ORLANDO, Fla. — Iowa State is still getting used to the big stage in college football.
To put it kindly, Iowa State has been, historically, mediocre. Over the past three seasons under coach Matt Campbell, ISU has played in a number big-stage games — games that actually meant something.
The Cyclones have had mixed results.
They beat No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 TCU and — in the Liberty Bowl — No. 19 Memphis in 2017. They beat No. 6 West Virginia last season.
On the other side of that coin, Iowa State lost to Texas last year in a game that could’ve put the Cyclones in the driver’s seat to play in the Big 12 championship game. They also lost the Alamo Bowl to No. 12 Washington State.
This season, when College GameDay went to Ames, Iowa State lost to rival Iowa. Iowa State also lost to Baylor by two and Oklahoma by one.
“We’ve been on a lot of big stages this year and sometimes the fear of making a mistake can paralyze you a little bit,” Campbell said. “You’ve seen in some of the games this year we haven’t gotten off to a great start and I think that has to do with the fact we’re going through this for the first time.”
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy got off to a bad start in the Alamo Bowl last year, tossing interceptions on the Cyclones’ first two drives.
Purdy, then a true freshman, steadied the ship after the second interception and finished the night completing 18 of his 27 passing attempts for 315 yards. He also rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a big learning experience for Purdy.
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“It was huge for a guy like Brock to get on a stage like that last year and feel it,” Campbell said. “Now he’s on his second time and you’ve seen him learn from his experiences.”
He can show what he learned Saturday at 11 a.m. as Iowa State plays No. 15 Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl.
Iowa State wants to win for the seniors
Bowl games are one last hurrah for the seniors, and Iowa State has had some pretty impressive players in its senior class.
The likes of Ray Lima, Marcel Spears, Deshaunte Jones and almost the whole offensive line will be playing their last game in an Iowa State uniform.
“Sending these seniors out the right way is important,” sophomore linebacker Mike Rose said. “And a win would be a huge jumpstart into next season. For the young guys, a win like this will go a long way for next season.”
Jones can’t help but to reflect and see how far the program has come in his four years at Iowa State.
“It shows the hard work that we’ve put in,” Jones said. “We’ve been to three bowl games in three years. That’s a credit to the coaching staff, the players and our fan base.”
No days off, no days off, no days off ...
Similar to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s infamous “No days off” chant after the team’s latest Super Bowl victory, Campbell is making sure his players are focused on what’s important.
“You want to give a chance to experience the bowl trip because they’ve earned it,” Campbell said. “But I’m a competitor and so are our coaches. We’re not coming down here for vacation, we’re coming down here to be the best version of ourselves we can be. And we’re going to have to be to be able to compete against an opponent like this. That part is exciting.”
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