The devastating loss in the Big 12 Championship Game wasn’t enough to keep the Cyclones from making history this postseason.
Many viewed the Fiesta Bowl bid as a consolation prize for a program that’s been well-deserving of a conference title. Regardless, the Cyclones had bigger fish to fry, clashing with an opponent that conquered the Pac-12 for two-straight seasons. The new ‘Men in Black’ didn’t disappoint though, and delivered a 34-17 beatdown on Oregon that’ll be remembered by Cyclone fans forever.
A New Year’s Six Bowl is the biggest stage the program has ever been on and Coach Matt Campbell had his players ready for the spotlight. The results were flat-out astonishing. An explosive second quarter from the offense led to a 10-point lead at halftime and the Cyclones’ defense held the Ducks scoreless in the second half.
Iowa State finished the game with more yards, nearly doubled Oregon in number of plays and dominated time of possession. Not to mention the matchup was a tale of turnovers. The Cyclones had none, but forced the Ducks (4-3) to commit four. Quarterback Brock Purdy bounced back in a major way with a great performance. It was also homecoming for the Arizona native. He connected with eight different receivers, racked up 195 total yards and scored two touchdowns.
Running back Breece Hall picked up right where he left off and cranked out workhorse numbers. The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year had 33 carries, 136 yards on the ground and two rushing scores. Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen combined for eight catches, 74 yards and a touchdown. They blocked, caught Purdy’s passes in the clutch and proved why they’re the best tight end duo in the Big 12.
The defense made a statement with the turnovers, including three fumble recoveries. Plus kicker Connor Assalley connected on two clutch field goals. Campbell put together a great game plan that kept an explosive Oregon offense on the sidelines in the second half.
The success couldn’t have happened to a better group of young men. Which is why College football fanatics continue to admire the program’s journey under Campbell. After all, the Cyclones were cellar dwellers in the Big 8 and Big 12 for decades. However, Campbell proved with foundation, togetherness and fan support, anything is possible. Iowa State will likely finish the season ranked in the top-seven, which speaks volumes of the job Campbell has done in Ames.
Now the 41-year old coach has made himself one of the hottest coaching commodities approaching the off season. It’s hard to turn off the outside noise when the NFL is asking for your services. Still, the Cyclones didn’t let that be a team distraction. Instead Iowa State remained focused on the task at hand and delivered a 9-3 campaign, which is the most wins of Campbell’s tenure.
Now everyone is wondering what’s next for the program. The Cyclones could be a completely different team for the 2021 season if players decide to bolt for the NFL. As for now Iowa State is going to enjoy adding another trophy to the case and having the winningest senior class in school history.
It was unfortunate Iowa State didn’t get to play Iowa or capture a Big 12 Title, but there’s no denying the team put together one of the most memorable seasons in program history. The Cyclones were nearly unstoppable in black and the players can now call themselves Fiesta Bowl Champions.