FRISCO, Texas — Last season, Iowa State finished 8-5 and won the Liberty Bowl. The Cyclones’ five losses came by 25 total points with only one of those setbacks being by more than a touchdown, a 17-7 home defeat to Texas on Sept. 16.
And for third-year ISU head coach Matt Campbell, the lessons learned from those near-misses and from the year before are still fresh for him and his team.
“I thought it was big. I think way more important than some of the wins that we were able to have a year ago were some of those gut-wrenching losses,” Campbell said Monday during Big 12 Conference Media Days. “That’s what I loved about our senior class a year ago, is we never repeated the same mistake twice or we had the ability to learn from them.
“You look at last year and you easily say not look what we did, but you say what could have been. We’ve got to start back up at square one and rebuild this thing again the right way.”
The first of those losses came Sept. 9 when the Cyclones fell, 44-41, in overtime to Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium. Sixth-year senior ISU quarterback Kyle Kempt didn’t play in that loss, but emerged as the starting signal caller nearly a month later at Oklahoma.
Kempt knows how crucial beating Iowa at Kinnick Stadium to start this season 2-0 is to the Cyclones’ chances of bettering their 2017 accomplishments.
“It’s very important,” Kempt said. “Just for Iowa State fans in general and for the whole state, it’s an extremely competitive rivalry, so it’s extremely important for us to be ready for that game.”
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ISU senior cornerback Brian Peavy remembers those losses well, not just the scores, but the chain of events that led to each 2017 defeat.
“A lot of people see the last play and think that defines why we lost the game, but there’s a lot of plays left on the field that we could have capitalized on,” Peavy said. “That’s what we break down.”
For Campbell, who is 11-14 at ISU, the key to building on last season’s success boils down to consistency, a goal he feels the Cyclones can achieve provided they continue moving forward from the close losses of 2016 and 2017.
“Well, I think the next step is adding some consistency to our football program,” he said. “When you look at Iowa State football the last 20 years, sustaining success over an extended period of time hasn’t really happened. I think the key for us is to show the ability to sustain success.
“I think a lot of great opportunities (exist) for this year’s team to maybe take another step.”