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Iowa State believes it can forge ahead through deflating loss to Oklahoma State
Nov. 11, 2017 5:17 pm, Updated: Nov. 11, 2017 6:14 pm
AMES — Perhaps the strangest season in Iowa State football history got a little stranger on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. It was a four-hour ride to a deflating 49-42 loss for the No. 21 Cyclones to No. 15 Oklahoma State, but what a ride it was.
The offenses combined for 1,013 yards. There were four lead changes and three ties. Iowa State was up 14, down seven, back up eight and felt every manner of in and out of control over the course of 60 football minutes.
It was a game that in large part typified Iowa State's season, if only because it dealt with myriad highs and lows. It saw dreams of playing in the Big 12 championship game almost completely dashed with a game-ending interception in the end zone, but showed they belonged in that conversation to begin with.
The Cyclones' starting quarterback, who started this season a complete unknown on the third team, went out with a shoulder injury, giving way to the fourth quarterback to take a snap this season. Their running back shouldered a heavy load and came through in elusive, dazzling fashion several times. Iowa State's middle linebacker played 79 snaps in all three phases, threw a touchdown pass, rushed for one and had five tackles, including half a sack.
Head coach Matt Campbell pointed out the play that typified the game that typified the season — the touchdown pass that will be replayed for decades. Quarterback-turned-middle-linebacker-turned-quarterback Joel Lanning threw a back-shoulder fade to Allen Lazard, who tipped it with his left hand, caught it with just his right and stayed in bounds for a 22-yard touchdown that was an exercise in focus and perseverance.
'There's so much out there for this team to do, and they will because of who they are,' Campbell said. 'I think the reality of that play was so indicative of this football team and this season and just the ability to keep fighting and keep believing and keep playing.
'It tells who those two are, but it's a baseline of what our football team really is. They believe and they keep fighting.'
What starter Kyle Kempt (12 of 18 for 101 yards and one touchdown), reliever Zeb Noland (17 of 28 for 263 yards and that interception), running back David Montgomery (21 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns), Lanning and Lazard (nine catches for 126 yards and two scores) did was give Iowa State a chance.
What they did was show what it means to be ready when your number is called. What they did was show everyone around them that, as Campbell put it, they 'get it. They understand. They just keep coming back and keep working to get better. You never feel like you're out of a game. You always feel like you have a chance because of who they are.'
So yeah, there's still a lot left to play for — eight wins or more has only happened once since 1978 and five times since 1906. And yeah, maybe Saturday's loss was deflating, but an unfortunate truth about much of this Iowa State football team has led and can lead to something positive.
Most of the locker room has dealt with crushing losses. A lot of them. Most of the locker room has known mostly defeat. A lot of it. The Cyclones' slogan in recruiting has become 'A Storm is Brewing.' It's appropriate because of their mascot, sure, but in his postgame comments, Campbell used the storm analogy to point out his team turning the storm on its head.
In the past, this kind of result — especially the manner in which it ended — lets the air out of the Cyclones. It derails the good that's happened.
Maybe the hope of playing for their first conference championship since 1912 is essentially — if not mathematically — gone, but if there's reason to believe them when they say there's a lot left to play for, look at the three years before this one. Then look at the first four weeks of this season. Then look at how the Cyclones showed up against Oklahoma, against TCU; how they showed up Saturday — even if it didn't ultimately work out — despite the weight of some unfortunate ISU history on their shoulders.
'Their ability to stay the course and weather the storm — the storms have been really rough for those kids,' Campbell said. 'For three years, it's been a tough place to be. It hasn't been an easy ride for any of them. I think some of those gut-wrenching times that they've had — today's a tough loss, but they fought and they can look themselves in the mirror after today.
'I think there's been a lot of times in this program where it's been hard to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'This is important and I've put the time and effort in to be good.' This group has. It's what allows them to persevere and fight.'
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