AMES — Iowa State has been in a position to play in the Big 12 championship game heading into November before.
Two seasons ago — when a freshman quarterback named Brock Purdy led Iowa State to five conference wins in a row — the Cyclones were in position before a loss to Texas.
Now, after beating Kansas handily, 52-22, on Saturday, Iowa State is tied atop the Big 12 standings again with Oklahoma State and Kansas State and controls its own destiny as November begins.
“There are a lot of positives but we still haven’t played our best football,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “No. 1, you want to be in a positive position, and we are and have been in the past. And No. 2, you want to have the ability to play your best football. I think that’s a real challenge because we haven’t done that. The great thing is I know our kids really care and it’s really important to them.”
In past seasons, Iowa State has peaked and then plateaued in October and has struggled more in November. The Cyclones went 2-2 last November, 3-1 in 2018 and 1-3 in 2017.
Campbell knows what he wants to see from his team this time around.
“I don’t doubt our resilience,” Campbell said. “The next step and the last step for us is a killer instinct. And that’s hard because Iowa State’s never had it. You have to learn how to kill. We know how to fight but it takes a special group to know how to kill.
“This is a program that has no idea how to kill and we have to figure out how to kill so we can take the next step.”
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Iowa State has shown flashes of what it can do offensively and defensively during various times this season. But it has yet to put a full four quarters together.
“This year, the senior class is really taking hold,” safety Greg Eisworth said. “We’ve been here for a while, we’ve been in this position before, we’ve been here in November with a shot to get to the Big 12 championship. We know what it feels like and we’re just trying to bring the younger guys along.
“We need to maximize each day to become that team that we think we’re capable of being.”
One of the young guys the seniors are bringing along is sophomore running back Breece Hall.
Campbell said Iowa State’s “A players are playing A football” and Hall certainly fits that description after rushing for more than 100 yards for the sixth time this season.
“When we’re playing our best we can play with anybody in the Big 12 and anybody in the nation,” Hall said. “When our offense is going good it’s really exciting. You have me running the ball and then you got Brock throwing the ball to Xavier (Hutchinson), Sean Shaw, Charlie (Kolar), Dylan (Soehner), Chase (Allen) and guys like that. Our offense gets pretty exciting once we get rolling.”
Campbell is ready to see how his team responds as the calendar flips.
“I think we’re growing and the reality we’re heading into November,” Campbell said. “As shocking as that is but it’s not a normal season and I can’t believe we’re almost in November. I’m excited and proud of our kids for where we are and I know the daunting task of knowing what we want to become. I know what’s against us and the challenge at hand.”