When Iowa State takes the field at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday to face No. 17 Baylor, it will be trying to achieve something that hasn’t been done in Ames since 2000.
The Cyclones are vying for a 4-0 start to the season and a perfect September mark.
It might not seem that big, but it is a hump that Iowa State hasn’t been able to get over despite all of the success seen in the program since coach Matt Campbell arrived.
In that time frame, the Cyclones have appeared in the College Football Playoff rankings 14 times and hold an 18-4 record against Big 12 opponents at Jack Trice Stadium since 2017. The best September mark Iowa State has had under Campbell, however, was 2-2.
That can serve as a trivial stat or it can shape a narrative.
‘Iowa State winning early? Nah they always stumble out of the gates,’ is probably along the lines of what some Baylor fans might be saying by the water cooler at their day jobs this week.
So there’s something different about this Iowa State team – and part of that may actually go into the youth and inexperience this group has at this level.
“The growth that I have seen has been astronomical, in a lot of ways, even since we were at the start of spring practice to where we are today,” Campbell said during his weekly press conference. “I think a lot of that is some of the inexperience and the youth. I think when you are young, the growth pattern has the ability to accelerate and probably go with a lot more ebb and flow than when you’re an older team.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Hunter Dekkers has played a major role, sitting fifth in the nation in completion percentage at 74.3 percent.
Sophomore running back Jirehl Brock is averaging 93.3 yards rushing on the ground and defensive players like M.J. Anderson and Will McDonald have particularly stood out.
“I think this young team has really had the willingness and humility to grow, and probably the right veteran leadership to guide the growth pattern the way its been able to grow so far,” Campbell said.
Separating records by the month has been a popular exercise surrounding Iowa State fans, specifically with the ‘Brocktober’ moniker used for the quarterback play out of the 49ers’ Brock Purdy in the middle weeks of the season.
Dekkers doesn’t want anything to do with a similar tagline, though.
“I don’t really look at, I guess you could say nicknames like that,” Dekkers said. “I’m just looking at each week at a time and hopefully winning this game.”
Other players commenting about the chances to go 4-0 had similar things to say, and they maybe had more focus on the type of crowd that will show up at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday at 11:00 a.m.
That isn’t to anyone’s surprise. Records aren’t in the minds of these players unless it comes to describing the next opponent standing in the way of ‘another opportunity to get better.’
That stands true as Iowa State takes on the nationally ranked Bears.
“I would say it’s huge,” Dekkers said. “Every game is a big game and going 4-0 would be big for this program.”
When Saturday arrives and the team marches onto the field to the tune of “Power” by Kanye West, it will be trying to pass the test that’s alluded them in recent years.
And that will be as telling as it gets around this program, at least in the days that begin with ‘September.’
“I think all of those things are going to be tested again this week,” Campbell said. “I think we’ll have another measuring stick of how far have we grown and where are we really.”