Iowa State Cyclones

Mentality separates Iowa State football from other teams

Cyclones want much more than bowl eligibility

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell on the sideline during Saturday's game against Baylor at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell on the sideline during Saturday's game against Baylor at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

AMES — Matt Campbell’s postgame speech after Iowa State upset No. 4 TCU last season went somewhat viral and was felt across Cyclone nation.

In the speech, Campbell said, “They’re going to talk about six wins — don’t give a s--t. This isn’t about 6-6. Bulls--t programs care about 6-6.”

Campbell has carried that mentality into 2018. On Saturday, No. 22 Iowa State beat Baylor (5-5, 3-4) 28-14 to become bowl eligible for the second straight season and stay alive in the Big 12 title race.


“I think you know my stance on (six wins), and it hasn’t changed,” Campbell said Saturday. “The reality of it is I always rate where we are when the season is over. What were we able to do with what we had and the situations that occurred?”

So far, it looks like Iowa State has come pretty close to maximizing its potential. The Cyclones (6-3, 5-2 Big 12) lost an early-season game to TCU that’s looking more and more like a bad loss, but other than that game, the only other conference loss was to No. 6 Oklahoma.

Iowa State is on a five-game conference winning streak for the first time in school history.

The Big 12 race looks like this: Oklahoma has the tiebreaker over Iowa State, Iowa State has the tiebreaker over West Virginia, West Virginia has the tiebreaker over Texas and Texas has the tiebreaker over Oklahoma.

Iowa State and Texas play each other next week and Oklahoma and West Virginia play each other the final week in the season.

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“For Iowa State it’s a big deal,” Cyclones lineman Josh Knipfel said. “I can’t remember another time Iowa State was in a position to do this.”

The last time Iowa State was in a similar position to be in the conference championship game was 2005, when the Cyclones had a chance to win the Big 12 North but fell short.

“From the day we set foot on campus, we said our vision was to have opportunities to play meaningful games in November and to have the opportunity, at some point, to compete for and hopefully win a Big 12 championship,” Campbell said. “There is still a lot of work to be done, we’re such a young football team. The key for our success is can we continue to improve? I think that’s what’s exciting, I sit here right now and know that our best is still out there.”

Iowa State doesn’t do anything that special on the field. It runs a common offense and while the defense was a little revolutionary in the way it uses three safeties in cloud coverage and only rushing three most of the time, it’s also now being copied by other Big 12 teams.

But there is something that separates Iowa State.

“(Our mentality) is our niche,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if we’re super special in a lot of different ways. I still think our margin for error is really small. What we’re really super special in is what goes on inside of the locker room. And what we’re really super special in is the guys that are leading this football program. Not the coaches, but the 18 to 22-year-olds that sit inside of our walls.

“Those guys are really special. And their faithfulness and loyalty to each other, that’s the difference maker for us. I’m humbled to be able to coach a group like this. It’s been really an honor to coach a group like this and I’m excited to see what this group’s got in store because I think there’s a lot of great things ahead if you just continue to get better one day at a time.”

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