I’m Kyle Oppenhuizen, a lifelong Iowa State fan. I am documenting my journey to attend every game of the 2021 season, with plans to publish a book at the end of the season. Fan excitement at an all-time high and the ability to attend games after a season of social distancing added up to this being the perfect storm to go all-in on the 2021 season as a fan. Join me on this journey to experiencing every suspenseful, exciting and heartbreaking moment in this Cyclone season. Below is my recap from the Kansas game. You can find more blog posts on my website, where you can also sign up for updates.
Iowa State was rolling, but there was still just a little bit of drama.
The Cyclones had jumped to a 38-0 lead at halftime. The near-sellout crowd at Jack Trice Stadium was enjoying every minute. When I wrote my preview for this game, I wrote that it would be difficult for fans to be truly satisfied no matter what happened. A big win was expected; anything less would cause worry.
I was wrong, at least speaking for myself. Even for a team favored to win by thirty-plus points, it was impressive to see Iowa State’s ability to take complete control of the game from the opening kick. The crowd showed up and cheered loud, despite a 2-2 start to the season that began with so much hype. It was a nearly picture-perfect fall night in Jack Trice Stadium. The team responded by scoring four touchdowns in the opening quarter and delivering the kind of dominant win that we had rarely seen at Iowa State even in the era of coach Matt Campbell.
As we looked forward to the second half, there was still one “check-the-box” moment that could make it even better. All offseason, and for most people, all of 2020, we had waited longingly for the chance to hear “Juicy Wiggle,” a song by Redfoo. Juicy Wiggle is a dance tune that gets the crowd standing, clapping, bobbing to the beat. I could try to describe it better, but if you know, you know. And if you don’t know, YouTube is your friend. (My wife, Paige, simply describes the song by pumping her fist in the air.)
The first time I think I remember hearing the song was during the 2016 season. They began playing it every now and again after an Iowa State touchdown. I seem to remember people clapping along and generally enjoying it, but didn’t think too much more of it. The first time I really remember registering the juice (pun intended) it seemed to add into the stadium was during the 2017 Iowa game when Iowa State took a second-half lead. At some point in time, the people who run the video board and sound system at Jack Trice Stadium seemed to figure out that they had something in this song that Cyclone fans responded to, and they could take the fans’ excitement to another level if they timed it right. I think they figured this out before I ever fully realized it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew, but it wasn’t something I looked forward to on gameday.
That changed in 2018. Sixth-ranked West Virginia came to town on an October evening. It was ISU quarterback Brock Purdy’s first-ever start after coming into the game off the bench and leading Iowa State to a road win the week prior. The stadium atmosphere was raucous from the get-go; we could smell an upset. In the fourth quarter, Purdy found wide receiver Deshaunte Jones for a thirty-two-yard touchdown pass to grab a 28-14 lead. In the ensuing timeout, Juicy Wiggle played over the loudspeakers. I, along with sixty-thousand-plus others in the stadium, danced and clapped, thrilled at watching our Cyclones take a commanding lead over a top-ranked team. At some point, a few people — likely in the student section, but I can’t confirm that — turned on their cell phone flashlights as though they were at a concert. They were waving their lights back and forth to the beat. Like wildfire, the lights spread as more and more people saw what was happening and caught on. In a matter of moments, the entire stadium was filled with the cell phone lights going back and forth to the beat. It was a totally organic and unexpected moment and would have to rank as one of the top five best moments I’ve ever seen in Jack Trice Stadium (if not THE top).
From then on, the song played almost every game, always after a second-half touchdown, usually when the crowd is already in a frenzy. The biggest challenge seemed to be simply timing it right. Nobody has a crystal ball to know exactly what is going to happen, and when it is going to happen, within a game; therefore finding the right timing to play Juicy Wiggle requires some luck. In some games it is obvious. For the West Virginia game in 2018, the moment couldn’t have been more perfect. Sometimes the song plays at a point that feels like it’s too early in the second half when the game is still way too much up in the air. One game it played after a missed extra point. Not ideal. And in the worst of times, we do not get to hear it at all if the score and situation never necessitate it (or Iowa State fails to score a second-half touchdown).
At its best, though, the Juicy Wiggle experience brings the stadium to a fever pitch at just the right moment. In the 2018 game against Kansas State at the end of the season, the song played after the Cyclones cut a seventeen-point Wildcat lead down to three in the fourth quarter. In the 2019 game against TCU, the song played after a fourth-quarter touchdown put the game squarely in Iowa State’s favor. On the ensuing kickoff, TCU’s returner fumbled the ball back to Iowa State, and the song came back onto the loudspeakers after the play to keep the celebration going. In 2019 against Texas, the song played after the game was over when the Cyclones made a walk-off field goal to win.
