The Cyclones began a drive at their own 12-yard-line after a booming Ohio punt with 2:21 left. But on the first play of the drive, quarterback Rocco Becht's pass was broken up by Ohio cornerback Roman Parodie, and the ball settled into the arms of Mathews to seal a signature win for the Bobcats (3-1).
“It's just a huge win for the program, it was huge win for the school,” said linebacker Bryce Houston, who led the Bobcats with 15 tackles.
Ohio, from the Mid-American Conference team, got its first win over a Power Five team since 2017 when they beat Kansas 42-30 at home.
“We were almost mistake-free,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said. “We're in a good spot. I can't wait to get to work tomorrow.”
Kurtis Rourke tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Sam Wiglusz in the third quarter, and Gianni Spetic added a 27-yard field goal for the Bobcats early in the fourth.
“A play that we've ran quite a bit since even last year, and it's almost like we haven't gotten the right look," Wiglusz said. “And then it was kind of like the stars aligned, and I was just running wide open.”
Iowa State (1-2) kicker Chase Contreraz missed field goals in the second and fourth quarters.
Rourke was 16 for 32 for 135 yards.
The Bobcats capitalized on Becht's first big mistake to finally crack the scoreboard in the third quarter.
Higgins fell making a cut on his pass route, and Becht was picked off by Ohio cornerback Torrie Cox.
Five plays later, Rourke found Wiglusz alone in the back of the end zone.
“They had the turnover, we got a touchdown on it, and we didn't have any,” Albin said.
The teams combined for 11 punts in the game.
“I thought defensively going into it, it was really going to be like that,” Albin said. “Nobody was panicked at halftime. The defensive effort kept us in it."
Iowa State was left scrambling when starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers and other key players were dismissed amid a gambling scandal before the season began. That thrust second-year player Becht into the role of leading the Cyclones offense. He was 17 for 24 for a career-high 233 yards, but the interceptions were critical.
“We just didn’t come in here with the sense of urgency we needed right off the bat," he said. “We kind of sensed it into the second half, (and) we started to pick it up a little bit.”
Some Iowa State players had been sick the past 48 hours, possibly from food poisoning, Carpenter said. Becht was one.
“It's just a weird deal,” Carpenter said. “It really ran through us in the last 48 hours.”
For whatever reasons, the Cyclones embarrassed themselves on the field, Carpenter said.
““The simplicity of it is that their kids wanted it more, they were the more physical team,” he said. "To win football games, I don’t care who it is, I don’t care where it is, especially on the road, the physicality’s got to show up. The run defense has got to show up. The lack of consistency, the lack of urgency, especially in some areas, continued to show up.”
Iowa State: Begins Big 12 play next Saturday afternoon with a home game against Oklahoma State.
Ohio: At Bowling Green next Saturday.