The villain to America’s sweetheart: Iowa State takes on unique identity for KU matchup

Iowa State has visited Kansas Memorial Stadium three times during Matt Campbell’s tenure at the helm of the program.

Each meeting ended in an Iowa State win, but none of those games featured a crowd as large or raucous as the Cyclones will see Saturday (2:30 p.m. ESPN2).

“You know it’s always nice to have a big crowd,” Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson said. “At the same time, you’re not too worried about it. It kind of just becomes static once the game starts. Just to have that energy and feel that energy in Lawrence, though, it’ll probably feel great.”

The Jayhawks are America’s darling right now. At 4-0 on the season, it’s the first time that Kansas has eclipsed the three-win mark since Mark Mangino’s final season in Lawrence ended with a 5-7 record in 2009.

That was the last time Kansas sold out a football game, too. That is until it happened last Saturday for the program’s 35-27 victory over Duke.

America is getting behind Kansas – and this week Iowa State plays the role of the villain in town.

It’s not something Iowa State is used to doing, but it isn’t something Campbell is taking into account.

“I think at the end of the day, for us, we’ve got to worry about us and you know, we’re so early on in the season,” Campbell said. “The first half of the season is all about growth and personal growth.”

That growth comes in avoiding a turnover like the interception Hunter Dekkers threw against Baylor on a drive that could have flipped the momentous tides.

But that growth also showed in Iowa State’s last game out, when the Cyclones took the punches and stayed poised enough to make the late run fans at Jack Trice Stadium saw against Baylor.

Iowa State’s grown, but with more growth – it’s 4-0 today.

“You obviously know that you’re playing a really good team that’s earned the right to have the recognition,” Campbell said. “We’re going to have to do a great job of continuing to allow ourselves to grow to be ready to play this game.”

Kansas will have a contingent of fans, filling up the 47,223-seat stadium, with a craving to beat the Cyclones.

Will it be similar to the craziness that goes on during the annual Iowa State – Kansas basketball matchup in Lawrence? It’s not gonna matter to the students that will be making the most noise.

Simply put, prepare for a chaotic crowd.

“I think any time you play in an atmosphere where you feel like both teams are good football teams,” Campbell said. “We know that both have passionate fan bases – you’ve seen that in all of their other sports. Honestly, I think you’ve seen it other times, even since we’ve been here, where they’ve won big games and had good crowds. I think location and the fact that both programs are respected and both have great fan bases – it always makes these games great to play in.”

That’s what Iowa State is being tasked to prepare for, and it’s far different than the cupcake, fill-in W that we thought it would be before September happened.

The fans in Lawrence are buzzing as much as they have in over a decade. Saturday, Iowa State wants to ruin it.

“I’m excited to get in there into a crowd that really doesn’t like us – and probably wants to beat us,” Hutchinson said. “That fuels your energy and what you want to do for the week to prepare to see them on Saturday.”