Notebook: Iowa State’s coordinators discuss the past, present and future of the program

A group of Iowa State football players celebrate on the field following the Cyclones’ 42-6 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. The win helped Iowa State clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship game.

Stephen Mcdaniel

Iowa State finds itself in another bye week following a major 42-6 blowout win over West Virginia to end one of the most historic regular seasons in school history.

The Cyclones now have a week off to recoup and prepare for a rematch against the Oklahoma Sooners, but this time in the Big 12 Championship game Dec. 19 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Iowa State Offensive Coordinator Tom Manning and Defensive Coordinator Jon Heacock spoke with the media in regards to the team, the season and navigating the pandemic Tuesday.

It’s been a long time since Louisiana

Considering the start to the season, many wouldn’t have guessed where the Cyclones would be now, with a 8-2 overall record.

One of those two losses? Then-unranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, when the Cyclones lost 31-14 during the season opener at Jack Trice Stadium.

“You look back at that game, nobody knew what was going to go on, so your practices had changed, everything was a change,” Heacock said. “I think we realize now that was a really good football team. I think we knew it as coaches going in, having watched the summer film, but I think you got to give [Louisiana] credit.”

Since that game, the Ragin’ Cajuns have gone on to finish their regular season with a 9-1 record and grabbed one of the spots in the Sun Belt Championship game against undefeated Coastal Carolina, who was the only team to beat Louisiana during the regular season.

Louisiana has also consistently stuck around in the Associated Press Top 25, with the Ragin’ Cajuns most recently being ranked No. 17 in the country, while Coastal Carolina comes in at No. 11 and Iowa State at No. 10 in the most recent AP top 25 rankings at the time of this article being written.

A glimpse into the future

When it comes to the offense and defense, most of the focus gravitates toward the key standouts that keep the wheels moving on both sides of the ball.

But one of the things Manning and Heacock have been able to see during Iowa State’s Big 12 Championship run is the progression of the younger players, who are actively waiting for their shot and making the most of any and all opportunities.

The offensive side of the ball has seen a plethora of younger players see action during games, whether it’s during a blowout win or stepping up and making an impact due to injuries.

Manning highlighted freshman quarterback Hunter Dekkers, redshirt freshman running back Jirehl Brock, tight ends Easton Dean and Jared Rus and lineman Jarrod Hufford as only a few of the young players on offense who have stepped up when needed.

“When we have been able to get those guys in a game, there’s a lot of those guys that have done a really good job,” Manning said. “Those guys have done a really good job and taking their practice reps to the football field, I think, is huge and a good pay off for them.”

Heacock echoed similar praise for the defense, with several younger players getting to see action on the field through special teams and getting opportunities to get snaps on the defense.

Between the offense and the defense, some of the most turnover with players graduating comes at defensive back and on the defensive line.

Two of the players who were highlighted included freshmen defensive backs Mason Chambers and Craig McDonald, who have seen action the past couple of games.

“I think the most pleasing thing for me is they went in and there were not missed assignments, there was not confusion, there was no communication issues, there was not alignment issues,” Heacock said. “That shows me that those guys, and as coaches or assistant coaches, that we’ve taught the right things all along. I think it’s giving those guys the ability to play.”

Playing some of the best football of the season

With the Big 12 Championship right around the corner, the Cyclones have been playing some of their best football of the season, highlighted by some signature wins.

Since losing to Oklahoma State, Iowa State has had three dominating wins over Kansas (52-22), Kansas State (45-0) and West Virginia (42-6). Iowa State also played one of the best halves of their season during the second half of the Baylor game (38-31, 28-10 in the second half).

The Cyclones also traveled down to Austin, Texas, and came from behind to beat Texas 23-20 during the Longhorns’ Senior Night.

Now, with a five-game winning streak to close out its regular season, Iowa State gets to have a rematch against Oklahoma, who provided the Cyclones with one of their signature wins earlier.

Both teams are on a roll and playing their best football of the season and will clash once more for the Big 12 Championship.

“We’ve played well the last couple weeks, and we were fortunate enough to win a couple of those football games,” Manning said. “I think our guys are playing really well right now.”