Oct 29, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Allen Lazard (5) makes a catch between Kansas State Wildcats linebacker Charmeachealle Moore (52) and defensive back Kendall Adams (21) at Jack Trice Stadium. The Wildcats beat the Cyclones 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Here’s the thing about Iowa State’s mantra of “details, details, details.”
It applies only to the present. Minutiae of the past dissolves into a hazy ether — as is the case when trying to conjure painful memories of the Cyclones’ last visit to Kansas State.
That’s a trip down memory lane fully and properly avoided.
“Honestly, I completely forgot about that, the whole situation on how it happened,” star senior receiver Allen Lazard said of the rapid-fire late mistakes two years ago that resulted in a jaw-dropping 38-35 loss to the Wildcats. “I’m just more focused on going in and getting a win this year.”
A positive sea change has taken place for ISU (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) between that day and Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. regular-season finale at Manhattan — and it feels more like a stirring beginning than a culmination of any type.
“When you think about it, my whole career I’ve never won more than three games here,” said senior linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning, a Paul Hornung Award finalist. “Now we have seven wins going for an eighth. If we win (Saturday), possibly a ninth with the bowl game, things like that. So, yeah, you don’t really get time to think about what we’ve gone though. The season’s so fast and so long. I was just talking about this earlier, the month of October, I feel like took forever. It was like slow motion and then November hit and it’s already the end of the season. That’s just kind of how I feel. It’s just gone so fast, so you don’t really have time to think about what we’ve done, or mistakes. You’ve got to correct the mistakes as quickly as you can.”
As Campbell told CycloneFanatic publisher Chris Williams this week, “the obstacle has been the way for this group of kids.”
It’s not about overcoming adversity — such as the weird traffic delay in advance of last week’s 23-13 win at Baylor. It’s about thriving off of it.
“What’s allowed us to unify, what’s allowed us to grow is the obstacles that have been thrown at us,” Campbell said. “And this group, as good as any group of young men I’ve ever coached, they love it. They almost like that adversity.”
So here we are. ISU has lost nine straight games to the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4), who are coming off an upset win at Oklahoma State. Four of the last five games have been decided by six or fewer points. A play here, a play there. A detail grasped, a detail missed.
“It’s just been a bad taste my whole career here with these guys,’ Lanning said. “They’ve beat us every time, whether it’s been a close game or not. I feel like we’ve always had a chance but we let our details get away from us and they’re so consistent with what they do, that they never get too high or too low. They’re the same team every single time and that’s why the win games. They’re really good at what they do and they have confidence in all their guys.”
K-State’s starting a third-string quarterback, Skylar Thompson. The Cyclones will start either a second- or third-string quarterback in Zeb Noland or Kyle Kempt.
The similarities are striking and that’s by design.
“If you talk about a culture program, they’re probably the best in the country,” Campbell said. “I think what coach (Bill) Snyder’s done, what he’s been able to do there for the amount of time that he’s done it — the ability to sustain success in this profession is really hard. He just didn’t get to there. He’s got there and sustained it. So I think that the reality for all of us young coaches — there’s a lot of big name coaches out there, guys doing great stuff, but here’s a guy that came to Kansas State and built a program and he’s sustained success. You know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a team that takes care of the football, that’s going to play really hard, that’s not going to beat themselves on defense. And, you know, they’ve been able to win a lot of football games in this conference doing that. So I think for us, and I think our kids know that, we played them a year ago and it was the same situation in a lot of ways that you’ve really got to earn the right to beat a team like this. And when we say winning in the margins and winning with detail, that’s how they’ve had great success there. So a lot of respect for our opponent that we play and certainly coach Snyder and what he’s been able to do. Really impressive.”
K-State has the Big 12’s third best rushing defense (122.4 yards per game). The Cyclones rank fourth (136.5).
ISU boasts the conference’s second-best scoring defense (21.1 points per game). The Wildcats are fifth at 26.5
The Cyclones are the least penalized team in the league. K-State is right behind them.
Both teams have recorded 12 interceptions — and ISU is plus-11 in turnover margin, while the Wildcats are plus-10.
Again, startling similarities, with plenty on the line. An ISU win would give it six conference triumphs for the first time in program history. There’s still a remote chance at playing in the Big 12 title game, as well
These are the fun in-the-moment details. And they’re right in front of this team. No looking back, except to add fuel to the fire that’s been a constant, controlled burn ever since Oklahoma week.
“This year’s just flown by so fast and it’s hard to believe it’s the last game of the regular season,” said Lazard, who’s averaged 110.5 receiving yards while snaring three touchdown catches in the last two matchups with K-State. “I think what we’ve done this year is something special and I don’t think anyone has really realized what we’ve done and the change that we’ve made until years to come, to be honest.”