Iowa State's football season started with promise but ended like so many other Cyclone campaign's -- with a loss.
Kansas University junior Carl Nesmith blocked Mike McKnight's 34-yard field-goal attempt with 26 seconds remaining to preserve a 31-28 Jayhawk victory Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"We haven't had any luck this year, and it's just continued," said Iowa State senior running back Darren Davis, who entered the season finale as the Big 12 Conference's leading rusher, but was held to 75 yards in his final college game.
Iowa State started the season by rolling through three non-conference victories, but the injury-plagued Cyclones lost seven of their last eight games and finished 4-7 overall and 1-7 in the league.
While Iowa State hasn't had a winning season since 1989, the 1999 season was especially painful for the Cyclones. Seven Iowa State starters missed games due to injuries, including four defensive starters who were sidelined Saturday.
With his offensive line hobbled, Davis failed to break the 100-yard mark in the final four games after rushing for 1,097 yards in the first seven contests.
Saturday's game also marked the fourth time Iowa State lost a Big 12 game by seven points or less this season. In the fourth game of the season, ISU led Kansas State 28-7 at halftime but lost 35-28. Other near-misses followed against Colorado and Texas.
Kansas (5-7, 3-5) added another bad memory for Iowa State, dropping the Cyclones into a last-place tie with Missouri in the final Big 12 North standings.
"It makes you hungry to be so close and get kicked back to the bottom where you don't want to be, and it makes you mad," ISU junior defensive end Reggie Hayward said. "I wish the season could start now because I know we could do much better."
Hayward gave Iowa State hope late in Saturday's game. After the Cyclones pulled within 31-28 on Sage Rosenfels' 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Brantley with 2:51 to play, Hayward recovered a KU fumble at the Iowa State 45-yard line 10 seconds later.
Rosenfels completed three passes to move Iowa State to the Kansas 22 with 1:41 remaining. Though the junior quarterback set career highs with 22 completions, 36 attempts, 332 yards passing and three touchdown passes, the Cyclones did not attempt another pass.
Davis carried the ball on three straight plays, netting five yards.
"We didn't want to take a chance on a sack and get out of field-goal range or a turnover, so we gave it to our best player and let him try to get us in position," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. "We were in great shape to put three on the board at that stage."
McKnight -- 7 of 13 on field-goal attempts this season -- had a kick blocked for the third time this year.
"We only won one more game than a year ago, but we made a lot of progress," said McCarney, whose team turned the ball over four times. "With the effort of the coaches and players, I'd like to have more than four wins right now. We have to learn from this. We've closed the gap immensely, and yet we have to realize what we have to do to win these conference games."
Paying tribute: McCarney said he will recommend that ISU retires the No. 28 jersey that brothers Darren Davis and Troy Davis both wore for the Cyclones. Troy Davis rushed for 4,382 yards for Iowa State, while his younger brother finished with 3,743 career yards.
Happy homecoming: Former KU recruit Reggie Moorer scored the first -- and only -- touchdown of his NCAA career for Iowa State, tying the game in the third quarter. Moorer was a red-shirt on KU's 1995 Aloha Bowl team, but academic problems forced him to transfer to Highland Community College.
The senior had caught only one pass this season, but he saw more playing time Saturday because of ISU's injury problems. He caught two passes for 63 yards against the Jayhawks, including the 48-yard TD.
"The fact that I started out my football career here made me want to play harder," Moorer said. "That was the most exciting feeling I've had since junior college."
Injury update: Iowa State's J.J. Moses fumbled a punt in the first quarter, suffered a hip-pointer on the play and did not return. The junior ranked fifth in the league in all-purpose yards coming in.
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