Takeaways: Seniors lead the way to the Big 12 Championship game

Redshirt senior Sean Foster (No. 75) helps lead the Cyclones out to the field before their game against West Virginia. Iowa State celebrated “Senior Night” with its seniors playing their last game at Jack Trice Stadium.

Stephen Mcdaniel

Following a 42-6 blowout win against West Virginia, Iowa State football closed out one of its most historic regular seasons in school history.

The win over the Mountaineers placed Iowa State’s final record at 8-2, with all eight wins coming in conference play.

Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell and company now have a chance to make even more history as they have lined themselves up with a chance at capturing their first-ever conference championship.

Ticket to Jerry World punched

Before Iowa State could even finish its game with West Virginia, it clinched its spot in the Big 12 Championship game with Texas defeating Kansas State 69-31.

That being said, the Cyclones continued to cement their spot in the Big 12 Championship game by putting together one of their best games of the season, nearly shutting out West Virginia 42-6.

Now the Cyclones look to make school and Big 12 history by looking to capture its first-ever Big 12 Championship victory.

“It’s special, that’s for sure, just because of where Iowa State has been, the programs and the teams that have been through here,” said junior quarterback Brock Purdy. “Then finally be able get to the game we all dream of playing in, it’s pretty sweet and it’s special.”

Iowa State sits atop the Big 12 as the only one-conference-loss team in the Big 12 with a 8-2 overall record and a 8-1 Big 12 record.

The Big 12 Championship game will come down to a rematch with the Oklahoma Sooners, who clinched the second spot in the Championship game after beating Baylor. The Sooners are also slated to play West Virginia the week before the Big 12 Championship game due to the Sooners and Mountaineers initial meeting being postponed.

Iowa State defeated Oklahoma earlier in the season, upsetting the Sooners at the time 37-30 on Oct. 3 at Jack Trice Stadium.

The Big 12 Championship game will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 19 inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it’s really exciting,” said junior linebacker Mike Rose. “I’m just extremely happy for this team, but obviously our goal isn’t just to get there.

“We gotta take these next two weeks very seriously and just do everything we can in our power to be our best when that day comes.”

Seniors shine on “Senior Night”

As if securing the chance to play in the Big 12 Championship game didn’t make the game against West Virginia important enough, Saturday also marked “Senior Night” for some of the staples of Iowa State football in the past few seasons.

Iowa State got production from seniors on all sides of the ball in the blowout win against West Virginia.

“That’s what this senior class has done, they’ve demanded excellence, they’ve demanded greatness and they’ve demanded to stay the course,” Campbell said. “I know from my end of it, I couldn’t be happier for each and every one of them.”

The sixth-year redshirt senior receiver Landen Akers, who has received high praise from coaches and teammates all year, recorded his first career touchdown on a 2-yard passing touchdown from Purdy.

Redshirt senior Kene Nwangwu got in on the scoring action as well, as the Frisco, Texas, native took a handoff up the middle and went untouched for a 47-yard rushing touchdown at the end of the third quarter.

On the defensive side of the ball, Greg Eisworth II recorded four total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Fellow redshirt senior defensive back Lawrence White IV recorded a pass breakup inside Iowa State’s end zone, holding the Mountaineers to three points on the drive.

Defensive end JaQuan Bailey extended his sack record lead by dropping West Virginia’s Jarret Doege for a sack on the Mountaineers’ drive following Akers’ touchdown reception.

On the special teams end, kicker Connor Assalley went a perfect 6-6 on point after attempts and was never in a spot for a field goal attempt.

A regular season to remember

A lot of question marks were brought up after Iowa State’s first and only nonconference game of the season, where the Cyclones lost to the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in Jack Trice Stadium to start the year 0-1.

Following that one loss, Iowa State proceeded to have one of, if not the best, regular seasons in school history, despite only one nonconference game.

“I think we took the lessons we’ve learned along the way,” Campbell said. “The lessons that we learned last year, and I’m not just talking about our players, I’m talking about myself, our coaching staff, everybody was able to put their ego aside and try to figure out what was holding us back from taking a positive step forward.”

In Big 12 play, the Cyclones finished 8-1, with its only conference loss coming to Oklahoma State on Oct. 24, where the Cyclones fell in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to the Cowboys in a 24-21 defeat.

The Cyclones recorded some big wins on the season, including a 37-20 win over Oklahoma to start ‘Brocktober’ and a comeback win on the road against Texas, along with showcases of dominance in their 55-22 win over Kansas, 45-0 win over Kansas State and 42-6 win over West Virginia.

The 2020 season marked the first time in school history Iowa State has recorded eight wins in conference play.