AMES — Iowa State doesn’t get five-star football recruits and it only has a handful of four-star recruits.
Because of that coach Matt Campbell has invested in developing a five-star culture at Iowa State.
A culture that plays hard for 60 minutes. A culture that, when things go bad, the team falls back to its fundamentals and technique. Not panicking and trying to force big plays.
It’s something he talked about before Iowa State’s game at Texas on Friday. And it’s something running back Breece Hall said after the game.
“It’s five-star culture versus five-star players,” Hall said.
The five-star culture won out as No. 13 Iowa State beat No. 17 Texas 23-20 to all but assure itself a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
The Cyclones were trailing throughout the game but a series of game-defining plays in the fourth quarter turned it around. They weren’t plays that were forced, they were plays made because of solid, fundamental football.
The first was Texas’ 68-yard drive that lasted 6:36, which resulted in no points. Texas went for a fourth-and-1 from the Iowa State 13 but defensive end JaQuan Bailey blew the play up to give Iowa State the ball back and keep the score 20-16.
The next Texas series, Iowa State’s defense once again showed its might and forced Texas to a three-and-out.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Iowa State had 3:09 to go 69 yards to win the game. It started off with a Hall 18-yard rush, which set the tone for the drive.
“When you have three minutes on the clock and you start off the drive with a really good run like that, it gives you momentum, makes you feel good and gives you confidence moving forward,” quarterback Brock Purdy said on the Cyclone Radio Network after the game.
Purdy followed up the run with back-to-back completions to his big tight ends. The first one went to Dylan Soehner for 22 yards and the second went to Charlie Kolar for 17 yards.
That put Iowa State on the 12-yard line.
Two Hall runs later and Iowa State led for the first time, 23-20 with 1:20 left.
Texas got something going on its last drive but on third-and-10 from the Iowa State 36, defensive tackle Latrell Bankston came up huge.
“Before the play started, I thought about my junior college (Hutchinson),” Bankston said. “We played Iowa Western and it was 23-21 and I got the game-winning sack to end the game. I thought to myself, ‘If I can do it once, I can do it twice.’ (Sam Ehlinger) was a tough guy to bring down. He’s really elusive and he’s big but he wasn’t going to get away from me on that play. I had to do it. I had to get him.”
That forced a 57-yard field goal attempt. Texas kicker Cameron Dicker had the leg, and it looked good for about 54 yards but at the tail end, it faded left and was no good.
“Our motto, even after last week’s game, was this is going to take a lot of guts,” Campbell said. “It’s a short week with a physical game last week and knowing it was going to be another physical week against an ultimately truly talented football team. I thought the guts of our kids to stay the course was impressive. We weren’t perfect, our detail was just OK but when we needed to make plays, our kids made plays and that was huge.”
Iowa State wasn’t perfect. It gave up 210 first-half yards and the offense didn’t score a touchdown in the red zone until Hall’s in the final minutes of the game.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“The resiliency of these kids to understand that they have enough — they’re good enough — is impressive.” Campbell said. “They understood that when things got crazy, we need to sink back into our fundamentals and our details and technique. Those are things this team has grasped and it’s shown over the last couple of weeks. Our ‘A’ players have had the ability to make ‘A’ plays in the heat of the moment.”
Iowa State’s “A” players all performed on Friday.
Purdy was 25 of 36 for 312 yards and a touchdown, Hall rushed 20 times for 91 yards and a touchdown and Kolar caught six passes for 131 yards.
On defense, Bailey made the play on fourth down and linebacker Mike Rose had a team-high 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
“This one is special for sure,” Purdy said. “It’s obviously special for the program and for Cyclone nation. But we still have a lot to look forward to.
ESPN’s FPI gave Iowa State a 99 percent chance to make the Big 12 Championship game after the Texas win. The Cyclones have already clinched a share of the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time ever — Iowa State has not won or shared a conference title since 1912, when it won the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association crown (it later became the Big Eight) — and it’s won seven conference games for the first time ever.
This is a historic Iowa State team that’s 7-1 in the Big 12. And by all accounts, it’s not done yet.
“I think a bigger (game) will come down the road,” Purdy said. “We’re enjoying this for now but obviously we have a lot to look forward to.”
ISU hosts West Virginia a week from today, and the Big 12 Championship is Dec. 19 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Big 12 Championship has been played 18 times (1996 to 2010, and 2017 to current). ISU has never played in it.