Going into the home opener against UNI, hearing the Juicy Wiggle and dancing with fellow Cyclone fans was on my bucket list for the day. After so long of having not been in the stadium, I couldn’t wait to have that moment. I had built it up in my mind. It was the same sort of anticipation I had felt for pulling into the tailgate lots, seeing the marching band and yelling “Cyclone! Power!”
We didn’t get to hear it that day.
The following week against Iowa, we did hear it, but it was after thousands of people had already left the stadium and a Hawkeye victory was all but assured. Nobody felt much like dancing.
Back to Saturday night in 2021 against Kansas. My dad was with me at the game and had never witnessed the Juicy Wiggle. I tried my best to explain what it was, but knew it was one of those things you just had to see for yourself to understand. I wondered a few times whether they would play the song in the first half after one of Iowa State’s five touchdowns, sensing that the moment would be right. My friend Chris, who was not sitting next to me that night, was calling for it in our group text message chain. After one touchdown, people brought out their cell phone lights just to wave them to a different song. People clearly wanted their Juicy Wiggle moment. They had to wait for the second half.
Iowa State took the ball first to start the third quarter, and for only the second time that night was forced to punt. It would need to wait a little longer. Kansas then put together its only scoring drive of the evening to cut the lead to 38-7. The thought occurred to me. What if we don’t score in the second half?? What a letdown it would have been not to hear the song.
Then the magic happened. Iowa State took the ball, went down the field in seven plays and capped off the drive with a Breece Hall one-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Iowa State was up 45-7, but the score didn’t really matter as there had been no doubt in the outcome for quite some time. What mattered was what was about to happen. The band played one of the school fight songs after the extra point was good. And then we heard the familiar bass line, followed by the piano, followed by tens of thousands of people waving their cell phone lights. I briefly thought about taking a picture, or a video, but instead, I turned on my own cell phone flashlight and waved it to the beat.
A nearly perfect night at Jack Trice Stadium had reached its peak.
About a week before the game, my friend James let Chris and I know that his dad’s seats in the Jack Trice Club would be open for the Kansas game. I had never sat in these seats before and it sounded like it would be a fun time.
Separately, near the beginning of game week, I found out we had some extra tickets available in our group. I offered them to my parents to see if they wanted to join. On Thursday, my dad decided he would join. By this time, the extra tickets were spoken for, but both Chris and Paige generously agreed to let my dad and me join James in using the club tickets.
My dad took me to my first major college football game when Iowa played against Tulsa in 1997. The next year, he took me to my first Iowa State game, a 38-0 win over Ball State in 1998. A few years later he braved one of the coldest games I can remember going to, a 2003 game against Kansas State. The wind chill that day was one degree. One. Iowa State got thumped by the Wildcats, 45-0. My dad and I refused to leave early.
In my marching band days, my parents made it to almost every game, buying season tickets for my last three years in the band. They sat through hot games and cold games, thrillers and more than a few blowouts. They always stayed until the bitter end.
Over the years, I have gone to quite a few games of all types with my dad. In addition to sharing games at Jack Trice Stadium with him, he took me to my first NASCAR race, and he and my mom also took me to my first Chicago Cubs game. In 2016, I convinced him to skip a day of our family vacation in the Wisconsin Dells to catch a Cubs game in Milwaukee. In 2017, my brother and I took dad for a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to Green Bay to see a Packers game. (We then took second and third annual “once-in-a-lifetime” trips the next two years.) I’ve been lucky enough to share with him a good number of Cyclone, Hawkeye, Cubs and Packers games as well as races over the years. He has seen me in some of my most passionate moments (good and bad), and I’m always grateful when he joins us for a day of tailgating and football in Ames.
Saturday arrived. Iowa State’s uniforms for the day were set to be a cardinal helmet, cardinal jersey and white pants. I wasn’t wearing cardinal today, however. A couple of weeks before the game, a fan on Twitter encouraged people to “stripe” the stadium, with some sections being cardinal and some being yellow. I thought it was a cool concept and decided to wear a yellow shirt. Over the summer, I had purchased a “Welcome to Brocktober” shirt produced by Cyclone Fanatic in collaboration with quarterback Brock Purdy. The shirt was produced as part of the new name, image and likeness rules that made it OK for athletes to benefit from their name on merchandise. “Brocktober” had become a folk legend of sorts for Iowa State football after Purdy played in his first game during the first weekend of October in 2018, and led the Cyclones to a 4-0 record in the month. The Cyclones had a 3-1 October record each year in 2019 and 2020 with Purdy as quarterback. I figured since it was Purdy’s senior year, it was now October and the shirt was yellow, I better wear it to at least one game.
