Iowa State had plenty to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. How about a 14-13 victory over Minnesota in the 21st Annual Cactus Bowl, which clinched the Cyclones’ first winning season since 2005?
Iowa State beat its border rival for only the third time in 26 meetings – and for the first time since 1898. The Big 12 won its fourth straight Cactus Bowl against the Big Ten.
Alexander Robinson ran for 137 yards to take offensive player of the game honors, while teammate Austen Arnaud threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Cyclones notched their second Cactus Bowl victory, the first coming against Pittsburgh in 2000.
Minnesota’s Adam Weber threw for 261 yards and a touchdown, and Kyle Theret tied a Cactus Bowl record with two interceptions and also caught a 40-yard pass on a fake punt.
The Cyclones spotted Minnesota a 3-0 first quarter lead. But they stunned the Golden Gophers with two quick scores — a 9-yard scamper by Arnaud and a 38-yard strike from Arnaud to Jake Williams — to takea 14-3 halftime lead.
The Gophers still trailed by 11 midway through the third period when coach Tim Brewster reached into his bag of tricks. On fourth-and-4 at Minnesota’s 37-yard line, punter Blake Haudan hit a wide-open Theret for 40 yards — the junior defensive back’s first career reception.
One play later, Weber hit tight end Nick Tow-Arnett for a 23-yard score, slicing Iowa State’s lead to 14-10.
The Gophers pulled to within a point on a 21-yard field goal by Eric Ellestad late in the third quarter. Minnesota had rallied for four victories in the fourth quarter during the regular season, but this time, the Golden Gophers came up short.
With a 7-6 finish, first-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads became the first Cyclones coach to post a winning record in his debut season since George Veenker went 5-3 in 1931.