AMES — Iowa State’s football team let the biggest game in program history slip through its hands last Saturday against Texas.
The Cyclones (6-4, 5-3) were in control of their own destiny on the path to the Big 12 Conference Championship game and a win meant they were one step closer along that path.
But Iowa State fell 24-10 and now is out of the race.
Just because the Cyclones lost doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to play for, however.
Iowa State has only won nine games once in the modern era, and Coach Matt Campbell’s team has a legitimate shot at reaching that total for a third time in Iowa State history. The other two nine-win seasons came in 1906 and 2000.
Iowa State also has never won six conference games in its history. A win Saturday against Kansas State (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) would be Iowa State’s sixth conference win.
But Campbell doesn’t want milestones to be the team’s motivation.
“To me, if that’s our motivation, then what the heck have we been doing all season?” Campbell said. “I’m such a firm believer of judging the whole at the end of the season — not judge it where we are at Week 10, 11 or 12. Obviously you want to be playing meaningful games and you want to keep improving, and winning is important. But to me, I think what’s so valuable is to get through the season and then ask, ‘Did we reach our full potential?’
“That’s what I’m constantly straining and striving to get our team to understand. To be honest, I think this team does get it and I think this team knows those things. There are certainly great things to play for and it’s great to be playing meaningful games.”
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Campbell has made the players understand that a loss — especially an important one — doesn’t mean it’s the end of the season.
Cornerback Brian Peavy said the players’ ability to bounce back after a loss and have a short memory has improved tremendously under Campbell.
“Most of the guys in the locker room understand how to move forward and how to thrive through trials and adversity,” Peavy said.
The redshirt senior also brought up another good point.
“We just played one of the biggest games in school history, if not the biggest,” Peavy said. “In my younger years, we were 2-9, 3-9 — whatever it was with no fighting chance. Now, there’s hope here and we’re trying to build a solid environment and great culture.”
Sixth-year senior quarterback Kyle Kempt’s year hasn’t gone at all how he expected it to, but he’s doing his best to help Campbell instill his message.
“For us, me being a leader and being a captain, you have to be that consistent person because at the end of the day, we can’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows,” Kempt said. “We have to keep pushing forward, just like this. We had a tough loss and now the outside world is like, ‘Well what do you have left to play for?’
“We still have everything to play for. We’re still playing a team we haven’t beat in 10 years and we have to send our seniors out the right way and we have a postseason game as well.”
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