October is typically the month reserved for fright and terror, ghosts and ghouls, and tricks or treats. Over the past few seasons, Matt Campbell and the Iowa State Cyclones have loaded up on treats in October only to be left with nothing but tricks in November.
Prior to this past weekend’s game against Baylor, Matt Campbell-led teams had gone 6-6 since 2017 in the month of November. For a program that has been very competitive under CMC and Co., that record is a bit appalling when compared to the month prior, as the Cyclones are 9-2 in October with Brock Purdy at the helm.
In 2018, the Cyclones went a surprising 3-1 in the month of November, with victories over Baylor, Kansas, and Kansas State. Then again, maybe it was an unsurprising 3-1 when you factor in 3 of the opponents being Baylor, Kansas, and Kansas State. Regardless, it was still as shaky month for the Cyclones. Baylor proved to be a tough out in a mistake and fight-filled game, and Texas thoroughly out-classed the Cyclones in Austin. A miraculous come-from-behind victory was needed to best Kansas State and exercise the Bill Snyder demons.
The following season brought much worse luck during the month of November, as if a black cat crossed the Cyclone’s path following a homecoming victory over Texas Tech. The Cyclones lost at home to Oklahoma State as the month of October waned into November and went 2-2 to close out the month. The victories included a hard-fought Assalley special against Texas and an uncomfortably close home win against Kansas thanks to some Brock Purdy heroics.
While both wins were uncomfortable, the 3 losses in this span were troubling.
Taking off the entire first half down in Norman was not a good way to beat a top 10 Oklahoma team, and while the Cyclones were one 2-point conversion away from the upset, they had no one to blame for the loss but themselves. Ok, and maybe the officials on that last play. A cold, windy night in Manhattan to close the season resulted in quite possibly one of the mist dis-heartening losses of the Matt Campbell era, as the Cyclones appeared to want no part of Purple Kansas down the closing stretches of that game. In both losses, mistakes and disappearances were all too common.
The game I want to examine a bit more closely is the game against Oklahoma State (yes it was in late October of 2019), a game the Cyclones lost 34-27.
Looking back at how this loss played out, it appears to be the antithesis of the Cyclone’s 38-31 win over the Baylor Bears.
Oklahoma State opened a 21-10 lead in the first half thanks to three scoring plays of more than 50 yards. That’s right, three. And the Cyclones appeared to not want to tackle on at least two of them.
While Iowa State was able to tighten up the game, which was very much still hanging in the balance by the 4th quarter, turnovers cost the Cyclones a chance at victory, as Brock Purdy was intercepted 3 times in the closing stanza.
Each of the 3 losses mentioned above had distinct causes:
· Oklahoma State 2019:
o Three 50+ yard scoring plays
o Three 4th quarter interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown
· Oklahoma 2019:
o Taking the first half off
o Committing 11 penalties for 84 yards
· Kansas State 2019:
o 8 penalties for 55 yards
o Special teams’ touchdown
How does this stack up to the Baylor victory? Let’s compare.
· Baylor 2020:
o Three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown
o One special teams fumble
o One penalty for 5 yards
Committing four turnovers in a game is typically a death sentence for any football team. Yet somehow, the Cyclones were still able to grind out a November win against a tough-minded opponent with a capable quarterback. They also showed great discipline on both sides of the football, something that has been lacking during this stretch spanning back several seasons.
So, what is on deck for the Cyclones as November marches onward? Two very important and difficult November matchups remain.
Drawing firm conclusions from one game may prove to be a fool’s errand, but here is are mine after pondering the results of Saturday night’s contest:
- Iowa State showed much more discipline than both what was observed early in the season and in this sport historically
- This Cyclone team was able to stay calm and right the ship after four costly turnovers, which speaks both to leadership and experience on the roster and amongst the coaching staff
- There just may be enough talent on this roster (and in the program at large) to overcome a disastrous half of football
Iowa State normally loses the game they played on Saturday night. In fact, they lost that game three times in 2019. They lost that game in San Antonio to close the 2018 season (10 penalties for 63 yards and 3 turnovers).
But on Saturday night, the Cyclones rose to the occasion. They stayed the course and overcame a disastrous start in a calm and methodical manner. Is this year’s squad just that more talented and focused, or did they pull some of their October magic with them into November?