116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State’s “moment” came in Norman, Okla., in 2017.
Quarterback Jacob Park didn’t make the trip and walk-on third string quarterback Kyle Kempt started for the Cyclones.
Iowa State upset No. 3 Oklahoma that day.
The freshmen on that team are seniors now. They view that game as the jumping-off point for Cyclone football.
On Saturday, Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) returns to Norman to take on the 13th-ranked, once-beaten and favored Sooners (9-1, 6-1). Kickoff is 11 a.m. (Fox).
“It would be quite the finale to a journey,” senior tight end Chase Allen said. “That started it all for me as a freshman playing in that game. That was my first recognition of if you buy into the process and do things the right way, then it can pay off.
“We’ve seen how that’s unfolded throughout mine and Coach (Matt) Campbell’s career here. Being able to finish how we started it, that would be storybook.”
Campbell, Iowa State’s head coach, has had more success than most coaches against the Sooners. He’s 2-3 against them and he’s never lost to Oklahoma by more than 10, including his first season when Iowa State went 3-9.
“We try to do everything in our power to give ourselves the best opportunity to win and what a consistent challenge it is going up against these Oklahoma teams,” Campbell said. “They’re well coached, there's elite talent, they do things the right way on and off the field, so it's a great challenge for our teams anytime we go there.
“And I think playing there is unique because it's such a special place to play with great tradition and great history.”
Campbell’s game plan for the Cyclones is simple. Defensively, get off the field on third downs. Offensively, keep drives alive and convert third downs.
Essentially, make sure Oklahoma has the ball for as little time as possible.
“I think that's how you feel when you’ve got to play these guys because what you're going against is elite,” Campbell said.
An important part of Iowa State’s offense staying on the field and converting third downs is tight end Charlie Kolar, who wasn’t recruited by his hometown team out of Norman North.
“I know it means a lot for Charlie to go home and play in front of his friends and family,” Campbell said. “It would for anybody.”
Campbell was quick to mention that while Kolar enjoys going back home, it doesn’t give him any extra motivation.
Campbell told the media an anecdote about Kolar’s competitiveness last week when Kolar played Campbell in pickleball. Campbell said Kolar has competitive excellence in any situation.
“I think that's what I love about Charlie, he’s competitive no matter what,” Campbell said. “He doesn't need some emotional attachment. And again, I think some of those emotional moments, those are areas we're still trying to find consistency as a team.
“Chuck is a guy that gives it every day. And I think that's why he's such a special player. And I think that's why he's one of the elite players at his position in college football.”
Kolar has said all he needs to say about returning home. He gets asked about it every time the Cyclones play there.
“Growing up around that stadium and program, it’s always exciting to go back,” Kolar said. “You shouldn’t need that kind of extra motivation to go play hard. If you’re implying that you need extra motivation to go back and play a team where you’re from, there’s something wrong with me. Obviously there’s a little more emotion, but in terms of the way you prepare and play, it should be the same.”
Kolar wasn’t on that 2017 trip to Norman. He was redshirting, so he didn’t get to experience the win in person.
Allen wants to remedy that for him.
“I want the hometown kid to go in there and wreak havoc,” Allen said.