Oct 10, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) goes up and over the line for a touchdown to make the score 20-7 during their football game against Texas Tech at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Boring never felt so good.
A Saturday night spent at home watching your grandma and her friends play cribbage is boring. Standing in line is boring. Sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office?
Iowa State’s 31-15 win over Texas Tech at Jack Trice Stadium was boring in the best possible way. It moved the Cyclones to 3-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since Seneca Wallace lined up behind center. Outside of one early hiccup that led to a blocked kick returned for a touchdown, Iowa State was dominant in basically every facet of the game.
There were outstanding performances for the No. 24 Cyclones, but none of them were so spectacular that they will make the SportsCenter Top 10. There were few surprises and there were no letdowns from last week’s emotional win over Oklahoma.
This was one football team imposing its will on another and bullying it into submission. It was as boring as any football game that does not include the University of Kansas can possibly be in the Big 12 in 2020.
And that’s just the way I liked it.
“From my end, proud of the way our football team played for about three-quarters of the football game,” Matt Campbell said. “Obviously, we’re not perfect, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. I appreciate our physicality and mentality to getting better. I think there was really good growth again today and we’ve got a lot of work to do and grateful that we have a bye week to get to work on some of the things that are holding us back right now.”
Iowa State controlled the football game from the very beginning, forcing a three and out on Texas Tech’s opening possession then using more than six minutes of the first quarter for a drive that ultimately ended as the blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.
It would be difficult for anyone to complain about anything they saw from the Cyclones during the remainder of the first half.
The offense promptly answered the special teams touchdowns by going on an eight-play, 68-yard drive that took 3:22 before Breece Hall capped it with the first of his two touchdowns in the game. The defense followed that by forcing another three and out.
All told, the Cyclones controlled the football for 13:07 of the first quarter. By the end of the game, Iowa State had accrued more than 40 minutes in time of possession.
Brock Purdy led the Iowa State offense to scoring drives of nine plays, 13 plays, 12 plays and 11 plays. Each one was the Cyclones executing their offense to near perfection while keeping a defense that more or less dominated the Texas Tech offense, which entered the game ninth nationally in total offense, off the field.
“What we do is we just try and get the first, first down,” senior tight end Chase Allen said. “If we do that, things end up usually going really well for us. If we get that first, first down, we can get our tempo stuff going, get the right people on and off the field and keep hammering that ball down there. We saw that a lot today for three quarters.”
This game was another step in the growth process of an Iowa State football program that has its eyes set on winning championships. The Cyclones proved they’re capable of winning the big games again last week with the win over the Sooners.
The question was how they would respond to winning the big game.
The answer was outgaining their opponent by nearly 300 yards, running for more than 200 yards, holding the opponent to less than 60 yards on the ground, preventing the opposing team from converting on any of their 10 third-down conversion attempts and controlling the football game from beginning to end.
Good programs prove their ability by winning big games. Great programs prove their ability by winning week-after-week and arriving in each game with the intent to dominate regardless of who the opponent is.
Good programs play exciting games nearly every week that decrease their fanbase’s collective lifespan significantly. Great programs play games like that too, but they usually come in the big games that national television audiences tune in for.
More often than not, great programs play boring games. Iowa State has not played in many boring games over the last several seasons during its rise under Campbell.
That’s why boring felt so great on Saturday.
“Well, I think against a team like Texas Tech, who we’ve seen through the course of their season already how dynamic they can be offensively — part of a game like that, you’ve gotta have the ability to control the pace with your offense,” Campbell said. “Again, a lot of credit to (Offensive Coordinator) (Tom) Manning. Credit to our offensive line and obviously our running backs. I thought we did a really good job having the ability to control the tempo of the game. But man, when you play a team like that, that’s so dynamic on the offensive side if you’re not playing complementary football, I think you’re gonna really get yourself in trouble.”
While Saturday’s win was largely comfortable from beginning to end, it still revealed things that require cleaning up as the Cyclones move forward into a bye week ahead of what figures to be a colossal game on Oct. 24 against Big 12 co-leader Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
For the second straight week, Iowa State committed an illegal formation penalty inside the red zone, which ultimately negated a touchdown and led to the blocked field goal attempt.
That one penalty was a 14-point swing early on in the football game.
Against Texas Tech, it did not matter.
But, moving forward, things like that cannot happen. The Cyclones might have had enough room for error against a Red Raider team that looked ready to load the buses about halfway through the third quarter, but I find it hard to believe something like that would not bite this team against Oklahoma State or Kansas State.
The Cyclones appeared to get somewhat complacent or conservative in the fourth quarter, allowing a meaningless Texas Tech touchdown and failing to sustain an offensive drive that would have put the game on ice considerably earlier.
Obviously, the game was in hand, but this felt like it was teetering on the edge of an opportunity to potentially get one of your true freshman backup quarterbacks or some inexperienced skill players a little run against a Big 12 team.
Iowa State failed to take care of that teetering and it was forced to keep the majority of its starters in the game until the final whistle.
“If we want to have that killer mentality and end games without trying to give everybody a heart attack, we’ve got to be able to not go three and out late in the game, we’ve got to extend the clock, just keep it rolling and give our defense a break,” Allen said. “Things like a field goal block for a touchdown, that’s such an Iowa State thing to happen. We’ve got to eliminate that. Kind of gives us confidence that we can handle that because a lot of teams that would happen to and they’d immediately fold. We weathered the adversity well but we’ve got to fix those details or it’s going to bite us in the butt.”
Saturday’s game at Jack Trice Stadium was boring and that is exactly what it needed to be.
This was no Saturday night game of cribbage with your grandma’s friends, though. This was not the kind of boring accompanied by the dread that comes with going to the dentist.
For once, being bored was the best feeling to have.