I made a grocery run in the morning to grab some beers (including an Oktoberfest from Odell Brewing Company, a brewery in Paige’s hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado). My dad was bringing pork tenderloins to grill along with some meat sticks and donut holes from the meat market and bakery in our hometown of Pella.
We pulled into the tailgate lot around 2:00 p.m. along with Paige, Chris and his wife Kaci, and Paige’s sister Erin who was also attending her first game. The weather was in the 70s; a beautiful fall day in Iowa. This was the kind of day that was made for college football and tailgating. We met up with the group and commenced some of our normal games. It felt like less than a minute before someone yelled “RICOCHEEEEET!” It was another fun tailgate with close friends and family.
Around 5:30 p.m., we began to make our way to the stadium. Since this would likely be the only home game my dad would attend in 2021, I wanted to give him the chance to see the marching band. We arrived at the gates and said goodbye to the rest of the group heading to our normal section as we went in search of the Jack Trice Club.
We found the club and made our way to our seats. We were in the back row of the section, which was underneath the first few rows of the upper deck stands. We had a perfect view of the field from the fifty-yard line. Just a few steps behind us was a bar and a couple of buffet lines with food and desserts. I could get used to this, I thought. We took in the band and cheered as the team began to make its way to the field. Although not everyone got the memo about which color shirt to wear, I was nonetheless impressed at the number of people who did wear yellow in the sections designated as yellow by the fans on Twitter. It made me hope Iowa State’s athletics department would officially try something like this in the future as it would be a great look in pictures and on television.
The Cyclones were in need of a win, and Kansas was the right team to play to all but guarantee it would happen. According to ESPN’s win probability tracker, the Cyclones began the game with a win probability of 98.4%. The probability never dipped below that.
Kansas took the ball first and was immediately held to a three-and-out and forced to punt to Iowa State. The Cyclones promptly moved the ball seventy yards in six plays, capped by a thirty-six-yard-touchdown pass from Purdy to Xavier Hutchinson, on a play in which the Kansas defender aggressively went for the ball, missed it, and left Hutchinson with nothing but green grass in front of him. I high-fived my dad and James who were sitting next to me as the crowd roared.
A few plays later, the Jayhawks quarterback put the ball on the ground unforced, and Iowa State’s Zach Petersen pounced on it. On the ensuing possession, Purdy scrambled and found Charlie Kolar in the back of the endzone. Kolar was able to get separation from the defender, reach out and snatch the ball out of the air, and keep a foot down in the corner of the endzone to complete the catch. I joined the crowd in erupting out of my seat as he made the catch, and watched the replay on the in-stadium televisions (the giant video boards were blocked from our view) in awe.
The rout was on. Kansas went for it on fourth down from its own forty-five-yard-line on its next possession and got stuffed by the Cyclone defense. Purdy came out and threw a forty-four-yard touchdown pass to Joe Scates, who caught the ball in stride on his way into the endzone, to give Iowa State a 21-0 lead. On its ensuing possession, Kansas had some success moving the ball, setting up a thirty-four-yard field goal attempt — which was blocked. Iowa State’s Greg Eisworth returned it all the way to the Kansas thirty-two-yard-line, setting up three straight runs by Breece Hall down to the seven-yard-line and a seven-yard pass from Purdy to Jirehl Brock for a touchdown and 28-0 lead. All told, Purdy threw four touchdown passes in the first quarter.
Brocktober had arrived. The game was, for all intents and purposes, over in the first quarter.
As I looked around at a full Jack Trice Stadium on a beautiful October evening, I couldn’t help but think about how far this stadium had come since I first came to a game in 1998. The most visible change is the addition of seats in the southwest and southeast corner of the stadium, as well as the addition of the Sukup Endzone Club in the south endzone.
I had a history in those seats before they became club seats. During my first year in the ISU marching band in 2005, we sat in the south endzone. Normally, we had an entire section to ourselves. The exception was the Colorado game, the final home game of the season. There was enough demand for tickets in the stadium for the athletics department to sell tickets for the seats behind us, which were normally empty. We all had the perfect view as Brent “Big Play” Curvey grabbed an interception from Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt and came rumbling toward us to score the game-clinching touchdown.
