AMES — Iowa State has had a historic football season to this point.
The Cyclones were 5-1 in Big 12 play for the first time ever and are now 6-1 in conference play and atop the Big 12 standings.
Iowa State is in position to play in the Big 12 championship game but first, it has to overcome the biggest challenge it has faced.
The 15th-ranked Cyclones clobbered a good Kansas State team 45-0 on Saturday. Iowa State’s reward? A short turnaround for a game against a Texas team on Friday that’s ranked No. 20 and is 4-2 in the Big 12.
“This is going to be one of the great challenges that I’ve had as a coach and we’ve had as a program,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “This is going to be really hard. But I feel like that’s what you want this time of year. You want hard, tough challenges that are defining of who you are and who you become.”
A win against Texas and Iowa State is almost assured a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
But Campbell believes that looming possibility is not where the difficulty lies.
“Coming and playing on a short week, that’s hard in our sport,” Campbell said. “This isn’t a non-contact sport. This is a hard, tough sport. Getting a short week is not easy.”
Add in the fact that Texas is more than well rested because its game against Kansas was postponed on Saturday due to Kansas’ COVID-19 issues and Texas was coming off a bye week before the scheduled Kansas game.
“Then the second part, you’re playing an outstanding football team,” Campbell said. “Really good challenges sit in front of us. We’ll have to do a great job in preparation and be ready to play at our max capacity by Friday.”
Running back Breece Hall said that preparation started Saturday.
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“We have to start our recovery process early, get in the film room and come with the same approach,” Hall said. “We play a day earlier next week but I feel like we didn’t get beat up too much (Saturday), we all got out early. Starting tonight we have to start that recovery process so we’re ready to play next Friday.”
For the first time in the Campbell era, Iowa State began November 2-0. That’s a huge step in the right direction for the Cyclones, who have struggled in previous Novembers.
Safety Greg Eisworth said it’s because of the team’s new collective mindset.
“(Defensive coordinator John) Heacock always says, ‘One step, one breath.’ It’s about the ability to reflect and figure out what you could do differently,” Eisworth said. “It’s insanity to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. We really tried to work from the inside out. We’re all one brain right now moving together and I’m really excited moving forward.”
Senior offensive lineman Sean Foster has noticed a new attitude in Ames.
“Getting a 45-0 win like we did (Saturday), yes that’s huge but tomorrow, we know that there’s a big opponent in Texas later in the week,” Foster said. “Like some of the linemen said after the game, we were ready to go for two or three more quarters. We have a lot of guys on the offense and defense that just love the game.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve actually seen the love of the game go all the way through November and through to December. Everyone loves football and loves each other more than any team I’ve been a part of and that gives us a chance.”
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