Football season is rapidly approaching. The WRNL staff is getting excited. As we head towards the beginning of the 7th season with Matt Campbell as the head coach at Iowa State, we wanted to look back and rank our top 10 wins from the first 6 seasons. To do this, the staff was polled to give their personal 1-10 rankings. Win #1 was worth 10 points, #2 worth 9 points, and on down. The games that earned the most “points” are what we will look back on throughout this series. The series finishes with #1 overall, the 2017 road game against Oklahoma.
SETTING THE STAGE
To this point in the Matt Campbell era, Iowa State was 5-11 overall with a few fun wins (66-10 over Texas Tech) and some agonizingly close losses (this year’s CyHawk game). It was clear Iowa State was improving, but they didn’t have a signature win yet. Oklahoma was ranked #3 in the country with Lincoln Riley at the helm. Two weeks before this game, they had their own signature win, beating Ohio State on the road and planting their flag at midfield. The Sooners had appeared in the College Football Playoff the year before and QB Baker Mayfield would ultimately win this season’s Heisman Trophy.
Iowa State QB Jacob Park had taken a leave from the team just hours before kickoff. Last year’s starter, Joel Lanning, was playing linebacker. That left Coach Campbell and Co. turning to a little known 4th year walk on, Kyle Kempt, making his first career start as a college QB. Oklahoma was a 31 point favorite coming into this game, and they had every reason to be on paper. This particular game set the stage for a fiercely competitive rivalry that still stands for at least one more year, and let everyone know that Iowa State had arrived.
Iowa State entered Norman as a 31 point underdog, starting a former walk-on at QB for his first career start. At the beginning, we looked every bit like the huge underdog. Oklahoma took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a quick score, followed by a 3 & out from Iowa State. Oklahoma scored on their second possession and after 5 minutes we were down 14-0. Iowa State’s 2nd possession is where things started to flip. David Montgomery took a swing pass down the sidelines for a huge gain, and Joel Lanning made his first appearance of the day on offense, converting a 4th down before a FG made it 14-3.
The Cyclone defense continued to struggle though. Another long Sooner drive ended with another FG to make it 17-3. Finally, with 6:12 left in the first half, the Cyclones were in the end zone with David Montgomery scoring on a short run. Baker Mayfield returned the favor, with an impressive TD run to make it 24-10. With 30 seconds left in the half, it was Iowa State’s turn to make a play. A bomb to Hakeem Butler put us in field goal range. Despite all the defensive struggles, it was only 24-13 at halftime.
Iowa State started the 2nd half with a field goal drive. Lanning then made his presence felt on defense. Oklahoma botched a read in the red zone, and Lanning recovered the fumble. On 3rd & 14 at our own 2 yard line, Kyle Kempt hit Allen Lazard for a big gain. Marchie Murdoch finished the drive, taking a swing pass to the end zone. The ensuing 2 point conversion tied the game at 24. All of a sudden we had a little momentum. Oklahoma missed a field goal on their next drive. Then it was Trevor Ryen’s turn to take a swing pass 60 yards for a score to give Iowa State an improbable 31-24 lead with 12:46 to go.
Joel Lanning got his sack, which didn’t ultimately affect the outcome, but is fun to mention for the absurdity of his final stat line. Trey Sermon scored to make it 31 all with about 8 minutes to go. Iowa State managed to use most of the remaining clock, and with 2:19 to go Kempt hit Allen Lazard for the iconic TD. Iowa State was now up 38-31 and a defensive stop away from the upset. Mayfield got Oklahoma to their own 40 yard line, but his 4th & 4 pass fell incomplete. Upset secured. Out of nowhere, Matt Campbell and Iowa State pulled their first ever win on the road against a Top 5 school.
- QB/LB Joel Lanning (2/3, 25 yards, 9 carries, 35 yards, 8 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery)
- QB Kyle Kempt (18/24, 343 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs)
- WR Allen Lazard (3 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD)
- Joel Lanning recovers a fumble in the red zone while down 24-16
- Marchie Murdoch scores on a swing pass. Trevor Ryen scores on a similar play on the next drive to put Iowa State ahead.
- Kyle Kempt hits Allen Lazard on a fade route that ends up as the winning score.
- Iowa State stops Baker Mayfield’s last ditch effort to secure the win.
- The state of Iowa flag is planted at midfield.
HEAR FROM OUR STAFF
Personally, I had this game ranked as the #1 win in the Matt Campbell era for a couple of different reasons. The first of which is it was his first significant win as a head coach. His most significant up to that point was the 66-10 drubbing of Texas Tech that we all remember so fondly. But even then, Texas Tech wasn’t the powerhouse that Oklahoma was. That win against Oklahoma set the tone for the 5-star culture mantra that Campbell and the Cyclones have lived and breathed on since then. It set up who/what we are today.
The second reason is that it also set the tone for that 2017 season being the 3rd win of the season and the beginning of a 4-game win streak. The Cyclones would win 5 of the 8 games after that win in Norman, and would only lose the other 3 games by a combined 12 points. Iowa State was in every game that year after beating Oklahoma. The Cyclones had no business being in that game at all. Yet, they were. And Matt Campbell and Company got it done. It’s the most significant win of the Campbell era to me, and it’ll stand strong at the top for a while. -David Braga