Nov 19, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Joel Lanning (7) scores a touchdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Red Raiders 66-10. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Former Iowa State standout offensive tackle Jake Campos was ready for game day — even tough a severe leg injury would prevent him from playing.
The date: Nov. 19, 2016.
The Cyclones’ record: 2-8 overall.
The opponent: Explosive Texas Tech, with future legend, and eventual NFL MVP/Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
Campos planned to help coach up the team, as usual, on that frigid Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, but a scary health crisis momentarily upset those sideline-based plans.
“We liked our matchups on the O-line line, but what I remember is I was having a respiratory issue actually that morning,” Campos said of his own unique experience on a fateful and important day that ended with a startling, get immensely satisfying 66-10 Iowa State rout. “I had to go in (to the ER) because I couldn’t really breathe before the game, and they got me on an IV anti-inflammatory, so it cleared up really well. I was fine after that, but for most of the first half, we were sitting in the ER.”
As Campos’s breathing stabilized, his pulse quickened nonetheless.
Former starting quarterback Joel Lanning rambled 24 yards into the end zone to give the Cyclones a 7-0 lead.
Tech countered with a field goal — and then relatively-new starting play-caller Jacob Park plunged in for a two-yard touchdown.
It didn’t yet seem certain at that point, but the pummeling had begun.
Lanning would rush for five touchdowns, matching all-time leading rusher Troy Davis’s single-game record.
Iowa State would completely corral Mahomes, a rarity even then — and especially now — for the NFL champion and 2018 MVP for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Something had changed as the Cyclones stitched together a two-game Big 12 win streak for the first time since 2013.
What it meant for the future wasn’t immediately clear, but it sure made Campos and his cohorts happy and reenergized — as well as the victory-starved fans in the stands.
“I think it was just refreshing for Iowa State to be on the winning side of a beatdown like that,” said Cyclone Fanatic columnist and Cyclone Radio Network analyst, Brent Blum. “The previous really three in a half years it had been the other way. If you look back in those three years previous, there was that (71-7) game at Baylor down in Waco in 2013 and then 2014 was just a struggle all the way around and then 2015 you saw some potential, but then it would go the wrong way. Then the start of the (Coach Matt) Campbell era, and there were people on the Fanatic message boards questioning of Iowa State had made the right hire. But things turned around and you could see them getting closer, but they couldn’t really get that breakthrough performance until — the Kansas (win the previous week) was a nice notch, but then it was just like all that pent up frustration from three years exploding in that Tech game.”
This is the Part I of the story on the game that proved to be a huge building block for a breakthrough 8-win season in 2017 (look for Part II, which will focus more on what the win meant for the program, next week). Even though the Cyclones lost to West Virginia to close the 2016 season, a not-so-subtle shift was clearly occurring and winning would rapidly replace losing more often than not.
“We just kept scoring,” Lanning said about his five-touchdown day. “Jacob Park was throwing touchdown passes and everyone was contributing. And, like I said, I think we just kept feeding off each other and you know how that goes. You get the momentum — especially when it’s cold like that and it’s easy for (the Red Raiders) to fade away.”
COLD DAY, HOT START
Iowa State felt confident during game week — even tough Mahomes had lit the Cyclones up for 66 points in Lubbock the previous season. Eking out their first conference win of the season the previous week at Kansas helped boost ISU’s hopes, as did an array of near-misses against Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
But for Lanning’s first of five touchdowns to give the Cyclones a lead they would never relinquish? That was a bit surprising — as was a 31-0 beatdown in the second quarter that included a pick-six from safety Kamari Cotton-Moya that put the game completely out of reach before the halftime horn blared.
CORNERBACK BRIAN PEAVY: “We always knew we had a team capable of doing whatever we wanted. We just had yet to put it together and (in late 2016) it kind of started to click.”
FORMER AMES TRIBUNE IOWA STATE FOOTBALL BEAT WRITER JOSEPH HOYT (NOW A REPORTER AT THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS): “It was crazy because it was the first game I covered at Iowa State and when you’re new on a beat or you’re new to a scene it takes a little while to adjust but obviously you go into it with a lot of preparation. I remember the week before — and I was still covering high schools on my internship — but the week before with the Kansas win, and going into the Kansas game they had one win against San Jose State and I remember just watching videos of the Kansas win and just thinking, ‘OK, here’s what this team is doing. They barely edge Kansas, which has been struggling. They’re a two-win team now,’ and you kind of start putting together, ‘All right, a couple more games left in the 2016 season and they’re probably going to run into some struggles against some other teams.’
