Cyclones remain internally focused as they prepare for Oklahoma

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell watches the scoreboard during the Cyclones’ 24-21 win over No. 8 Oklahoma State on Oct. 23.

James Powell

AMES- After a 62-yard field goal at the buzzer downed the Cyclones and moved their record to 6-4 on the season, they found themselves out of the Big 12 race earlier than anticipated as they enter the home stretch of the conference slate with two games left.

Iowa State is 4-3 in the Big 12 and is statistically unlikely to make the jump into the top tier of their conference opponents. That top-level seemingly includes Baylor (5-2 in the Big 12), Oklahoma State (6-1) and Oklahoma (6-1).

One of those teams finds themselves at the very top, that being the Sooners, and they represent Iowa State’s next challenge after the last-second loss to Texas Tech.

The Sooners are 9-1 overall, lead the Big 12 and boast one of the most electric players in college football this year in Caleb Williams.

Matt Campbell and his players discussed how they feel with just two Big 12 games remaining and the quarterback situation that awaits them in Norman.

Quarterback indecisiveness for Oklahoma

The popular opinion at the beginning of the season was that Spencer Rattler was a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and could see his name called in the top five of the 2022 NFL Draft.

And then, less than six games through the season, he was benched midway through the Red River Rivalry game against Texas in favor of the exciting, young talent in Caleb Williams.

Williams led a miraculous comeback to defeat the Longhorns and had been playing as good of football as anyone in the country until his first roadblock against the Baylor Bears this past weekend.

That stumble led to Rattler seeing time once again for the Sooners and created some questions for Oklahoma coming out of that game as to who the Iowa State defense will see on Saturday.

As far as Matt Campbell is concerned, it doesn’t matter who lines up under center for the Sooners. 

“I think they’re so similar,” Campbell said regarding the Sooner quarterbacks. “I think both of them are extremely athletic and I don’t, offensively, see much change in what they do when either quarterback is in the game.” 

Either way, Oklahoma’s offense is well-known as a team to throw the ball down the field and look for big plays, and Rattler and Williams both provide that coming into every game.

While trying to prepare for multiple quarterbacks is hard enough, adding the dynamic abilities of both Sooner signal-callers makes this task that much more difficult. Rattler took the world by storm last year, and his counterpart, Williams, did that in his own way so far this season.

Being unsure of the situation at quarterback isn’t completely new for Iowa State, however.

Take Iowa State’s last game, for example. Texas Tech had Henry Colombi, Tyler Shough and Donovan Smith all with snaps under their belt this season. Smith got the nod and lit up the Cyclone defense in his first career start.

Williams and Rattler both can cause fits for this Iowa State defense, and it’ll be up to the Cyclones to be ready for the challenge no matter who is at quarterback for Oklahoma.

Campbell focused on the process

Most of the questioning and frustration that stemmed from the loss in Lubbock came from the expectation that Iowa State was the favorite to return to the Big 12 Championship, and now they see themselves on the outside looking in with just two games to go.

As for Campbell, he would say that was never the end goal.

“That was never my goal. My goal has always been one thing and that’s to become the best version of ourselves we can become. You’ve never heard me say that word once,” Campbell said.

While Campbell states, he never uttered the words ‘Big 12 Championship’, his players, at least in Jake Hummel’s case, felt differently after the deflating loss in Lubbock.

“You talk about our goals from the beginning of the season to be at the Big 12 Championship, and that’s kind of out the window at this point,” Hummel said after the loss Saturday. “That’s obviously a huge disappointment within our team. That was our expectation, and we didn’t meet that expectation.”

The difference in how their coach feels and the sentiments echoed by multiple players in the aftermath of their game against Texas Tech is clear, but either way, the team is focused on the rest of the season and what they can make of their remaining three games.

“Nothing changes,” Hummel said. “I’m going to play for this team. I love those guys. I love them more than anything. I’m just going to keep going back to work. That’s all I know what to do.”

That work the senior linebacker mentions will certainly include preparing for the talent that awaits them in Oklahoma, and the talent runs deep for the Sooners regardless of who’s throwing the ball.