The next year, the athletics department decided to sell all of the south endzone seats, moving the band to its own makeshift section in the north endzone. A few years later, I re-joined the crowd of paying ticket-holders in the south endzone for the 2011 season, just in time for the new video board to be installed in the north endzone. At the time they were great seats for me. I got to be close to the field, and when the game action was on the other side of the 50-yard-line I could watch the giant video board. Not to mention they were truly the “cheap seats.” Although the price went up over the years, I am fairly certain I didn’t pay much more than $100 for season tickets in those seats during the first season, which was about the only way I could have afforded tickets at the time.
For years, dating back to 2006 when I was a freshman at Iowa State, the plan had been to eventually “bowl in” the south endzone, adding permanent seats where the hillside seating used to be, and renovating the existing seats. In the spring of 2013, as a young reporter at the Des Moines Business Record and a season ticket holder, I got curious and asked ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard what it would take to complete the project. The Cyclones at the time were coming off the best two seasons of attendance in school history with more than 50,000 fans each game for the previous two seasons. He told me then it would take a lead donor, and perhaps as importantly, continued strong attendance even when times were not good in terms of the on-field performance by the football team.
Times were indeed not good in the 2013 season, with Iowa State finishing 3-9. But the crowds kept coming, and so did the donation: $25 million from Roy and Bobbi Reiman. In November 2013, just a couple of days after I stood through the coldest game in Jack Trice Stadium history in a win against Kansas, Iowa State announced it would take on the stadium addition with a goal to be complete by the 2015 season, and an additional gift by the Sukup Family brought the Sukup End Zone Club to life.
The addition is a striking difference to the eye from both inside and outside the stadium. The Reiman Plaza seamlessly connects the Reiman Gardens to the stadium’s south entrance. As fans file in from the south entrance, my entry point for many years, the glass façade of the club gives an inviting feeling. From the inside, it completely revitalizes the stadium. It makes Jack Trice Stadium finally look and feel like the big-time college football stadium it is.
As the adaptation of the old “Field of Dreams” quote goes, “If you build it, they will come.” The crowds have indeed shown up. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was difficult to imagine Iowa State could sell out a game in a 61,500-seat-stadium against a team not named Iowa, Northern Iowa or Nebraska (a conference rival for many years that often brought thousands of fans to Ames). After Iowa State’s loss to Baylor to open the 2021 Big 12 season, I was worried the momentum would disappear enough that a good amount of people might not show up for the Kansas game. Yet, as I sat there watching the Cyclones play the worst program in the Big 12, the stadium seats I could see around me were almost all full. I couldn’t see the entire stadium from my view, but I could tell how full the stadium was later when I saw wide-angle photos of the stadium. The official attendance was 60,446, at ninety-eight percent capacity, to watch a 2-2 team coming off a heart-wrenching loss play a 1-3 team. (I later learned this was the largest crowd ever to attend an Iowa State vs. Kansas game.)
Over the summer before the 2021 season, the newest renovation was completed outside the stadium. A plaza was added to the north side of the stadium where fans can mingle before the game, and the Stark Performance Center was complete just outside the northwest corner of the stadium, made possible by the Richard and Joan Stark family.
My favorite part of this building is the addition of a logo visible from parts of the stadium. The five-stripe logo is made to look similar to the pattern that was on Jack Trice’s jersey. Most Iowa Staters likely know Trice’s story, but for anyone reading who does not know, here is the short version.
Trice was the first African-American to play football for Iowa State and tragically died after just his second football game in 1923 at Minnesota after breaking his collarbone and being trampled by Minnesota players. Nobody knows for sure, but there is plenty of speculation that opposing players were targeting Trice due to his skin color.
The school in recent years has done a good job of honoring Trice’s memory. The stadium is of course named after him and is the only Division-I Football Bowl Subdivision stadium named after a Black man. In 2013, the Cyclones wore a replica jersey for their game against Iowa as a way to honor Trice’s memory, and in the following years, the five-stripe pattern became a secondary logo of sorts for the program. The logo seemed to become even more prominent on merchandise heading into the 2021 season. I bought two such shirts in the style of the logo and a hat that incorporates the logo. I have enjoyed seeing Iowa State embrace this symbol of Trice.
