Sep 10, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell watches his team against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first half at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
As fans of Iowa State Football, you are accustomed to losing. It’s happened far more times than the alternative. I don’t need to run a bunch of trends and numbers to illustrate this point. It’s pretty obvious that Iowa State has lost a lot of football games recently. Since Iowa State won at Kansas in 2012, the Cyclones are 8-30 (I don’t know why I cared to look that up, I am a glutton for punishment.)
Iowa State’s last victory over a ranked team came at TCU four years ago. Somehow it feels a lot longer than that.
And despite the common result, losing is no fun. You’d think it’d get easier as the games and L’s pile up, but nope, still brutal. And the start of the 2016 football season has been especially less than enjoyable.
Cyclone fans are used to finding something, anything to hold onto to provide a glimmer of hope. But through two games, there quite honestly isn’t much of a life preserver to grasp. The chances of making a bowl game are slim. If Iowa State doesn’t reach a bowl game this season, at four years it would be the longest bowl-less stretch since 1999.
Even in the doldrums of the early Dan McCarney years, Troy Davis was around to put a Band-Aid on some of the wounds and compete for a Heisman Trophy. Through eight quarters of 2016, there just hasn’t been much to be excited about. Offense has been plagued by mistakes and hiccups and the defense isn’t far behind. When something good has happened, a turnover or penalty has followed to suck any air out of the balloon.
Matt Campbell said it best after the Iowa game, “There’s just no flow to Iowa State football on either side.” Exactly. Right now Iowa State Football feels like a herky-jerky roller coaster that leaves you a bit queasy and less than thrilled.
The most patient of fan-bases is rightfully ready for something positive to happen. It’s been long enough.
Losing to UNI and getting blown out by Iowa brought back memories of the dark-days of the late 80’s and early ’90’s and that is a place nobody wanted to see again.
Truth be told, the reaction of Cyclone fans after two weeks is less of a reflection on Matt Campbell and more a commentary on the cumulative effect of four years of losing. This situation isn’t Campbell’s fault, but he is the one now responsible for turning things around.
Campbell and his staff have their work cut out for them. There are no quick fixes in college football and certainly not at Iowa State. The long road ahead makes the previous years of losing and first two games more unpleasant. I think we all realized there are far more pieces to take apart and fix than expected.
Our Cardinal and Gold glasses perhaps left us all thinking a simple coaching change and eager anticipation could alter the arc of the program overnight. But hashtags and hype videos can’t make tackles in open space or create running lanes.
This rebuilding job is going to take time. There is no magic solution. The foundation of any football program begins with the lines on either side of the ball and that is where Iowa State has the most inexperience.
Rest assured, this coaching staff is not going to let the past dictate its future. Right now there is a fight between a losing culture and a new regime hell-bent on transforming that culture. And frankly, the former is winning 2-0. But eight quarters worth of football is no time to throw your hands up and say, “I quit.” Quitting only digs the hole deeper.
When times are challenging, leaders find a way to take steps forward, not blame the past. There are 10 games remaining this season for Iowa State to discover its identity moving forward. It may not be a program changing victory or a monumental statistical performance, but Cyclone fans could use something, anything to illustrate progress.
Iowa State football fans don’t ask for much and have been put through far more pain than joy. But even the most patient of fan-bases is ready for something to hold onto. The sooner the better.