“Especially a team like Texas Tech, which was hungry — they had a lot to play for. (They were) 4-6 at the time and they had Pat Mahomes. He may have not had the draft stock yet that he ultimately had after the pre-Draft process and everyone’s like, ‘Man, look at that arm.’ But he was obviously a guy going toe-to-toe with Baker Mayfield throwing for 600 yards. He was a guy you knew. So the first story on the first media availability that I wrote was about Mahomes and just the challenge that Iowa State was going to have against him. And that game was crazy, Because you’re a fish out of water, trying to get a lay of the land, and I’d be lying if I said I expected anything remotely close to that. I had quotes kind of in my bank just in case it was another close loss for Iowa State — if it was competitive. I did not have a lot of game week quotes for the option that Iowa State’s going to win 66-10. I had my jaw dropped a large majority of that game. I remember I had just started forming friendships with (some other Iowa State beat writers) and I’d look at them all the time and be like, ‘Is this the same team you guys have been covering?’ It was incredible.”
WIDE RECEIVER MARCHIE MURDOCK: “The defense definitely played exceptionally and they did a really good job of getting tackles for losses and causing turnovers. Because once you can cause turnovers and now you’re down early on 14-3, 21-3, it puts pressure on Mahomes. Now, you’re down 21(-3) and being on the receiving end of that before, you’re thinking look we have to score right here or this game’s going to be pretty much out of of reach. “We were just trying to put pressure on them. Our defense did great job, man, chasing turnovers, getting Pat Mahomes frustrated. I think the weather was a factor, especially for the receivers trying to catch the football. The ball’s harder. Me being a receiver, I know trying to catch the ball, the ball’s a little bit harder. Your fingers are numb. You can’t really get that type of feeling you want when you’re trying to catch the football — so it is harder. You have to kind of get used to it and I think those guys weren’t used to it, or they didn’t really do a good job as far as preparation for being in the cold weather, which is kind of tough when you’re in Lubbock, Texas, and it’s hot and you come up to Iowa where it’s freezing.”
CAMPOS: I know, we had the rocky start (to the season), but we started just playing with confidence. And we realized that we could actually, you know — we had a good team and that we were just making, you know, little mistakes that were costing us. So I think that week what I remember is just the team had confidence that we were going to win that week. Especially on the offensive side of the ball, which I’m involved in. We knew there were spots we could exploit; that we could put some points on the board. I had no idea we were going to do what we did, but we went in there and knew what he had to do and that we could get it done.”
3-MAN FRONT CAUSES FITS
Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock knew he wasn’t reinventing the wheel as he shifted the Cyclones’ defense into a 3-man front complemented by well-timed blitzes and “multiple” looks at every level. But he did help the concept spread by being so successful with it at Iowa State. That success became fully apparent in the 2017 season, but the ability to use it against a quarterback as gifted as Mahomes — and an offense as potent as Tech’s — served as a harbinger for things to come.
Mahomes, who was banged up early after a hit by Cotton-Moya, finished with just 219 yards and a season-low one passing touchdown. He completed just 50 percent of his passes that day (also a season-low) and matched a season-high by throwing two interceptions.
The previous season, Mahomes had picked apart a far less-effective Iowa State 3-man front for 428 yards and five touchdowns.
VOICE OF THE CYCLONES JOHN WALTERS: Mahomes, we all knew he was super talented. I don’t think anybody new he was that super talented — that he was going to go on and to be the best quarterback in the NFL. But he had a tremendous arm. As strong an arm as anybody in college football and maybe anybody in the NFL at that point. He could zip it. The year before when Iowa State had played Texas Tech in Lubbock, in Paul Rhoads’ last year, Iowa State basically tried playing that game with a 3-man front and dropping eight into coverage, and Mahomes just stood there all day. You couldn’t get any pressure with the three guys that they sent. They just couldn’t get to him. so it was just like a playground game. It was like raise your hand when you’re open. Mahomes was just back there buying time and there were times at that game in Lubbock — there were times he held the ball 12 to 13 seconds before he ever threw it, you know? They absolutely torched Iowa State down there and that’s part of the reason I think that everybody came in thinking this will be a tough game, because Mahomes ripped us apart a year ago.”