As I watch Iowa State take on the Jayhawks, I thought about the fact that I was in the Jack Trice Club, and reminded myself that I was wearing my Jack Trice logo hat. I feel a little extra surge of pride.
My dad and I were still a little bit in awe that we were sitting in club seats. I walked out with a sandwich and he expressed his surprise when I told him it was complimentary. As I said, we could get used to this. We remarked how different the view was. Though it was open-air, it almost felt like we were inside since we were sitting underneath the upper deck, which blocked our view of the sky. I remarked that in some ways, I almost liked our normal seats better as you could see the entire stadium better. He pointed out that there were heaters above us; “I bet those are nice during cold games,” he said.
Almost as if on cue, a few minutes later we were indeed grateful to be protected from the elements as the rain began to fall. “Huh. Looks like some people in the stands are looking for cover,” I remarked as we remained completely dry.
Meanwhile, on the field, Iowa State continued to dominate. Hall capped an eighty-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run to make it 35-0. With time ticking down in the first half, Purdy was sacked at the Kansas nine-yard-line. Iowa State had no timeouts to stop the clock. The Cyclones calmly ran in the field goal unit, and Connor Assalley nailed a 26-yard-field goal as time expired. Iowa State took a 38-0 lead in the half. The only element in question was if and when Juicy Wiggle would be played.
That moment came after Hall’s touchdown run with just more than five minutes left in the third quarter made it 45-7 Iowa State. The moment we had waited so long for finally arrived. As Chris texted, “Ahhh…. Therapy.” I had to agree. It was therapeutic to celebrate a blowout by dancing to the Juicy Wiggle.
Just as I had hoped, Iowa State began to put its backups into the game. Backup quarterback Hunter Dekkers wasted no time making his presence felt, breaking a forty-one-yard run to the endzone to give the Cyclones a 52-7 lead.
With the game safely in hand, and having enjoyed a successful Juicy Wiggle experience, my thoughts turned elsewhere: dessert. “Did you know they have free Clone Cones?” one of our seatmates asked, referring to the red and yellow ice cream sold at Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum. “What!? I had no idea!” I said. “Yeah,” he answered. “They even have toppings.”
We decided to scope it out and found that yes, there was free ice cream. My dad and I each filled our bowls and I put some chocolate candy and cookies on top of mine. Around that time, we looked outside. “Looks like it’s raining again,” my dad said as I took a bit of ice cream.
We returned to our seats to watch the Iowa State defense continue to shut down Kansas, and backups including Dekkers and running backs Jirehl Brock, Eli Sanders and Dion Silas lead the Cyclone offense. Paige sent me a message. “How is it being dry?” After I told her it was really nice, she sent me a photo of Chris and Kaci sitting under an umbrella, and a selfie of her and Erin, all looking a little damp and wearing sour facial expressions. I sent a selfie of my dad and me (nice and dry) and a photo of James eating ice cream. Yep, the suite life wasn’t all bad. I knew this could be the last time I ever sat in these seats; I figured I might as well enjoy it. I also wondered what bad weather I would potentially need to sit through the rest of the season to make up for my little jokes.
Iowa State capped off the scoring with a sixteen-yard-touchdown run by Silas to make the final Iowa State 59, Kansas 7. My dad and I said goodbye to James and walked back to the car. By this time the rain had stopped (sometimes it really is your night.) As we loaded up to head home, everyone seemed in good spirits despite some having sat through the rain. There was some good-natured ribbing toward my dad and me for having lived the suite life for a night. At least I think it was good-natured.
We talked about the game and wondered aloud if we had ever seen Iowa State score twenty-eight points in the first quarter. (It turned out we had not. Iowa State’s twenty-eight first-quarter points were the most in school history.) We remarked how much fun it was to see Iowa State win big and to enjoy the Juicy Wiggle. “I wish we could play Kansas one more time this season,” I said, thinking about the challenge that awaited Iowa State in its final seven games and the fact that there were no obvious easy wins left. Iowa State was coming up to its bye week with a record of 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big 12. Following the bye would be a seven-game stretch that would include Kansas State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and TCU.
“I think they can win any game left on their schedule,” I said, fully well knowing they could also lose any game left on their schedule.
None of it mattered that evening. We arrived at what had been our meet-up point in Ankeny earlier in the day and unpacked our coolers and other items from my dad’s SUV. My dad had sat through some pretty miserable Iowa State games; I got the impression that he had enjoyed the entire experience of this one. I was grateful to have shared it with him. It was another reminder to focus on the journey, not the destination.