‘Now we’re coming’: Cyclones confident they aren’t going anywhere after Cheez-It Bowl loss

Iowa State is ready for what’s ahead in 2022 and beyond.

Matt Belinson

ORLANDO — Tears were starting to swell in Greg Eisworth’s eyes.

The fourth-year safety from Grand Prairie, Texas, and credited by many as a program-changer in Ames, was understandably emotional after the Cyclones’ dropped the sixth game of the season. Eisworth and the Cyclones trailed Clemson 20-6 at one point in the Cheez-It Bowl on Wednesday, but in fitting fashion clawed back and had a chance to win the game with under two minutes left.

However, Iowa State fell short against No. 19 Clemson 20-13. The loss ended the Cyclones’ 2021 season, one starting with a preseason top-10 ranking, with a 7-6 overall record.

But even as he visibly fought back tears, Eisworth stood tall and expressed an unwavering confidence.

He knew what needed to be said and he wasn’t shy about where he thinks Iowa State stands.

“We earned our way here. That’s what I told those guys in there. And I’m proud of y’all,” Eisworth said. “And be proud to wear the Iowa State logo, case of a while some people weren’t that proud to wear the logo. And we’ve put ourselves in these situations and we’re going to be here for a long time.”

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell shared the sentiment of his starting safety after Wednesday’s defeat, sharing one last thank-you to his senior class before walking off the podium.

The margins are small as can be at Iowa State. It’s not a secret in Campbell’s public approach for his team and it doesn’t escape the minds of his players, including Eisworth, who acknowledged the Cyclones fell short in execution for stretches on Wednesday.

But the 20-13 loss won’t stick in his mind for too much longer. Results weren’t what many expected, but Campbell chose not to run from it in the aftermath of the loss.

After all, this sport is all about short memories. And the future is now at Iowa State and Campbell’s ready for it to arrive in full swing.

“If we are going to be honest about results, we fell short,” Campbell said. “Those are things that’s my responsibility and our staff’s responsibility to continue to dig deep and how do we close some of those small margins that exist in what you’re talking about five losses that all ended on the last possession of the football game.”

“Greg’s right, there’s a lot of people when I got here that were embarrassed to wear an Iowa State shirt, Iowa State hat around. And now, it’s a sense of pride.”

“Now we’re coming.”

Eisworth saw first-hand some of the young nucleus the Cyclones are high on going into 2022 and beyond.

True freshman Beau Freyler got the start in place of usual starting safety Isheem Young, and was paired with redshirt freshman Craig McDonald at safety along with Eisworth.

Freyler led Iowa State with 15 total tackles in the Cheez-It Bowl, setting a new career-high in his first career start. As a an All-Big 12 Honorable mention in 2021, Freyler turned heads from Eisworth, Campbell and many others Wednesday night and throughout the season.

The biggest spotlight was put on Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, finishing 23-39 with one touchdown and one interception. As the clock drew closer to zero and the Cyclones attempted to march down the field, Purdy scrambled on 4th and 2 in an attempt to pick up the first down. 

But as Purdy was crossing into the first down, he fumbled and the ball rolled back ahead of the first down marker, giving Clemson its final stop of the game.

After the game, Purdy expressed disappointment in the how the Cyclones wrapped up their season from a result standpoint, but like Eisworth and their head coach, have faith things are bright in Ames.

“Going out like that sucks, not gonna lie. But I can say I gave everything I got to this program, this team, to Ames and no one can take that away from us,” Purdy said. 

Purdy said Iowa State knows details will make or break itself in games, and Wednesday was another example of the mistakes catching up to the team in the end.

On Purdy’s interception, the Cyclones’ quarterback explained postgame he attempted to bat the pass down after it was batted at the line of scrimmage, rather than catch the ball himself.

But going forward, Purdy is ready for Iowa State to take another step.

“This program, moving forward, will learn from our mistakes and hopefully make those corrections and win those one-possession games,” Purdy said.