Oklahoma State senior running back Jaylen Warren slips out of the reach of Iowa State senior linebacker Mike Rose in the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. © Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — Someone had to lose.
And it wasn’t going to be Matt Campbell or Mike Rose.
The site and time: Campbell’s driveway, this summer.
The game: Pickleball.
The adversaries: Charlie Kolar and Greg Eisworth.
Iowa State’s head football coach had one of his All-Americans on his side and one on the other — along with the program’s first-ever three-time first team All-Big 12 selection.
Neither side flinched. Neither side gave an inch. But someone had to win … and it wouldn’t be Eisworth and Kolar.
“I am undefeated, so I’m going to state that right now,” Campbell said during a fun, tongue-in-cheek moment during Tuesday’s news conference in advance of Saturday’s game between the Cyclones (6-3, 4-2) and Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4) in Lubbock. “We get down to the last point and you would think we are literally fourth and one on the one-yard line. Now remember, we won — me and Mike. We beat them. Make sure that makes whatever this is going into. But (Kolar’s) reaction for an hour was he was so mad and he wanted to play another round. But we weren’t playing another round because I had won. That was it. The moral of the story is he’s an elite competitor.”
They all are, but Rose takes a back seat to no one in the pecking order. Not even Kolar.
“I can be a sore loser sometimes,” said Rose, who started a new games-started streak in Saturday’s win over Texas after his previous 45-game start streak was snapped because of injury. “I can be on a different level with him.”
Rose said he played 34 snaps in the 30-7 win over the Longhorns. He split time with backup SAM linebacker Aric Horne and felt good after sitting out the loss at West Virginia because of shoulder issues.
“The biggest thing right now is with my rotator cuff; gotta get a little more strength back in that,” said Rose, who Tuesday was named one of four finalists (and the only linebacker) for the prestigious Lombardi Award. “A couple hits in the Okie State (win) kinda did a number on it.”
Pain can slow, but not stop Rose, who recorded five tackles in his 34 snaps on Saturday. On one play he even had to cover Texas star receiver Xavier Worthy far downfield. Talk about a “welcome back” moment — but Rose handled it well.
“When we have that coverage, I’m the middle post player,” Rose said. “So that can happen. It’s all about a good angle and a good head start.”
Rose has definitely had that — both Saturday and throughout his ISU career. He has failed to start or play in just one game because he, like Kolar, is an elite competitor. Maybe slightly less of a sore loser, too.
“Charlie, he struggles with losing,” Rose said partly in jest. “He’s been getting a little better, but whether it’s pool, pickle ball, literally anything, sometimes you’ve got to tell him to grow up a little bit.”
Rose had to do that, too, when he was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Cyclones fell to the Mountaineers. Competitors want to contribute. Need to, really.
“It’s a really, really weird feeling,” Rose said. “It’s definitely more stressful watching a game than being able to go out there and make a difference. So that definitely hurt me, but I’m just glad I was able to help out the team Saturday.”
Naturally, Rose’s role will gradually expand again as the season winds down. And the best news is he doesn’t expect he’ll need surgery in the offseason. Just extended rest, but only after this team’s 2021 journey finally meets its ultimate end.
“The thinking behind that is just to have me there for the long haul,” Rose said. “If I wanted to and we wanted to I could play probably every snap, but is it smart for the long haul? I don’t think so. I think that’s our approach right now and Aric, he’s been killing it, dude. He’s been doing a good job. I’m super proud of him and it’s big for guys like that to get a feel.”
CAMPBELL ON TEXAS TECH
In a couple of words, ISU’s coach finds the Red Raiders to be skilled and dangerous. They’re yet another team that can knock you off if you can’t conjure up your ‘A’ game — as wins over West Virginia and Houston attest.
“I’ll be really honest with you I think even just from watching this Texas Tech team earlier in the season, there’s a sense of purpose,” Campbell said. “There was from day one. They have a great win against what we now see is a really good Houston team. I think they’re a team that there is youth and experience mixed together. There’s dynamic playmakers on the outside at the receiver position, the tailback position. You look at this team (and you see) veteran tight ends and really good quarterbacks. You flip to the defensive side (and) almost all these guys have played a lot of football. They run to the ball. They’re playing physical. They’re creating turnovers. You look at the Kansas State (loss), the second kickoff in the game, they create the fumble and it’s momentum central. So I think the reality of it is this is a really good football team. This is a team that’s proven to be a very good football team.”
“The execution, I’d give it an A. But in terms of the ball and the technique — the way he got it there — it was probably like a C-plus.” — ISU quarterback Brock Purdy on receiver Xavier Hutchinson’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Tarique Milton in last Saturday’s win over Texas.