Sep 17, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell points to a football spot after a play in the second quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Brian Bobek first started playing college football in 2011 — the season in which Iowa State shocked the college football world by toppling then-No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 in a rare Friday night matchup at Jack Trice Stadium.
How vivid are your memories of that double-overtime win?
Seem like an eternity ago?
Well, it was, which speaks to Bobek’s perseverence — and points to better days ahead for his new program, as well.
“I’m a six-year guy and I’ve been through ups and downs,” the Cyclones’ ship-steadying center said after last Saturday’s near-miss upset bid vs. Baylor. “Anything I can do I want to do to help bring those guys along.”
Need an ear? Bobek listens.
Want some technique help? He’ll be there.
Looking for words of encouragement? Bobek’s fine with that, too.
It wasn’t always that way. As the disappointment of the 45-42 setback to the No. 13 Bears dissolved into game week prep for Okie State (2:30 p.m, ESPNU, at Stillwater), Bobek took note of his expanded role.
“One of the biggest things is just the attention to detail,” the 6-2, 298-pounder said. “I’m usually not much of a vocal guy, but I think just in getting in and doing all the little things, when you have one, two, three guys doing it, then everybody starts doing it, that helps.”
It’s called feeding off each other — and Bobek is the top chef.
Remember, this line started the season with one combined start.
And that belonged to Nick Fett, a former walk-on who helped blaze a path to last season’s near-upset of the Cowboys in his starting debut.
“Bobek leads with his intelligence,” senior guard Patrick Scoggins said. “He’s definitely the smartest player out there, I don’t think he needs to be vocal. I think he’s just doing what he’s supposed to do. And Fett’s really the one who’s the vocal one of the group and gets everbody’s spirits up.“
The offensive numbers have certainly risen.
The Cyclones (1-4, 0-2) are coming off back-to-back 40-point scoring efforts for the first time since 2005.
They’re averaging 43 points and 484 yards over the last two games after being limited to 14.3 points and 317.7 yards in the previous three.
What changed? Continuity, for one.
ISU has featured the same front five since walk-on Brian Seda slid into the other guard spot.
“The first three weeks there I was playing three different positions,” said Fett, who’s gone from newbie to stalwart on the rapidly improving line. “Now we’ve settled in and we’ve gotten the same guys in every position, so believe it nor not, that helps out a lot. … Clear mind now and we’re looking on to Oklahoma State.”
The Cowboys enter Saturday as 17-point favorites. So improvement must continue to arrive at an exponential pace.
Joel Lanning will be looked to for error-free play at quarterback and dynamic tailback Mike Warren must fully exploit the holes the line opens up.
Bottom line: Everyone is getting better — and oftentimes (unlike Bobek) the toughest guys to convert during a rebuilding effort are the ones with the most experience.
“That’s been our hardest challenge, to be honest with you in eight months, is resetting the mindset and resetting the focus of, you know, what it takes to be successful,” ISU’s first-year head coach Matt Campbell said. “Sometimes I think you can get engrained in a culture where success isn’t happening. Again, how do you define success? That’s why you hear me so much talk about I’m so invested in how we play. What’s our effort look like? What’s our attitude look like? How do we prepare? Those are things we can control. The score of the game takes care of itself when you look at all those other things.”
Bobek’s on board. He’s the players’ version of a first mate. If his attitude morphs into a collective approach, progress will continue and ISU’s next port of call will feature another much-needed win, sooner rather than later.
“I think Brian is a very mature young man,” said the Cyclones’ first-year offensive coordinator Tom Manning. “I know he’s older, but I think Brian — I didn’t know him (coming in) — but I think Brian as a freshman was probably a mature kid. Very intelligent kid and I think he’s able to, especially with a young offensive line, kind of steady the ship sometimes. He’s been a blessing to have around.”