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Football

STANZ: An exorcism of demons and the challenges that lie ahead

Nov 21, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Hunter Dekkers (12) celebrates with quarterback Brock Purdy (15) after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas State Wildcats at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — Brock Purdy connected with Joe Scates in the front right corner of the south end zone at Jack Trice Stadium for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Maybe Scates did push off from the Kansas State defensive back, maybe he didn’t.

Doesn’t matter.

That one was for Allen Lazard and waved off flags in 2017.

Purdy found Charlie Kolar in the back of the end zone from six yards out to cap an 11-play, 97-yard drive after the Wildcats were stuffed inside the Iowa State five-yard line on fourth and goal.

That one was for, of all people, Jacob Park, who led an Iowa State drive to the K-State one-yard line in 2016, looking to pull the Cyclones into a late tie, but his fourth and one pass to David Montgomery misfired and fell to the turf.

Xavier Hutchinson just made a spectacular 21-yard catch on an equally great throw from Purdy to put the Cyclones ahead three scores.

That one was for Joel Lanning and Mike Warren and the three fumbles that allowed Kansas State to erase a three-score Iowa State lead in the final seven minutes in 2015.

Breece Hall, oh baby, Breece Hall tip-toed his way down the sidelines for a 33-yard Heisman Trophy worthy touchdown run.

That one was for Jarvis West, who basically single-handily put the Cyclones ahead against the Wildcats in 2014 with a passing touchdown, receiving touchdown and punt return touchdown before ISU gave up 12 points unanswered in the fourth quarter.

There goes Hall again, this time from 21-yards out, breaking through arm tackles and extending Iowa State’s lead to 35-0.

That one was for Iowa State’s entire 2013 roster and the beatdown they faced at the hands of these Wildcats that season.

Connor Assalley knocked through a 32-yard field goal and Hunter Dekkers scored his first career rushing touchdown from 12-yards out to make the score 45-0.

Those points, well, those points were for everybody who has ever donned the Cardinal and Gold and suffered through 11 losses to the Wildcats in 12 years.

45-0.

“I think all good football teams want to play good football in November,” Matt Campbell said after the game. “We’ve played two games in the month of November up until this point and I’ve seen a lot of really positive growth.”

I am willing to bet everyone in Cyclone Nation woke up with a feeling of dread in their stomachs. This reporter did for certain.

The Cyclones were the better team on paper going into the game. Our friends in the desert pegged them as double-digit favorites. But, after all, this is Kansas State — and things, for the most part, never go well against Kansas State.

That was until Saturday when the Cyclones handed the Wildcats their worst loss in five seasons, posted the first shutout in the series since 1978 and picked up their second-largest margin of victory in the series’ 104-year history, behind only a 1943 game played while the Manhattan Project was in motion a few blocks away on Iowa State’s campus.

That one was a relief.

“There’s a lot of positives we can take (from this) and yet, still, there’s a lot where you continue grow and need to work on,” Campbell said. “Great challenges sit out in front of us. With great challenges, come great opportunity. Part of it is continuing to go back to work and perfect your craft. I do think it is a positive that we played good football today.”

Kansas State had starters out on both sides of the ball, most notably two of the team’s starting linebackers. The Wildcats started true freshmen at quarterback and tailback. This is a young squad overall in Chris Klieman’s second season as the head man in Manhattan.

Those will be the excuses some people give for Iowa State’s complete and total beatdown of the Wildcats on Saturday but ignore them.

There are no ifs, ands or buts about this performance.

The Cyclones had better players at nearly every position, most notably quarterback, where Purdy completed 16-of-20 passes for 236 yards and three scores, and at running back, where Hall totaled 138 yards and two scores on only 15 carries.

Iowa State was the better team from the first drive to the final horn.

Period.

The end.

That thing you just witnessed take place on a November Saturday in Ames felt like a sign. The days of being victimized by a vampire and a program are gone — at least for now.

“They did a great job,” Klieman said. “They outplayed us in all three phases.”

While those of us on the outside may have been nervous, the young men on the inside, the guys tasked with getting the job done between the white lines, looked dialed in from the beginning.

The result was the best half of football Iowa State has played since… when?

The Cyclones’ 35-0 lead at the half was the result of possibly the most complete effort the program has put together since Campbell arrived in Ames.

The offense scored on five of its first six drives. After allowing 62 yards on 11 plays during the Wildcats’ first drive, which ended with the aforementioned stand near the goalline, K-State totaled just 27 yards on their next 13 offensive plays, ending three drives with punts, one with Mike Rose’s fourth interception of the season and the last concluding with the halftime buzzer.

The Iowa State team that played the first half on Saturday could play with, and beat, nearly every team in the country. It was complete and utter dominance.

It was championship level football.

As the days in November tick by, it is becoming clear this is a championship-caliber football team.

“I think when we’re playing great football, we’re playing as one team. You saw that again tonight in a lot of the football game,” Campbell said. “It’s the defense getting the ball back for the offense. It’s the offense efficiently moving the football. It’s playing together. That part is what good football teams do. We’re not just offense. We’re not just defense. We’re a team and that’s what we strive to be. I think in general, you’re seeing us getting better playing the sport football and playing team football along the way.”

The Cyclones will need to maintain that championship level of play if they hope to break through the glass ceiling and qualify for the program’s first Big 12 title game. That is the type of play required to break the program’s 108-year run without a conference title.

Iowa State will arrive in Austin next Friday coming off a six-day prep period for another one of the league’s top teams. Texas will be coming off a 14-day prep period due to their game scheduled for this week against Kansas being postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Jayhawks’ program.

What we saw from the Cyclones on Saturday was a statement heard across the Big 12, but the nightcap Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is the one that will draw the headlines.

Do you really want to make a statement? One that will send ripples across the college football landscape?

Do this again in six days against Texas on Black Friday.

“This is going to be maybe one of the great challenges that I’ve had and we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Campbell said. “This is going to be really hard, and yet, I feel like that’s what you want this time of year. Hard, tough challenges that are defining of who you are and who you become.”

This game felt good.

It felt like an exorcism of demons that have haunted this program for more than a decade. It felt like it was meant to be a signal to everyone that this Iowa State team is for real in every sense of the word.

Holy crap did it feel good.

You know what will feel even better?

Doing it again.

“The next six days are going to challenge just about everything we’re about and see how we respond to it,” Campbell said. “Great challenges in front of us for sure.”

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.