Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletic Communications.
AMES — Let’s all agree to pretend this never happened, okay?
December 1, 2018, will live on as the day Oklahoma won the Big 12 title, the nation mourned the loss of a former president and Ralph Breaks the Internet was merely one week into what will probably be a monster run at the box office. We will just agree to forget about the fact No. 23 Iowa State topped Drake 27-24 on a cold, rainy, snowy day at Jack Trice Stadium in a game hindsight tells us probably should have never happened.
The Cyclones lost their starting right tackle in the first half. They lost their two-time all-conference outside linebacker on the next defensive drive. The Bulldogs held a lead deep in the third quarter and nearly broke the Internet before Ralph had a chance.
None of it needed to happen. Iowa State was already bowl eligible — and they accomplished that feat three weeks ago. There was no reason to play this game outside of the potential for breaking records, giving young guys a chance to see the field and granting the die-hards who showed up and sat through the disgusting weather another tailgate.
Two of those things happened and the one that did not happen was probably the most important of the three.
Iowa State should have wiped its hands clean of this, especially once it became clear playing originally scheduled Incarnate Word was not going to be logistically feasible. Drake had everything to gain in this game and they played that way for the entire 60 minutes.
Iowa State had nothing to gain in this game and they played that way for roughly 40 minutes. The switch only flipped on once it became clear the Bulldogs legitimately had a chance at winning the football game, something that simply did not seem possible in the days leading up to it.
“What stood out to me earlier in the week was that they are really well-disciplined and (well-) coached football team,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said after the game. “Quite honestly, their kids wanted this pretty badly and they’ve had a lot of success together and it showed today so hats off to them.”
David Montgomery got the chance to eclipse the 1,000 yards rushing mark in the regular season, making him the first Cyclone to do it in back-to-back season since Ennis Haywood in 2000 and 2001. Too bad he had to carry the ball 30 more times after he reached the mark on the team’s second drive, ultimately finishing the game with 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 33 carries, one day after battling the flu.
Hakeem Butler was able to become the program’s all-time leader in single-season receiving yards. Did we really need this game to know he has put together one of the most dominant seasons ever recorded by an Iowa State receiver?
Iowa State reached eight regular-season wins to tie the modern era program record. I am not certain it was worth risking what would have been one of the most colossal upsets in the history of college football to get there.
You have to tip your cap to Drake because Rick Fox’s team certainly came to play and arrived with a victory on the brain. They were not going to allow Iowa State its opportunity to get youngsters and reserves onto the field because they had something to prove, a feat nobody could argue against them thoroughly accomplishing.
“They were definitely hyped up,” Butler, who finished with 67 yards on four catches, said. “Every time they made a play their whole sideline was going crazy. Whether it was a one-yard gain or a one-yard tackle for loss, they were going crazy. I knew how they would feel coming into the game and I knew they were going to be competitive no matter what. I don’t expect anybody to roll over to us.”
Couple in the field conditions after the steady rain that fell through most of the day with Drake’s emotion and Iowa State walked into somewhat of a buzz saw. The Cyclones were clearly the faster and more talented team, but the playing field is leveled when the… um… playing field is torn to shreds.
Iowa State had multiple opportunities for big plays thwarted by the terrible field conditions, including several Kene Nwangwu kick returns with the potential to seemingly go the distance. Brock Purdy, who threw for 153 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-22 passing, wore gloves in order to get a better grip on the slick football, but still ended up having it slide out of his hand and turn into a momentum-shifting fumble in the third quarter.
“I saw the weather report. I knew what was coming,” Campbell said. “When you get those situations, especially when our field’s been a little bit (torn up), we’ve got great people who work really hard at it, but, man, it’s a tough situation. Fortunately, we prepared for this. I’m glad we did.”
Who knows if this game will have any impact on anything that happens for the Cyclones moving forward. I would argue it should not when you consider some of the unique factors in play, but it is hard not to wonder what outsiders who watched this game are thinking, especially if they’re not Cyclones.tv subscribers and will see nothing but the final score.
If you are an Alamo Bowl representative, are you lobbying for the team we watched beat Drake on Saturday to represent the Big 12 in one of the most prestigious non-New Year’s Six bowl games? I am not sure I would based on just this one game and recency bias can be scary when you are not on the ground close to the team.
We can hope that is not the case and we will all find out officially on Sunday. For now, I think the best thing for all of us is to just forget this day at Jack Trice Stadium ever happened.
“I don’t know how it could, but if it does so be it,” Campbell said about the game potentially impacting bowl destinations. “All we can be is us. We were the best versions of us we could be in the situations we were in today. We’ll see what happens. Those aren’t my job. My job is to coach the football team and go out there and give kids the best chance to win games and our kids the best opportunity to play as hard as they can. I think they continue to do that for us. Whatever happens, happens. I know we’ll be excited to get a chance to go compete for our ninth win.”