AMES — Iowa State teams of old fold down 10-0 to Texas.
Not this one.
This one comes back and wins 23-20.
“It felt like our backs were against the wall for the whole game,” coach Matt Campbell said Friday. “We understand that we have to keep playing and not look at the scoreboard. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t our best football game by any stretch of the imagination, I thought our detail was just OK but when we needed to make plays — and that’s what really good teams do — we made plays.”
Campbell has been impressed with his team’s steadfastness not just in this game, but since the spring when COVID-19 rocked the world.
“It’s still about mental toughness,” Campbell said. “If you’re a football team that’s playing good football right now and you’re playing in meaningful games, then what this year has been for these kids, I don’t know if it’s being written about enough. These are 18-to-22-year-old kids. This isn’t the National Football League. They’re not getting paid to play.
“The mental challenge of what this season has been on every one of these 18-to-22-year-olds, man, it’s been gut-wrenching. I feel for a lot of them. To be able to stay the course, it certainly says a lot about their mental toughness. We still have a long road to ho and can we stay the course? Those challenges can feel overwhelming but our kids have done an incredible job.”
Tight ends come through … again
Iowa State has three All-Big 12 caliber tight ends and on Friday, the Cyclones showcased them.
Charlie Kolar led Iowa State in receiving with six catches for 131 yards and Dylan Soehner had five catches for 69 yards.
“We didn’t go into this week saying, ‘We need to get Soehner more balls,’” Soehner said with a chuckle. “It just happened. I caught a couple more than usual but Charlie, what a great game by that guy. Every time I turned around and it wasn’t coming at me, it was going to him.”
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While the game plan wasn’t necessarily to get Soehner more catches, it was to get the tight ends involved early and often.
And it was to get them involved in a different fashion. Normally, quarterback Brock Purdy hits the tight ends in the flats or on an out route.
“Charlie did a great job of getting separation, so did Dylan and Chase,” Purdy said. “Going into the game, coach (offensive coordinator Tom) Manning had an emphasis on how we were going to use them, vertically. I thought we did a great job with the play-action and the offensive line and the running backs did a great job of selling that. That opened it all up for the offense.”
Receiver Tarique Milton played in his first game since Oct. 3 against Oklahoma when he injured his shoulder.
The junior had six receptions for 32 yards against Texas. While the yardage doesn’t pop off the page, three of his six catches were on third down to keep drives alive.