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AMES — College football this season has been a collage of adversity for nearly every team.
A top-10 Iowa State team lost two of its first four games, an undefeated Iowa team beat Penn State one week and lost to Purdue the next. Oklahoma’s Heisman-favorite quarterback got benched for a true freshman and Clemson, which has been one of the best teams in the country for the past five or more years, has looked pedestrian at best.
Heck, even Alabama lost a regular-season game, which seemingly never happens.
“If you look around college football, you see adversity everywhere,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “I don’t know where it’s not happening. And it’ll continue to happen, to be honest with you. Our year will only get crazier in every way, shape and form.
“I felt like I saw that coming from a mile away. It’s 2021 and we’re coming off a year where everyone is in their bubble and everyone is under unique and different situations and then man, the world is exploding and opening back up and you just have so much stuff going on. I don’t even think we’ve hit the tip of the iceberg of what craziness looks like in college football this season.”
It’s going to be about which teams can weather the storm and come out the other side.
“Can you keep your head down and keep improving?” Campbell said. “What it takes to be successful hasn’t changed, but the environment around it has evolved and changed. If you keep your head down and keep improving, then I think you’ll be where you need to be, when you need to be there.”
Sunset for seniors
Linebacker Mike Rose said last week it has felt like he’s been at Iowa State forever, but this season has flown by. It’s a sentiment other seniors have echoed as well, like safety Greg Eisworth.
The Cyclones only have six games left and while Rose and Eisworth could have long professional careers, for many, these will be the last six games they play.
Campbell wants to make sure they enjoy it.
“We talked a lot about that last Friday night before the Kansas State game,” Campbell said. “We’re coming off the bye week, which felt like the midway point of the season and it’s kind of a downward sprint from here. When you have so many of these guys that you care about greatly, you know this is going to fly by and we’re going to be in January (snaps fingers) like that. You want them to enjoy the time that they have together.”
This isn’t Campbell’s first full recruiting class, but a lot of these seniors committed to Iowa State when a promise of being a consistently good program was not certain.
“Regardless of the winning and losing, this is a group of special human beings,” Campbell said. “This group being together for six more guaranteed opportunities and for two more months, man, for them to enjoy each other and continue to fight for each other — I think it’s hard to find unity in our world today. True unity.
“Unity where you have the ability to put others above yourself and put your own ass on the line for something — it’s hard to find that anywhere. These guys get to continue to do that and it’s a group that’s done it for a long time.”
Isheem Young is a special talent
Safety Isheem Young is like no one Campbell has been around.
The sophomore has incredible instincts and has the physicality to make his presence known. Young is fourth on the team in tackles with 25. He also has two interceptions, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.
“I don’t know if we’ve had anybody quite as physical as Isheem — at least during my tenure here,” Campbell said. “He is fearless, he has this great power at the point of attack and those things make him special. One area that Isheem is really great at is he has great anticipation. He really does an unbelievable job of being able to track the football. The position he plays allows that to happen freely.
“His ability to be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there is exceptional. That has really allowed his physical traits to show up.”