AMES — Iowa State has won, at minimum, a share of the Big 12 regular-season title after beating Texas, 23-20, on Friday.
The Cyclones have all but punched their ticket to Arlington, Texas, to play in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 19.
Iowa State, its players and coaches have plenty of reasons to celebrate.
But that celebration has already been over for a while now. Iowa State plays West Virginia on Dec. 5.
“I think we’d be really disappointed if we didn’t get on the plane and flush this game,” Campbell said in the postgame news conference. “We can enjoy the fact that we won, but by (Saturday), we have to be ready to sit and dissect it and figure out what didn’t we do well? What do we need to get better at? And how do we continue to improve?”
Campbell will be able to find plenty to dissect. Like why did Iowa State get to the red zone four times and only get one touchdown? Why did the defense allow 212 yards in the first quarter? Or why did the least penalized team in the Big 12 get called for seven penalties?
“It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t our best football game by any stretch of the imagination,” Campbell said. “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.”
The other thing good teams do, according to Campbell, is improve from week-to-week, which is something Iowa State has done to this point.
The Cyclones have won four straight after a narrow 24-21 loss to Oklahoma State on Oct 24.
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“I think that’s the story of this team,” Campbell said. “This team has gotten better each and every week. There’s still a lot to do and a lot to play for but the fact of the matter is, we’re playing another really talented football team next week. If we want to continue to grow and reach our full potential, then we have to come back and take the same approach.”
The players have heard Campbell’s message loud and clear.
“It’s going to be the same that it’s always been,” safety Greg Eisworth said. “Obviously we’re right where we want to be but we talked about this before the season even started. It’s obviously a big win and we’re going to celebrate and enjoy it but the next time we step on the practice field, we’re going to be locked in and focused like we have been all year.”
A win against West Virginia and Iowa State wins the Big 12 regular season outright. Lose, and the Cyclones still are likely headed to Arlington, but there is one scenario where Iowa State doesn’t make it.
If Oklahoma beats Baylor, Oklahoma State beats TCU and Kansas State beats Texas on Saturday, then Oklahoma State would have to beat Baylor, Kansas would have to beat Texas and Oklahoma would have to beat West Virginia on Dec. 12 for Iowa State to not play in Arlington.
All of those things would have to happen for Iowa State to not play in the Big 12 championship game. That’s why ESPN’s FPI gives the Cyclones a 99 percent chance to play in the title game.
“(Playing in championship games) is why I came here,” quarterback Brock Purdy said. “Coach Campbell told me his vision of what this program could be and I believed in it. Since I stepped on the field, that’s been the mission and the goal for my team and myself.
“Being in this position, nothing’s going to change. I’m going to have the same mindset and learn from the mistakes of this game. But I need to always remember this is why I came here and this is what the ultimate goal and mission is.”