AMES — Iowa State and Kansas State traditionally play football games that end with margins that are within one score.
That didn’t happen Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
No. 17 Iowa State pummeled Kansas State 45-0 and improved to 6-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big 12 to maintain its conference-leading pace.
A lot of positive things happened for the Cyclones against the Wildcats (4-4, 4-3). So many in fact that coach Matt Campbell used the word 12 times in the first eight questions that were asked to him during the postgame press conference.
But it wasn’t perfect.
“We took a positive step,” Campbell said. “All good football teams want to take a positive step in November. We’ve played two games in November and I’ve seen a lot really positive growth in those games. I think a real challenge for football teams this time of year is, can you get better? I think you see us improving and that part is really big for our football team. The real challenge is can you continue to do those things? We’ll find out a lot about ourselves as we continue on this journey.”
It’s something the team has bought into. All of the players who were made available to the meda after the game — Xavier Hutchinson, Breece Hall, Sean Foster and Greg Eisworth — acknowledged how well the team played. But they all mentioned the mindset the team has to keep improving.
“I think it was the best game we’ve played,” Hutchinson said. “I think that was probably the best we’ve played. And the great part is, I think we can still play a lot better. We still have a lot more room for growth and I’m excited for us to reach that full, full potential.”
It makes one wonder what the full potential looks like.
Quarterback Brock Purdy and Hall had no problems carving up Kansas State’s defense.
Purdy played three quarters and was 16 for 20 with 236 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 59 yards.
Hutchinson had a first half to remember with five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The junior ended with six catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Hall also played just three quarters and rushed the ball 15 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Mike Rose was dominant once again. The junior linebacker had seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.
Defensive end Will McDonald also gave Kansas State’s offensive line fits all night. He had four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles.
Iowa State outgained Kansas State 539 to 149. The only time Kansas State even threatened to score was its first drive of the game. The Wildcats drove right down the field, but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Since that 62-yard opening drive, Kansas State gained just 87 yards the rest of the game.
Iowa State forced three turnovers — Rose’s interception and the two fumbles — and two turnovers on downs.
But the team still sees more out there.
“I think that demand would be there even if we didn’t have a win,” Eisworth said. “I feel like it’s pointless to do something if you’re not going to do it to the best of your ability. The scoreboard is what it is, but the question we ask ourselves is, ‘Did we reach our full potential?’”
Right now, the team’s answer is a resounding, “no.” But it’s one thing to say you haven’t peaked and it’s another to prove you haven’t peaked.
“I think for me, it’s not about offense and defense,” Campbell said. “I think when we’re playing great football, we’re playing as one team. And you saw that again tonight in a lot of the football game. It’s the defense getting the ball back for the offense. The offense efficiently moving the football.
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“It’s playing together and that part is what good football teams do. We’re not just offense. We’re not just defense. We’re a team and that’s what we strive to be. So I think in general, you’re seeing us getting better playing the sport of football and playing team football along the way. And for that I am really proud of our guys’ growth. We will have to continue to grow, because those things will only get harder and more challenging.”
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