**SAFETY EVRETT EDWARDS: “We watched a lot of film. Watched (Mahomes’) tendencies. He’s a great passer. As long as you keep him in the pocket and if he’s able to roll out to his right, he’s an amazing thrower. So as long as we kept him uncomfortable in the pocket and forced him out, you get the result that (we got) tonight.”
**SAFETY KAMARI COTTON-MOYA: “It was a good feeling. Patrick Mahomes is a great quarterback. Like I said a long time ago, on Big 12 media day, he’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever seen in the Big 12. His size, and he’s got a strong arm. He’s a great quarterback. We knew we had to put pressure on him and slow him down because that offense is really talented and really powerful, so whatever we could do to stop him or slow him down was a good thing.”
WALTERS: “Iowa State, in this game against Texas Tech at Jack Trice Stadium, played a ton of 3-man front. They played pretty much the same defense that they’re playing right now that we’ve become accustomed to. They played three guys up front and they brought extra guys and that was the difference compared to what happened the year before. They brought linebackers. So Willie Harvey was the spy and he was on Mahomes at all times. In addition to that, I think you got really good linebacker play all the way around. From Marcel Spears — they were bringing linebackers on blitzes throughout the day and it was something that was really getting to Mahomes. He did get hurt early in that game when Kamari Cotton Moya delivered a huge blow as he was running the football. Both guys got hurt. Kamari got dinged up. Mahomes, a little bit later, he came out. He went to the locker room and came back in played the rest of the game or as much as he can before its to so out of hand that they just said the heck with it. But he was never as ineffective as he was that day. Part of it probably was the injury. It was his left arm. It wasn’t his right, but still he was in a ton of pain, you could tell, and it probably did affect him some. But the fact Iowa State played that 3-man front really got a lot of pressure on Mahomes and forced him out of his comfort zone was a huge part of that and Willie Harvey played a huge role in that kind of spying on him throughout the game. … They had a lot of success with it that day and maybe it did, in some way shape or form, spawn what happened with that defense and the success Iowa State’s had with it ever since.”
LANNING: “The way the season was going was already rough and we knew we wanted to finish the season strong for the senior class, even though we couldn’t go to a bowl game. And any time Patrick Mahomes is coming to Ames or you’ve got to go there, it’s not going to be an easy task. I wasn’t even playing defense then. I was playing quarterback and it was still hard — as an offensive person against a player like that, you know you’ve got to put up points, because he’s gonna put up points.”
**RECEIVER ALLEN LAZARD: “Our defense played lights out. That was just huge. A huge game for our program.”
Iowa State’s stunning 31-0 second quarterback included Lanning’s second touchdown run, spectacular touchdown catches from Lazard and Hakeem Butler — and, finally, Cotton-Moya’s 48-yard pick six.
The Cyclones strode into the locker room at halftime up 45-3. A season of near-misses would end with a big hit that demonstrated what can happen when everyone’s fully on the same page, locked into the game plan, and playing with supreme confidence.
**COTTON-MOYA: Got the win. Added on to the score. It was a great team win and the pick-six helped us put the stamp on it. It was a blessing.”
HOYT: It felt like an avalanche. I think sometimes, especially as a sportswriter, something happens early in the game and you’re very cynical. You always have the caveat in your mind that, ‘OK, Texas Tech is probably the better team here.’ Especially someone like me watching this for the first time, you have your preconceived notions, ‘OK, Texas Tech is going to come back.’ Well, Iowa State gets on the board. And then there’s that pick six. And then Joel Lanning just starts going into the end zone again and again and again and again. You blink and then it’s a 50-point game all of a sudden. It felt like an avalanche. That pick-six was the one that really got me thinking, ‘Wow, Iowa State’s about to do this.’ And then they just kept going.”
**HEAD COACH MATT CAMPBELL: “I thought the pick six was a game-changer. I thought it really swung momentum our way. … I thought Kamari had, obviously, one of his best football games that I’ve seen him have since I’ve been here, so it was great for him to do it.”
