AMES - In the end, it was a game - and a season - that brought out the best in both teams.
Iowa State simply made a few more plays at the right time and that's why the Cyclones beat Iowa 17-14 Saturday for their fourth straight victory in the series.
ISU will go to a bowl game for the second straight year and proved to be more than the one-hit wonder the cynics had proclaimed after the Cyclones' 9-3 season in 2000.
Iowa also could end up in a bowl, though the Hawkeyes' prospects are less certain. But even if the Hawkeyes are left out, they showed great progress after going 1-10 and 3-9 in their first two seasons under coach Kirk Ferentz.
It's the first time since 1960 the two schools had a winning season in the same year.
"I'm real happy that both programs had a winning record," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. "I'm happier that we won the game, but real happy for Kirk and their program. I'm glad to see both of them as winners."
Iowa got strong games from running back Ladell Betts and quarterback Kyle McCann, and fought back after falling behind 14-0 at halftime.
The Hawkeyes tied it in the third quarter on McCann's 14-yard touchdown pass to Betts and Betts' 42-yard TD run. Iowa State then regained the momentum with its defense and Tony Yelk kicked a 32-yard field goal eight seconds into the fourth quarter for the winning points.
"We played like a tight football team," Ferentz said. "Maybe we were a little too keyed up going into the game. We encouraged our guys to relax and play a little more reckless and I think we did a better job of that in the second half."
Betts rushed for 150 yards in 25 carries and ran his season total to 1,056 yards. McCann finished 13-of-17 for 131 yards. He was intercepted once and it was critical. Adam Runk picked it off at midfield with 1:37 left and Iowa State ran out the clock.
Afterward, the emotions of the moment overwhelmed Runk, a senior who never lost to Iowa.
"I just busted out crying," he said. "It all hit me at once, how far this team has come. We went from a 1-10 season to two bowl games. It's an unbelievable feeling."
Iowa State's Seneca Wallace, named the Big 12's offensive newcomer of the year on Saturday, was on the mark all afternoon. He completed 20-of-27 passes for 228 yards, including a 2-yarder to Lane Danielsen for a touchdown on Iowa State's first possession.
"A lot of these seniors are from Iowa and they really wanted that win," Wallace said. "I wanted to help them get it."
Wallace was intercepted once and it could have been costly, but wide receiver Craig Campbell saved him. Linebacker Grant Steen picked off the pass at the Iowa State 32 and was rumbling toward the goal line when Campbell, who played defensive back in high school, reached around and stripped the ball.
Running back Ennis Haywood recovered for Iowa State, which then ran almost six minutes off the clock before punting with just 3:41 left in the game.
Another key play came with Iowa State leading 7-0 late in the first half. Iowa's Kahlil Hill, back to field a punt, tried to grab the bouncing ball because he thought it had hit his foot. He couldn't control it and Ellis Hobbs recovered for Iowa State. Haywood ran 7 yards for a touchdown four plays later.
"The punt hurt us," Iowa defensive end Aaron Kampman. "It gave them a short field and they're up 14-0. Other than that, I thought we came out ready to play."
That was true all season long because Iowa was in every game it lost. The five losses were by a total of 27 points.
"The next thing we need to do is learn how to win the close ball games," Ferentz said. "The good news is we're in close ball games. We've climbed the ladder high enough to do that. Now we have to learn how to complete the deal."