Iowa State linebacker Gerry Vaughn gets to Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras during the Cy-Hawk Series football game on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. © Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
The sun is a little brighter and the air feels a little fresher.
I don’t know about you, Fanatics, but that was my feeling when I woke up on Sunday and remembered Iowa State had finally snapped its six-game losing streak in the Cy-Hawk rivalry.
People can say anything they want about the rivalry, but there is no doubt how much it matters to each side. The level of celebration on the Iowa State side is proof of that. The level of anger on the Iowa side is proof of that.
From an Iowa State perspective, it feels like a massive weight has been lifted. This one thing that doesn’t have that much impact on the grand scheme of seasons has finally been removed from Matt Campbell’s program’s back.
Yeah, that sun feels awfully good and the air is so damn fresh today.
*** “The Drive” will go down as one of the most important “moments” in the recent history of Iowa State football. It was clear signaling of a shift in the winds, and an indication of how tides could be turning on some level in this rivalry moving forward.
Iowa State’s 21-play, 99-yard drive that took more than 11 and a half minutes off the clock across the third and fourth quarter of Saturday’s 10-7 win over the Hawkeyes was the best drive ever put together by a Campbell and Tom Manning-led offense.
The Cyclones were constantly efficient on first and second downs, allowing them to work almost exclusively in third and manageable situations that led to a perfect six-for-six conversion rate on third down during the drive.
Iowa State ran the football for 129 yards in the entire game against Iowa’s highly touted (and legitimately great) defense. More than 40 of those yards came on that drive, and almost all 40 of those yards were collected on tough, physical runs by Jirehl Brock.
For the first time in recent memory in this rivalry, the Cyclones lined up across from Kirk Ferentz’s team and completely out-executed them. They bullied Iowa’s defensive front and did exactly what has eluded Iowa State for so damn long in this game.
They played totally mistake-free — and wore down one of the best defenses in college football.
Iowa feasted on Iowa State’s inability to play mistake-free football throughout the entirety of its six-game win streak. Campbell’s teams long ago proved they can stand in the middle of the ring and go toe-to-toe with the heaviest of heavyweight fighters.
On Saturday, they finally proved they can land a knockout punch, too.
*** The play of Iowa State’s offensive line on Saturday cannot go unmentioned. Hunter Dekkers consistently had more than enough time in the pocket, and the offense was able to run the ball as well as they ever have in this game during Campbell’s tenure.
This is the first time I found myself wanting Iowa State to run the football more against Iowa. They were winning up front with consistency, especially All-Big 12 senior center Trevor Downing.
Saturday was a perfect example of why Ferentz and his staff put a significant amount of time into recruiting Downing out of high school.
He was the first truly high-level offensive line recruit Campbell and his staff were able to beat Iowa for head-to-head, and on Saturday, he played a crucial role in Campbell getting his first head-to-head Cy-Hawk win on the field.
*** Two things can be true at the same time when it comes to the battle between Iowa State’s defense and Iowa’s inept offense.
1. Iowa State’s defense played a fantastic football game and executed its game plan to near perfection.
2. Iowa’s offense really, really stinks.
Again, Iowa State was able to win the battle up front resoundingly. Spencer Petras rarely had opportunities to feel comfortable in the pocket. Iowa was never able to establish any level of true rushing threat.
Those things are not new for Iowa’s offense in recent history, but that doesn’t mean Jon Heacock’s bunch didn’t play one helluva game.
They completely eliminated even the possibility Iowa would drive the field.
*** A few other guys who stood out and have earned their spot on the first Monday Musings dawgs of the week team:
– T.J. Tampa: The St. Petersburg native had two tackles, a tackle for loss and forced two turnovers. He was fantastic in coverage throughout the day and was all over the field as a playmaker. He’s a dawg.
– Xavier Hutchinson: The X-Man didn’t need Saturday’s 11-reception, 98-yard and one touchdown performance against Iowa to prove his status as a dawg, but he did it anyway. He’s as talented, dynamic and productive as any wide receiver Iowa State has had during Campbell’s tenure.
– Will McDonald: Woo, boy, the best pass rusher in Iowa State history didn’t make a massive dent on the stat sheet, but, man, he made one heck of an impact on the football game. His mere presence on the field changes Iowa State’s defense. He’s a dawg.
– Anthony Johnson: If you don’t understand why Iowa State moved Anthony Johnson from cornerback to safety, go rewatch the game and keep your eyes on No. 1. He played all over the field for Iowa State’s defense against Iowa. He lined up inside the box, outside the box, covered receivers, covered Iowa star tight end Sam LaPorta and even rushed the quarterback a few times. Moving Johnson to safety opened the door for Iowa State to utilize him as more than just a cover corner. He’s a certified dawg.
*** A quick aside from the Cy-Hawk game, the inevitable happened on Sunday when Nebraska announced the firing of Scott Frost, ending the most incompetent coaching tenure in Cornhusker history.
This will be a test for Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts. He needs to define the identity of his athletics department. There is no cohesive vision or defining value of who they want to be or what they want to represent.
Their search for a new head coach needs to start there, and that’s why I’d be shocked if Matt Campbell isn’t at the top of Alberts’ list. In fact, I’d say Trev Alberts is an idiot if Matt Campbell is not at the top of his list.
That’s why I wasn’t shocked to see so many reputable sources listing Campbell as one of Nebraska’s top options. I mean, duh. The man has already built something that was way further behind where Nebraska is right now into something special.
Nebraska is not going to find success until they find a coach who is capable of reigning in the sideshow that comes along with Nebraska football. There is always something dramatic happening, whether it is on the field, inside the building, or something outside of the building.
Nebraska football is a soap opera that never gives its stories a chance to breathe. It is one stupid controversy after another to the detriment of the program and athletics department as a whole.
If I was Matt Campbell and Nebraska came calling, I’m already looking at that job as an even tougher hill to climb with numerous blue bloods to battle on a consistent basis on the field.
It becomes even harder when you remember Nebraska football is the biggest traveling circus on this side of Barnum and Bailey.
*** Saturday’s match-up with Ohio will be an important one for Iowa State. Yes, the Cy-Hawk monkey is off your back, but how do you use this momentum to propel you into Big 12 play?
The Cyclones can’t afford a stubbed toe against the Bobcats. Coming down off of Saturday’s emotional win by putting together another dominant performance against a lesser opponent would be nearly as impressive as the rivalry win.
*** One last thing, Georges Niang will be our first guest on this week’s episode of J-Bo and Jared on the Iowa Everywhere podcast network. We have a few things to discuss with the biggest thorn in Hawkeye sides in recent memory.
Bring the popcorn is all I’m saying.