PEAVY: “Thats usually what tends to happen when you come to dominate. You come to win. You show what you’re actually capable of.”
LANNING: “Whenever you can dominate your opponent it’s nice. Especially at the college football level, there’s not too many times you get a chance to score 66 points or blow out a team. So anytime you can put up that many points it’s awesome. It kind of shows the reward of all the hard work you put in, that preparation.”
MURDOCK: “We could just see that they weren’t really ready. Maybe one or two guys were ready — kind of excited to play in the cold, but as a collective team they weren’t.”
WIDE RECEIVER DESHAUNTE JONES: “I think at first we just tried to keep focused as we just kept scoring. We just tried to keep that focus because we’d been in games where we were scoring a lot, like early in the season we played in the Baylor game where we were scoring back to back to back but we still end up losing those games. We just kept saying, ‘Keep scoring, keep putting up points,’ and that’s what we did. The defense kept getting stops and kept getting us the ball back and we kept putting up points on the board. We just tried to do that every possession that we had.”
LANNING’S CAREER DAY
No one goes into game expecting to score five touchdowns — especially a humble, yet deeply dedicated team player such as Lanning, who would transform himself into an All-American linebacker the following season.
Still, Iowa State had been utilizing Lanning in the run game all along, particularly in short-yardage situations.
Lanning has rushed for six touchdowns in the first 10 games of the 2016 season — and nearly doubled that total while running roughshod over the Red Raiders.
He finished with 17 carries for 171 yards and also completed 3 of 4 pass attempts for 51 yards.
WALTERS: I thought it was huge for Joel personally because as the season had gone on, it went from Joel Lanning’s the quarterback to where we’re going to play this two-man system with Jacob Park and Joel Lanning and I’m sure it was tough on Joel. But by that game, his role had been pretty well defined — and Park had a great game, too. They both had great games that day. The thing that blew me away about Joel’s five touchdowns, which ties Troy Davis’s school record for rushing touchdowns in a game, was that I don’t know that he got touched once on any of those five touchdowns. The blocking was so good and the scheme was so good. It was (Patrick) Scroggins a lot of times pulling and leading the way for him. (Fullback) Sam Seonbuchner, was doing a great job leading blocking for him. The tight ends did a great job. It was like the parting of the Red Sea every time he took off and ran with it. If you went back and looked at just the five touchdowns — there are absolutely other runs when he absolutely does bowl over guys, no question — but if you look at just the five touchdowns, I’m not sure that Texas Tech laid a finger on him. It was that well blocked. … A lot of times the blocker out in front of Joel couldn’t find anybody to block because there was nobody there for Texas Tech. It was that well-schemed out that really they had no prayer of stopping it. But that was big for Joel. I think it was a huge moment for him and his family. He’d been through a lot. The guy had been through how many offensive coordinators at that point — three, maybe even four? Hard for a Qb to go through that.”
LANNING: “You don’t ever go into a game expecting to score five times, right? I mean, it was awesome. It was fun. I had great play calls and great offensive linemen and blockers in front of me to make it happen. It was one of those things where we knew what we were gonna face when I was coming in. We know that teams were gonna load the box and it was up to me to beat one or two guys and it ended up happening. When I’m in the box, it’s gonna be 10 or all 11 guys in the box trying to stop the run, so as soon as you can get past those guys it’s wide-open field. So we made it happen.”
HOYT: “You really try to identify characters and themes with a team and you can only do so much in the preparation. I remember being so intrigued by Jacob Park, a transfer quarterback. Being so intrigued by a two-quarterback system with a guy who had been a starter in Joel Lanning, who then kind of had to take a step back and go into this more Taysom Hill-esque role. And obviously they had Allen Lazard. Everything fired on all cylinders. I mean, it was just incredible. Nothing was stopping Iowa State and I think Texas Tech realized that very quickly.”
**CAMPBELL: “It’s rewarding to me anytime I see Joel Lanning have success because Joel Lanning’s a really hard worker. I don’t know if in terms of Joel’s role diminishing at all within our offense because I certainly don’t think it has. I just think what we continue to find is the niche that gives us the best opportunity to be successful and Joel’s a captain here. He’s as well-respected as any player on our football team and Joel has success because he works really hard at it. So I am really proud of Joel Lanning for sure.”
