I’ll admit I’m one for hyperbole, but I can confidently say the last time the Cyclone Football team traveled to Norman, Oklahoma, it was the most surreal moment of my sports life.
The story of what has transpired with Matt Campbell’s program since is obvious, but the beauty of the result on that October Saturday two years ago is in the complete shock and bewilderment of how things came together. Not even Cyclone Jerry would have predicted the result.
Social media has plenty of ills and negatives and as we learned with the Carson King/Des Moines Register firestorm last month, for good and bad, old tweets can live forever. That said, old tweets and Facebook memories can sometimes be used for great context and provide a journal of some sort for previous times in your life. Most of the times, these are eye-roll worthy in retrospect and make one wonder, “what the hell was I thinking.” As part of my first trip to Norman since that game in 2017, I went back and looked at my old tweets from that week. It was more enjoyable than I’d thought it would be.
I can’t emphasize enough how steep the hill was at the time when comparing Iowa State and OU. Entering that week Iowa State was 5-74-2 against the Sooners all-time and hadn’t won a game over OU since 1990. Oh by the way, OU had just recently won a game on the road at Ohio State and featured the Heisman front-runner in Baker Mayfield. Iowa State had just come off a 17-7 loss at home to a mediocre Texas team. Vegas opened the week with Oklahoma favored by 26.
As the week leading up to the game went on, murmurs began to grow louder that Iowa State starting quarterback Jacob Park was not going to be with the team in Norman due to personal reasons. Park was having an above average season by Iowa State standards up to that point and Iowa State’s backup quarterbacks were…well, nobody had any idea who they were. What once seemed like a difficult task in competing in Norman felt impossible. Vegas took notice and the Sooners climbed to a 32 point favorite.
When the team landed in Norman, the Park news broke and all hell seemingly broke loose. Visions of the 70-7 Baylor game from a few years prior danced in my head. Our traveling radio crew got together and had a couple cold ones in the hotel lobby and Twitter reflected my grasping for some sort of optimism.
Needless to say, nobody was expecting much.
It was an 11 a.m. kick, which means John Walters and I get up bright and early to be at the stadium five hours before the game starts. The locals were very friendly as usual as most are on the road when the opposing team is not a threat. At this point, we had no idea who the starting quarterback for Iowa State would be. Walters, Ben Bruns and I discuss if maybe Joel Lanning would get a few snaps there, but quickly dismiss that as crazy talk.
Oklahoma races to a 14-0 lead and Kyle Kempt looks completely rattled early. This thing was destined to get ugly. Joel Lanning gets put in at quarterback. There is some juice back on the Cyclone sideline. The Cyclones drive down and get a field-goal.
Iowa State’s starting linebacker was playing both ways in a Big 12 game. This was wild and seemed like a fun story in a game that would likely get away from the Cyclones. But the Cyclones won’t go away and early in the third quarter Garrett Owens drills a field goal to make it a 24-16 game.
We are clearly still in “Well, this is kind of fun seeing the Cyclones hang around” mode. That turns drastically after OU’s Trey Sermon fumbles at the Iowa State 5 and the Cyclones recover.
A Kempt to Marchie Murdock swing pass goes 28 yards for a TD and the Cyclones tie it with a two-point conversion at 24. Kempt, a guy 95 percent of Cyclone fans had never heard of prior to two hours prior was out-dueling Baker Mayfield. Tom Manning, who was roasted after the Texas game, has the Sooners completely baffled while using a linebacker and walk-on at quarterback. It was a masterpiece.
Oklahoma drives down and the reliable Austin Seibert (now the Browns FG kicker) misses a 44 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Iowa State capitalizes and Trever Ryen takes a screen pass 57 yards to the house. Iowa State leads 31-24 with 10 minutes remaining.
Oklahoma marches down the field and scores a touchdown to tie the game at 31. At this point, I am too stressed/shocked to tweet or put feelings into words. Normally during commercial breaks on the radio, we are very conversational, but none of us can really find anything to say. Everything and everyone is anxious.
Iowa State responds with a 75 yard drive in five minutes capped by the Kempt to Allen Lazard 25-yard strike. Iowa State leads 38-31 with 2:19 remaining. A whole heck of a lot of time for Baker Mayfield. I, and most Cyclones, are still assuming the worst.
Mayfield gets one first down and then is…stopped. Iowa State takes a knee. The game is over. Iowa State 38 Oklahoma 31.
I don’t remember much of the postgame as it was a surreal out of body experience. Time just kind of stopped. We took the short bus ride to the airport and could have floated home.
Lanning didn’t really fly the plane home, but it was the happiest flight I’ve ever been on. Most flights home guys are listening to music or attempting to doze off after being flat-out exhausted, but this was party-like.
After getting home, I did what most people that night did. Celebrated. I headed over to my good pal Chris Williams’ house and with a few other friends had a few cold ones and flipped on the DVR.
It was an awesome end to a surreal and unexpected 36 hours. This is why we keep coming back even when times get tough. Sports are the best.