Nov 13, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones tight end Charlie Kolar (88) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the second half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Charlie Kolar gets why the question is always asked, but doesn’t buy its premise.
Yes, he is heading back to his hometown of Norman, Okla., for Iowa State’s latest crack at the Oklahoma Sooners at 11 a.m. (FOX) on Saturday.
Yes, he caught a touchdown pass in his last visit to Gaylord Family Stadium in 2019 that could have turned into the game-winning grab if the Cyclones had converted a last-second two-point conversion.
And yes, ISU (6-4, 4-3) has been knocked from the perch of Big 12 title contender to league spoiler after gut-wrenching road losses at West Virginia and Texas Tech.
But no, this game doesn’t add extra “motivation” to his already off-the-charts competitive drive. Here’s why:
“For myself personally and this team, we shouldn’t need that type of motivation to go play hard,” Kolar said. “If you’re implying that can play harder against a team that (is in your hometown), there’s something wrong. … So obviously there’s a little more emotion, but in terms of the way you prepare and play, it should be the same.”
Kolar consistently does just that — and it’s shown in his past performances against Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1) and throughout a record-setting ISU career..
The 6-6, 260-pound two-time All-American has averaged 15.8 yards per catch in three previous meetings with the Sooners (including a regular-season win last year in Ames). He’s scored two touchdowns in those games and will likely be a focal point for Oklahoma’s defense as it seeks to bounce back from last week’s loss at Baylor.
And the Sooners own more Big 12 championships (14) in the last 22 seasons than home losses in that span (11), but knowing that doesn’t alter Kolar’s or the rest of the Cyclones’ preparation.
“I know It means a lot for Charlie to go home and play in front of his friends and family,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said. “It would for anybody. But I think — and this isn’t a snide remark, this is if you watch a second half of the game last week, and you want to see competitive excellence, and you want to see what it looks like, and you want to see like, man, giving everything you’ve got for the betterment of the team? I think that’s Charlie. So I think that’s what I love about Charlie. He doesn’t need some emotional attachment. And again, I think some of those emotional moments, those are areas we’re still trying to find consistency as a team. Chuck is a guy that that lives it every day. And I think that’s why he’s such a special player. And I think that’s why, obviously for him, he’s one of the elite players at his position in college football.”
Oklahoma knows that, but the Sooners will also have to contend with Breece Hall, Brock Purdy and more.
And if they’re anything like ISU’s most recent opponents they’ll make curtailing Hall’s production job one in what likely will be another tense, down to the wire matchup.
“This will certainly be another great challenge and I have so much respect for that program,” Campbell said. “It will be another great challenge for our team to continue our growth process.”
ISU’s all-time leading sack man, Will McDonald, saw his snap count reduced significantly because of a hip injury in Saturday’s loss at Texas Tech, but Campbell doesn’t expect it to be a lingering issue.
“He was dealing with a strain early in the game,” Campbell said. “To his credit, he was able to come back in in the second half and he did a great job. I do think he’ll be fine. He was on the practice field yesterday.”
Campbell was asked to spotlight some of ISU’s non-seniors who have played well as the season’s unfolded. His response?
“When I look at a guy like Trevor Downing there, I would say — and I know the O-line’s taken a little bit of heat, so forgive me, but he’s played as exceptional as any offensive lineman that I’ve seen,” Campbell said. “His grade out for an offensive lineman has been the highest grade out of with consistency that I’ve seen in the last five weeks. I think he’s playing remarkable football right now. You look at Jaylin Noel. Man, the growth this young freshman from where he was in week one to who this guy is —, and this is a freshman football player stepping on the field now and making big plays in big moments for us. I think those are really positive. Those are two guys I would say on offense. And I think behind the scenes, Hunter Dekkers and the growth that he continues to make and not getting the results. There’s another guy — man, you’re not getting the results you want. You want to be on the field playing. Can you keep pounding away? So we’re all dealing with those things. And then on the defensive side, you know, I think Isaiah Lee, his growth from where he was at the start of the season to where he is now. Again, I’d say the last 3-4 weeks and he’s played, he’s been nothing short of remarkable. Beau Freyler is a young guy that has been just a special, special young freshman that’s stepped in and done some great things. So I guess off the top of my head those would be the guys that I would single out, but those are young guys that boy they have the ‘it’ factor that some of our great older players have certainly played the game with.”
CAMPBELL ON POSSIBLE OU QB CHANGES
Starting Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams was benched for some of the Sooners’ 27-14 loss at Baylor but part of the reason is his hand was injured after being stepped on along the sideline. Another reason? “We were a little stale,” OU coach Lincoln Riley told reporters after the loss. Spencer Rattler came in to replace Williams, so it’s not fully certain who will get the starting nod Saturday against the Cyclones — which matters little to Matt Campbell.
“I don’t think it affects our game-planning much,” he said. “They’re so similar and you have to give coach Riley a lot of credit in his ability to coach that position. I think both of them are extremely athletic and can make all of the throws. I don’t see, offensively, there being great changes in terms of what they do when either quarterback is in the game. I think we put our thought process on ourselves knowing that we don’t think there’s a schematic difference between either quarterback.”
“Not me. That was never my goal. My goal has always been one thing, and that’s to become the best version of ourselves we can be. You’ve never heard me say that word once, you’ve only heard me talk about becoming the best version of yourself you can be. My challenge for this year’s team was to become the greatest together team in the history of Iowa State football. And so far, all of our goals are still in tact from a coach Campbell standpoint. Now, could our players have other goals and aspirations? Sure. Do I want them to have great goals and aspirations? Sure. But that’s not coach Campbell’s goal.” — Campbell on winning a Big 12 championship as the team’s primary goal (or not).