Iowa State Cyclones

The next step for Iowa State football is in the details

Cyclones could return exceptional senior class depending on NFL decisions

Matt Campbell leads the Iowa State Cyclones onto the Alamodome field in San Antonio, Texas before the Alamo Bowl against Washington State on Friday night. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)
Matt Campbell leads the Iowa State Cyclones onto the Alamodome field in San Antonio, Texas before the Alamo Bowl against Washington State on Friday night. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

SAN ANTONIO — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell has one prominent goal he wants his football team to achieve each season.

First, Iowa State had to learn how to compete. Check. Then, it had to learn how to win. Check.

This season, the Cyclones had to learn how to handle expectations. Check.

Now, after No. 24 Iowa State’s 28-26 loss to No. 13 Washington State in Friday’s Alamo Bowl, Campbell already has his goal for next season.

Details.

“For this football team, really simple: I’m really proud of what this team stands for,” Campbell said. “I think if you look at our football team and our football program, you’re talking about a team that just like you saw (Friday night), never quits, plays with elite attitude and elite effort, is a team that demands to continue to get better. I think the missing piece for us right now is in the detail, and you want to take the next step in this program.

“We had to learn how to be consistent, we had to learn to prove that we could win with consistency here at Iowa State. We’ve proven that. Now to take the next step in this program, it’s detail, and it’s really what got us tonight really in all three phases of the game.”

On special teams, Iowa State let up on a 45-yard kick return that set up a Washington State touchdown at the end of the first half.

On offense, Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy threw two interceptions early in the game — one that was returned for a touchdown except Washington State cornerback Marcus Strong was called for unsportsmanlike conduct as he began celebrating before he reached the end zone. Washington State scored three plays later anyway.

On defense, Iowa State had missed tackles and blown assignments in the secondary that hurt early. The Cyclones also had two players ejected for targeting.

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“Our margin for error with the people we play and the opponents we play against has always got to be small,” Campbell said. “Tackling in space, running and converting the right routes, throwing the ball to the right people, taking care of the football, those things have to be the difference makers. If you turn it over three times in a football game like we did today, it’s really hard for us to win, and it doesn’t matter who we play and that’s not to knock Washington State at all, because they are a tremendous football team. We have to know who we are and what gives us the best chance for Iowa State to be really successful.”

The junior class has a chance to be a special senior class next season — especially if running back David Montgomery and receiver Hakeem Butler return.

“Well, I would certainly think our kids and how they played give us hope,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t ask for a group of kids to work any harder than what our kids do, and I really think this group has gotten better as this season has gone on, and it’s a really young football team in a lot of ways.

“There are a lot of guys that played a lot of football in this upcoming senior class that have had a huge impact, so I think our leadership coming into this coming year has got a chance to be really special, which is exciting from my end of it. I think that’s a credit to the last two senior classes and what they’ve taught us of how to do things the right way.”

Cornerback Brian Peavy was a big part of that senior class.

“First off, definitely not settling for less,” Peavy said. “My years here, we had two-win seasons, three-win seasons and now we’re changing the culture of the program. So, what I wanted to leave as my legacy is basically we before me, putting your teammates before yourself, and just serving those around you. I think I did a good job with that.”

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