The stage is familiar, but Iowa State isn’t the team it was last time it went to Austin

Then freshman Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy attempts a pass against the University of Texas on Nov 17, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Courtesy of Daily Texan)

Matt Belinson

In some ways, it’s déjà vu for Iowa State as it prepares to travel to Austin, Texas, for another primetime game on Friday. 

Iowa State will once again face the Longhorns on a national stage, with the hopes of making a Big 12 Championship within reach. Both teams are once again ranked in the top-25 (No. 15 Iowa State and No. 20 Texas) and one team has an outside shot of making the Big 12 Championship, while one team has set itself up nicely to get there as the season draws to an end.

Except this time, Iowa State views itself as a completely different team than when it fell 24-10 in Austin during the 2018 season. And it would have good reason to think that way.

Iowa State sits all alone in first place in the Big 12 with a 6-1 (6-2 overall) conference record and is coming off a historic 45-0 win over Kansas State on Nov. 21.

So with all the momentum on its side this time around, does Iowa State understand and address the gravity of the spot it finds itself in?

Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell put it simply when he was asked just that.

“I really don’t think we’ve talked about it once,” Campbell said.

Iowa State is sticking with what has gotten it to this point, growing week to week and focusing on what’s in front of them. Campbell said Iowa State is a program that can’t afford the luxury of easing up or preparing extra for certain opponents that some established teams might be able to do. 

Campbell doesn’t want his players to change their energy and urgency as they prepare for the Longhorns, no matter how important a win might be for their chances of reaching the Big 12 Championship.

That being said, Campbell and his players do feel that the program is not what it was when it went down to Austin in 2018. Iowa State has been on bigger stages since that game and 

“I think at that time, we were babies, we were just evolving and everything was so brand new,” Campbell said.

Senior linebacker Jake Hummel had two tackles down in Austin in 2018, and admitted that he and the rest of his teammates were nervous and unsure of what to expect heading into the game two years ago.

“I think this year I feel less anxiety-ridden, I feel the team is ready for this situation and we’re treating the game like any other game,” Hummel said.

Hummel and the Cyclones feel ready for this moment more so than in years past, and understand what it’s going to take to get the job done on another big stage.

History isn’t exactly on Iowa State’s side, as it hasn’t won at Texas since a 28-21 win in 2010.

Fellow senior tight end Chase Allen said that he can feel that the team is in a better place than where it was at this similar point two seasons ago. He’s not sure what it is, but Allen said Iowa State isn’t afraid of the big stage anymore.

Now, not being flustered by a program-changing game doesn’t mean Allen and Iowa State don’t respect what Texas has done in the league over the last decade-plus.

Allen said Texas has been and will likely continue to bring in high-level talent and will always be a threat in the Big 12.

But still, Allen said this year’s Cyclones are ready to face the Longhorns.

“It’s so different than years past and I don’t know exactly what it is, I don’t know whether it’s new-found confidence, we’ve had these situations before so we’re a bit more aware of what it will be like and it’s just the feel of the team, I don’t know man,” Allen said.

“The biggest game is just going to be the next game.”

No. 13 Iowa State and No. 17 Texas kickoff at 11 a.m. in Austin, Texas, on Friday. The game will be televised on ABC.