SAN ANTONIO — Iowa State redshirt seniors have faced some of the lowest lows as Cyclones, going 2-10, 3-9 and 3-9 in their first three seasons.
Now, over the past two seasons, they have a chance to reach the highest of highs in program history — winning 17 games over two seasons, something that’s never been done before in Iowa State history. An Alamo Bowl victory over Washington State at 8 p.m. Friday would seal the feat.
“We owe everything to Cyclone Nation, being with us through the two and three-win seasons, but just the fact that Coach (Matt) Campbell came here, and he really changed the process and he changed what we thought as players,” linebacker Willie Harvey said. “He changed my life forever because after my second year I really was done with football.”
Cornerback Brian Peavy admitted he thought about transferring after his redshirt freshman season.
“I started starting and I was putting may all in to it and we weren’t winning,” Peavy said. “I thought that’s how it worked — you put in work and then you win, and I wasn’t seeing any reward from my work. I started to question what is work ethic, what is this all about? From what I knew, the team worked hard, and I thought we deserved to win more than two games. That’s when I was at rock bottom because I didn’t know how to get from rock bottom.”
But, from the leadership of Campbell and his coaching staff, Iowa State got it turned around, and now is playing in the Big 12’s best non-New Year’s Six bowl.
“It’s very big for Cyclone Nation, all the support they gave us through those two-win seasons, three-win seasons, and to basically give back to our community, like I said, they’ve been there through the ups and downs,” Peavy said. “That’s been big for this program, not only us. Just to see the fruits of our labor, and it’s perfect how coach Campbell came in with ‘trust the process’ and you can see it in our journey and how our process has went.”
For the second straight season, Iowa State is going bowling.
What have players noticed in terms of differences so far?
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“The weather is way better here,” running back David Montgomery said, compared to last year’s Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
But in all seriousness, the Cyclones feel way more prepared for their second go-around.
“Last year it was a lot of people’s first bowl game, and we didn’t really understand the experience, but we experienced it, we handled it, and we came out with a victory,” receiver Hakeem Butler said. “This year, we know how to prepare and how to take care of ourselves, and we’re just enjoying ourselves and getting ready for the game.”
Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard’s latest fan projection is 25,000 Cyclone fans at the Alamo Bowl.
Fans have begun pouring into San Antonio and cardinal and gold already has started taking over the River Walk.
“Yeah, that Cyclone Nation, definitely known to travel,” Peavy said. “Like I said before, I know we’re doing this for our community. They believed in us when we were nothing, and we’re here to serve them now. Yeah, you’ll see red and gold all over San Antonio this weekend.”
Last season, Iowa State was projected to have 15,000 fans at the Liberty Bowl and it ended up having about 25,000.
“They’re traveling to see a bowl game, and last year was pretty cold, and so this year, better weather,” Butler said. “The turnout, nobody knows what is coming, really.”
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