‘Never die easy’: Iowa State is proud of what it showed the world on Saturday

Charlie Kolar (No. 88) of the Iowa State Cyclones scores on a 10-yard touchdown pass during the first half of the 2020 Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Matt Belinson

ARLINGTON, Texas – Just minutes removed from a 27-21 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell didn’t show frustration or anger.

The loss was tough of course, with a last minute Iowa State comeback effort ending in a Brock Purdy turnover in the hands of Oklahoma’s Tre Brown ending the hopes of ending a 108 year conference championship drought.

Instead, Campbell chose to praise his team’s heart and soul – always fighting to the final play.

“I got great realism that what I just witnessed was the character and the heart and really the soul of Iowa State football today,” Campbell said. 

Iowa State found itself down 17-0 late in the second quarter, with the Sooners taking control from the start, while also finding some lucky bounces along the way. Purdy had an interception in the first half, leading to the deficit, but Campbell said the mistakes were going to happen in this game, so as long as Iowa State continued to show its usual fight, he was happy with whatever result the scoreboard would have at the end.

Campbell said all he told his team before the game was ‘be who you are’, and in the final 15 minutes, Iowa State tried to use its character and resolve to will it to a comeback victory.

“You hate that you’re a couple points short in this game but man oh man you leave pretty damn proud that the culture, the character and really the leadership that this program and this team has and it’s showed up each and every day, each and every week,” Campbell said.

Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson said more specifically, it was a mentality to ‘never die easy’, a message Hutchinson said the team has tried to build off of all season.

Hutchinson led the Cyclones on the outside, finishing his day with 10 catches for 114 yards on 14 targets and said that even in a heartbreaking loss, he was happy that the world was able to see the fight and spirit Iowa State has held all season.

The message has come from coaches and the senior class throughout the year and Hutchinson said that each and every day, it trickles down to every guy on the team. Even in a loss on the program’s biggest stage yet, Hutchinson said Iowa State showed what kind of program has been and will continue to be.

“One of our mottos is ‘Never die easy’ and I think you guys kind of saw that today and I’m glad the world got to see it today too,” Hutchinson said. “No matter what predicament we’re in, we’re never going to die easy in a football game because we can always make a comeback. Today we just fell a little bit short.”

The loss stings, but Hutchinson said the team will have to rebound starting Sunday, preparing for whatever bowl game they get to play in.

Charlie Kolar doesn’t believe in moral victories or second place celebrations, but after the way the Cyclones played in the second half on Saturday, Kolar said he was proud of the way his team clawed back into the fight.

“Yeah, I’m proud of this team but we lost,” Kolar said.

In the bitter loss, Kolar had six catches for 92 yards and Iowa State’s first touchdown of the game late in the second quarter.

As disappointed as he was in the outcome, Kolar agreed with Hutchinson’s message, echoing that the Cyclones showed once again that they will never go down without a true fight.

“He’s right, we don’t die easy, we fight to the last minute, today just wasn’t quite enough, we lost.”