Bowl berth still within grasp for ISU football

Grant Wall

Only two weeks ago, the ISU football team was in the midst of a 13-game conference losing streak.

Fast forward 14 days, and you will the Cyclones preparing for what two weeks ago was almost unimaginable — a fight with Nebraska for the top of the Big 12 North.

With a 26-25 victory over Baylor, the Cyclones snapped their conference drought and added a second consecutive win with a 13-7 triumph over Kansas.

“The stakes are higher,” said senior cornerback Ellis Hobbs. “We knew what we had going into this game, that we could be no worse than second when we won. We just had that good feeling all day, knowing we could do it.”

The wins pull Iowa State into a second-place tie with Missouri in the race for the Big 12 North title.

Nebraska leads the North with a 3-2 conference mark and will make its way to Ames on Saturday.

“It’s totally different sides of the story,” said junior safety Nik Moser. “We’re down in the Big 12 and no one has any respect for us, and then we’re playing for No. 1 in the Big 12 North — it’s a big turn.”

With the current two-game winning streak, it’s easy for fans to get ahead of themselves, looking down the road at the possibility of added success.

Although the Cyclones are inching closer to the top of the standings, ISU coach Dan McCarney said there’s still much to be done.

“Right now, the focus is we have to keep improving,” McCarney said. “We’ve done that three weeks in a row, and we improved again today as a team.”

Standing between Iowa State and a possible postseason is the team in front of the Cyclones as well as the team they are tied with.

Nebraska comes to Ames on Saturday, and Missouri enters town three weeks later. Sandwiched between the Cornhuskers and Tigers is a Cyclone visit to Kansas State — a team that has always played tough against Iowa State.

Iowa State hasn’t beaten the Wildcats since 1993 and hasn’t won a game on the road against Kansas State since 1988.

Still, Iowa State can’t help but see that magical six-win benchmark standing right in front of them.

“It’s always going to be in our mind,” Moser said. “It has to be in our mind.

“It’s not a secret. Six games is bowl-eligible; it’s not a secret to anybody. Everyone on the team knows that six games make you bowl-eligible.”

For those on the team who were a part of past Cyclone bowl teams, the chance to get back to postseason play is an enticing prospect.

“That’s a huge motivator,” said senior offensive lineman Luke Vander Sanden. “We really control our destiny. To be part of those teams in the past, and to get a taste of it, that really drives the juniors and seniors who were there.”