 yards in just 1:56 to erase Iowa State's 17-14 lead. Aaron Green keyed the drive with a 22-yard run on fourth-and-1 from midfield.
The final drive took the luster off perhaps ISU's best defensive effort of the season.
"Tremendous," Rhoads said. "They kept us in the football game. They gave our football team a hope that we could play 60 minutes and win a football game. Several key first down stops, tighter coverage than we've had, plays on balls in the air. We got caught in a couple of positions where we didn't make good tackles and that contributed to the loss."
Green finished with 72 yards on 19 carries, while Casey Pachall threw for 245 yards for the Horned Frogs, who broke a three-game losing streak. But Pachall also nearly threw the game away midway through the fourth quarter.
Pachall drove TCU from its own 1-yard line to the Iowa State 23 with consecutive completions to Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown. But Jevohn Miller drilled Carter on a third-down play to force out the ball, and George's interception kept the Horned Frogs from a potential game-tying field goal.
Deon Broomfield had an early interception for the Cyclones, who forced 11 TCU punts.
"After we played the way we know how to play today, it wasn't really a shock for us," George said. "We were like man, let's keep it going. We were having fun. We were playing fast, we were playing physical and it allowed us to get our confidence up a little bit more."
The Cyclones will need all the confidence they can muster because their next game is at Oklahoma, which is 70-5-2 against Iowa State.
Iowa State went into halftime trailing for the fourth game in a row, but DeVondrick Nealy brought the Cyclones even with one of the team's biggest plays of the season.
Nealy broke a pair of tackles en route to a 98-yard kickoff return — second-longest in school history — to open the second half.
That return sparked the Cyclones, who took their first lead in a month, 17-14, on Cole Netten's 35-yard field goal late in the third quarter. But Iowa State finished with just 283 yards on 82 plays and now has lost seven straight at home since beating Baylor on Oct. 27, 2012.
Even a system of rotating quarterbacks couldn't pull the Cyclones out of their funk. Rhoads alternated Rohach and previous starter Sam Richardson, sometimes on the same series.
"There's certain things right now we think Sam does better for us," Rhoads said. "Without divulging all those things, that was the plan. There were situations that we wanted to take advantage of with both of them."
It worked occasionally -- Richardson scored ISU's only offensive touchdown on a 15-yard run -- just not often enough.