AMES — If the people most involved in Saturday’s upcoming Iowa-Iowa State game are filled with loathing and bile toward the other team, they may want to stage the contest in Hancher Auditorium rather than Kinnick Stadium.
Here in Iowa State’s football building Tuesday, the Cyclones who spoke to reporters Tuesday were great at acting. Acting respectful toward the Hawkeyes, that is.
There was no semblance of a Sutton Smith moment. Smith, Northern Illinois’ star defensive end, wrote some checks with his mouth last week that he and his team couldn’t cash at Iowa last Saturday. He said his team was coming to Kinnick “to punch them right in the face.”
The Hawkeyes had no perceivable scratches after their 33-7 victory.
About the only surprising remark here Tuesday was Cyclones starting offensive guard Josh Knipfel of Hampton twice calling the game “the Super Bowl of the state.”
Iowa Staters have been known to bristle when Hawkeye fans have called this game ISU’s Super Bowl. Which was always kind of lacking from a logic standpoint. When you rank the most-meaningful Cyclone wins of, oh, ever, you’d put last year’s triumph at Oklahoma about 8 miles above any of their victories over Iowa.
There have been 10 of those in the last 20 meetings, by the way. Also, none in the last three. Choose the stat of those two that makes you happiest. Anyway …
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“They’re good,” Knipfel said about Iowa’s defense. “They’re strong up front, they’ve got a lot of length, and it’s going to be a challenge for us. We’re going to have to show up.”
“You’ve got to really be technically sound when you play those guys,” said Cyclones linebacker Willie Harvey.
“I’ve learned you have to play four quarters when you play Iowa. So that’s what we’re going to focus on and what I’ll preach to my guys this week.”
It’s sixth-year senior quarterback Kyle Kempt’s first and only start against Iowa, and he’s not offering verbal red meat to Iowa’s defense.
“Great up front, good at the back end,” Kempt said. “They haven’t changed over the course of time. That will be a very good defense.
The players Campbell sent out to be interviewed Tuesday showed great discipline of their own. Or maybe they, and Iowa’s players as well, don’t take this series as personally as those who cheer for one side or the other. It’s a much-bigger game than Northern Illinois or Akron. It’s not nearly as significant as Wisconsin or Texas.
“I think the biggest game is the game we’re playing this week,” Kempt said.
A veteran cliché from a veteran player. But he’s probably right.
The so-called storyline of this game is one we’re not used to discussing. Both teams are coming off eight-win seasons and bowl victories. Both are supposed to be at least semi-good with potential to be more than that this season. When did we last say that?
The Cyclones served notice they weren’t the same old same old in their 44-41 overtime home defeat to Iowa last September. That was a match the Hawkeyes wrestled away in the fourth quarter and OT.
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After that, Iowa State won at Akron, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Baylor, and earned an unofficial road triumph by beating Memphis in the Liberty Bowl. That wasn’t the ISU we’ve known for so long, either.
“Doing our thing, playing our game, not worrying about the environment,” Harvey said when asked what changed for his team on the road.
When he, Knipfel and Kempt were asked about the Kinnick atmosphere, all spoke of it admiringly.
“It’ll be a great environment,” said Kempt.
“Kinnick is going to be jacked and rocking,” Knipfel said. “It’s just going to be a lot of fun.”
If there is pregame bile and loathing, it will have to be found amid the pregame tailgating. It’s often hidden behind the sneaky camaraderie between the two groups of fans that’s always visible in the stadium parking lots.
It’s the Super Bowl of the state. Then, conference play starts and the games get bigger.
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