Notebook: Cyclones talk stars from UNLV win, preview Big 12 opener

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell walks toward the Iowa State sideline during the Cyclones’ 16-10 victory over Northern Iowa on Sept. 4.

James Powell

After two performances against in-state opponents that yielded a 1-1 record, Iowa State traveled to Las Vegas and proceeded to outmatch the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in most aspects of the game, running away with the game 48-3. 

Now, the Cyclones travel down to Waco, Texas, to take on the Baylor Bears. The Bears are a team that struggled last year but were ranked as high as seven and made it to the Big 12 Championship game in 2019 and are 3-0 so far this season.

Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell and his players spoke to the media Tuesday and had thoughts on Baylor as well as players who played a big part in the Cyclones’ blow-out win Saturday. 

Campbell and company not taking Baylor for granted

“They’re one of the fastest football teams we’ve played in a long time,” Campbell said.

That’s what Iowa State’s head football coach had to say about their upcoming opponent. It’s clear that Baylor is far from a cakewalk in terms of Big 12 openers, as they have already picked up a convincing conference win at Kansas last week.

In 2020, Iowa State played host to Baylor and won the game 38-31, but not without challenges and, in some cases, season-altering performances.

The Cyclones didn’t put the Bears to bed until Mike Rose intercepted Charlie Brewer’s pass in the end zone with 56 seconds remaining. Baylor was 1-3 coming into the game, but at times provided Iowa State with quite the challenge.

Brock Purdy also had arguably his worst half as a Cyclone, throwing three interceptions in the first half before bringing his team back by throwing for three touchdowns in the final 30 minutes.

Campbell has referred to it as Purdy’s “rock bottom” and served as a turning point in Purdy’s season.

As Iowa State travels to face Baylor in the Big 12 opener this year, Purdy is ready for the challenge that Baylor’s defense presents.

“They’re hard-working guys, they’re really well coached and they fly around the field,” Purdy said Tuesday. “I think out of all the teams we play, they look like the most physical and have the most speed across the board.”

T.J. Tampa, Hutchinson stand out from UNLV win

It was a dominant game in almost every aspect for Iowa State against UNLV. Offensively, they were driving down the field sometimes at will. On defense, they were their usual stingy selves and held UNLV to just three points.

Two players that had particularly notable performances were sophomore defensive back T.J. Tampa and senior wideout Xavier Hutchinson.

For Tampa, his moment only came because usual starter Datrone Young didn’t travel with the team due to injury. Tampa slid into the starting cornerback position and caught his head coach’s eye with his performance.

“He’s one of those guys that you talk about young stars in our program, I feel like he’s one of those guys,” Campbell said. “I thought he was incredible [against UNLV].”

Tampa was talked about in fall camp as a guy who could have a bigger second season. With Young and Anthony Johnson Jr. both being seniors, Tampa is gaining experience that could lead to him getting a full-time starting role later in his career.

As for Hutchinson, Iowa State fans have been accustomed to him making big plays for his team. He was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2020 and has had a strong start to the 2021 season. Last Saturday, he had 10 catches for 133 yards and two scores.

His opposition in practice, Johnson Jr., had seen Hutchinson’s ability early in his time in Ames.

“Xavier’s a guy, Xavier’s a dude, I knew that from the first time he stepped on campus… he just continues to grow and gets me better,” Johnson Jr. said about Hutchinson.

Hutchinson has played a major role in Iowa State’s success this year and last, and Matt Campbell seems to think very highly of his senior wideout and his skill set.

“I would think he’s on track to have a great career not only here at Iowa State but certainly after Iowa State,” Campbell said.