Win or lose, Iowa State motivated the same down the stretch

Breece Hall scores a touchdown against Texas on Nov. 6.

Matt Belinson

Charlie Kolar doesn’t believe in the idea of “responding” to a loss. Or wins, for that matter.

The redshirt senior tight end for the Cyclones approaches his work differently from how a typical football fan would think someone as competitive as Kolar would. Wins and losses, last-second heartbreaks or moments of pure joy — it has to be approached the same in the aftermath.

And even after a 41-38 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday on a 62-yard field goal, Kolar isn’t looking at Saturday’s game against Oklahoma as a point to respond.

That’s a flawed approach.

“At this point in the football season you shouldn’t need things like that to be motivated,” Kolar said when asked how the Cyclones can respond from losing to Texas Tech. “You should be motivated win, lose, big-game, small-game.”

“I think that’s kind of a flawed mindset to try and always use things like that as motivation because you’re implying you don’t have motivation otherwise.”

Kolar, a three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection for Iowa State, has always been viewed by teammates and coaches as a cerebral person and player. He’ll look at a situation in the big picture, leading him to his answer when asked about adversity. After all, the Norman, Okla. native graduated from Iowa State last fall with a 3.9 GPA in mechanical engineering.

Does Kolar want to help the Cyclones win the last two regular-season games? Without question. But is he expecting himself or teammates to put more time, more care, more drive into their prep ahead of Saturday? He sure hopes they don’t need to.

“There’s a little more emotion, but in terms of the way you prepare and play should be the same,” Kolar said. 

Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock shares Kolar’s philosophy on how the Cyclones should and have approached results. It’s not a secret this program has been outcome-aware but always process-driven. But that process has to be the focus ahead of Saturday in Norman. 

Now is not the time to dwell on the past. Certainly, past failures in execution are on players’ minds, but Heacock said this week has been about how Iowa State gets back to preparing for Saturdays. The mental game is just as important.

The Cyclones’ defense has fallen short of a standard set in the first half of the season in their last two losses. On Oct. 30, the Cyclones gave up 492 total yards of offense to West Virginia. It got worse in Lubbock.

The Cyclones gave up 592 yards of offense to the Red Raiders, including 207 rushing yards and four first-half touchdowns. The staggering offensive numbers given up by this defensive unit have been alarming, but Heacock reiterates that losses and wins can’t bring a team down or up any more than it needs to. 

“West Virginia, no answers really to get them stopped. I think the same thing when we played Saturday,” Heacock said. “Again, it starts with coaching. It’s on me. I’m in charge of it.

“Our standards have been set here I think. Shoot, when you don’t play to them that’s what happens.”

Caleb Williams will present another challenge to this Cyclone defense, with the true freshman quarterback completing over 75 percent of his passes in three of his four starts for the Sooners this season. Williams is tied for fourth in the Big 12 with his 14 passing touchdowns.

But no matter who the Sooners put under center Saturday and what happened the week before in the wins and losses column, the Cyclones are approaching each week the same. And they aren’t changing that one bit.

“I’ve been doing this 39 years. When you get your ass beat, you get beat,” Heacock said.