CAMPOS: “(Lanning) could come in and get us a critical third down on third and one or he could do what he did and his reaction was pretty much the same. … He just, you know, he did what he was there to do.”
PEAVY: “Reassurance, validation, confirmation and confidence. A guy like Joel Lanning, before the game, he’s strictly going to do what the coaches say. Playbook. If it’s that hole, we’re gonna hit it. And to see him actually score five touchdowns from that attitude everybody knows he carried, it almost gives us, ‘Oh, coach? They know what they’re talking about.’ Or players actually doing what they’re supposed to do, or just doing my job — we can actually score six touchdowns with the playbook that we have. We don’t have to do something extremely tricky, extremely circus. So to see a player like that — and I wouldn’t want any other player to have a game like that for that team and that moment, because he was a captain, regarded highly. It reminds me of the Kyle Kempt situation beating Oklahoma (in 2017). It shows that exactly what they preach: if you do it, believe it, you can basically achieve it. It was a beautiful game, because it was just, what, quarterback sneaks? Right? That was a game.”
MURDOCK: “Joel was amazing. What, five touchdown runs? That kind of speaks for itself. Joel was finding the holes and then he was just using his athleticism that God gave him and that athleticism that we kind of knew he already had as far as running the football. He’s a very physical runner. And our offensive line,gotta give credit to them, they were doing a great job leaving the holes wide open for him so it wasn’t really hard to decide where to go. It was just all about, ‘Hey, are you physically able to get the job done,’ and obviously Joel can with the ball in his hands.”
JONES: “I think Joel was just in the zone. Sometimes players get in that zone that nothing can stop them and everything really slows down. And I think that coach Campbell knew that he was in that zone and he just kept trying to feed him and it worked out for us.”
BLUM: “And that was a super unheralded offensive line. I think there were two or three walk-ons in that group and they were just overly ridiculed all year long, but you’re right, there were holes the size of the Red Sea that Lanning kind of just waltzed through. That was never a Tech defense that was going to win any awards, but certainly it was an Iowa State offense where things really clicked and you started to see the identity come together. You had a freshman (running back) in (David) Montgomery. Lanning really brought a dimension and then Jacob Park (14-18, 285 yards, two touchdowns) played really well in that game, which was kind of forgotten because of the issues the next year, but he was dynamic. Hakeem Butler was a freshman who caught a (39-yard) touchdown in that game. Lazard had some spectacular catches. So you just saw the identity that would come together in 2017 really peak its head up for the first time in 2016.”
One of those walk-on offensive lineman — the versatile Nick Fett — had replaced the injured Campos at tackle at the start of the season and ended up earning second-team All-Big 12 honors from coaches in his senior season.
CAMPOS: Yeah, Fett was — he still is — one of my best friends and especially going into that Oklahoma State game (the previous season), his junior year, so my redshirt sophomore year, the year before I got hurt. He came in in an emergency role and he and I were actually co-offensive linemen of the game that game. So he stepped up and he just played out of his mind.
I think that game really helped kind of turn coaches’ heads and also I think for him, He’s like, ‘Okay, well I could do this. I could play a 12,’ and then didn’t miss a beat. I went down and he stepped in there and did a great job. He was one of the premier guys on our offensive line. Just kind of showed his character and he was just ready for it. He was ready to step up.”
Beyond Lanning’s heroics, the defense’s stellar performance and the requisite grit that permeated all three phases of the game, that 66-10 win over Texas Tech served as a springboard for much bigger things to come.
For Campos — who returned to at least solid health for his senior season in 2017 — it meant everything just to be out of the hospital and back with the team.
The future pro was back in the sidelines before the first half ended, happily observing that one-game, but eventually wide-reaching avalanche of success alongside his teammates.
Campos finally breathed easy and smiled.
“Oh, yeah, so I came in — I think it was three minutes left in the first half,” Campos said. “So we were already up big and I think I was still on crutches at the time. Showed up on the sidelines and everybody was like, ‘Hey, where have you been? We haven’t seen you all game.’ I kind of slipped out pre-game because I wasn’t at the team hotel or anything, so just showed up late and I was like, ‘Hey, after that, maybe I need to go to the ER before every game if we’re going to play like that.’”
Note: ** – denotes quotes obtained after the game, not in the past several days.