Oct 26, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts with tight end Charlie Kolar (88) after Kolar caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bowl practices.
Few things are more important to the long-term health of a college football program. They can be even more beneficial when a team is able to get them in several consecutive years.
For the first time in quite a while, Iowa State football finds itself reaping the benefits of stringing together winning seasons with Saturday’s Camping World Bowl matchup with No. 14 Notre Dame marking the Cyclones’ third straight bowl appearance.
So, not only will Matt Campbell’s program have an opportunity to square off with one of the sport’s biggest brands and a top-15 team on a prime national television spot, but they can start to lay the groundwork for what is shaping up to be a potentially special 2020 season.
“I think that’s one of the really great things about bowl games is you are really putting an exclamation point on a really powerful chapter of a senior class and a 2019 football team, but you’re also having some leadership start to occur from what 2020 could look like and feel like,” Campbell said on Tuesday prior to the Cyclones’ first practice in Orlando. “I think all those things are really, really important when you’re really putting a focus on building a program and we’ve really done that here using all these opportunities to continue to, not only better our present but better our future on top of it.”
It is hard to keep yourself from starting to wonder what next year’s Iowa State team could look like when you consider the returns of Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, Charlie Kolar and a host of other offensive weapons on top of returning veterans at every level of the defense. At this point, and especially if the team can win on Saturday, the Cyclones could very well end up as a top-20 team entering next season.
At the same time, this program could have been in that same position already at this point had it not been for some close misses against high-quality opponents such as Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma, three teams the Cyclones lost to by a combined four points.
Iowa State’s mantra this year was “prove it,” but the program rarely did so during big moments in 2019. Maybe, they were just one year too early in dubbing that motto.
“You’ve seen us have great success in some of the moments and you’ve seen us almost, you know, kind of get off to a slow start in some of the moments. There’s so much expectation now and I would say in football that’s a great thing. That’s an exciting thing. It’s where you want to be,” Campbell said. “It’s not just going to be at the snap of your fingers… I don’t think we’ve ever been fearful of an opponent or a team or situation, but I think sometimes we’re fearful of making a mistake in the moment, and that’s hard. It’s hard to be at your best when that’s what it looks like and so, you know, the faith of understanding what you have to do to be successful in the moment, this team’s, I think, really learned some unbelievable lessons and taking what we learned then applying it, obviously, to this week, but really taking it into the offseason and saying how do we continue to make a really powerful step forward.”
Luckily, the 2019 Cyclones have one more chance to “prove it” on Saturday, but it could turn out to prove more about what we can expect to see from the Cyclones in 2020.