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Royston: Don’t worry, Iowa State’s Cy-Hawk loss reveals bright future

Daniel Jacobi II
Iowa State’s defense and Iowa’s offense meet at the line of scrimmage for an Iowa field goal attempt during the first half of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series football game against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

AMES — I’m going to start this out by saying that the loss to Iowa is not the end of the world.

Of course you want to see Iowa State keep the Cy-Hawk trophy in Ames, but there are almost more things to learn in the loss than a close win. Iowa State did not play badly against a team that still has the potential to knock on the door of the AP Top-25 Rankings.

Even Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell was happy with his team’s performance. When looking at other Cy-Hawk matchups, the 20-13 loss was actually one of the better games the Cyclones have had in the Campbell era.

“I’m really proud of our football team,” Campbell said. “I think it’s the best we’ve played in this football game since I’ve been here.”

Although it is a little bold to say that a seven-point loss was a better game than a win on the road, when looking at the way Iowa State played, I kind of agree. Take out a few mistakes, most notably the blocked field goal and Rocco Becht’s pick-six, and the mood in Ames would be much different with Iowa State picking up the win.

It was those few mistakes that might have cost the Cyclones the game but also showed them what to work on. The one-possession loss showed what the team will look like going forward and even revealed some stars ready to break out.

Of course, when talking about players that will end up giving Iowa State the success it desires, the name that comes to mind is Becht.

Becht sputtered early in the game, with only two notable drives to his name resulting in three total points for the Cyclones at half. The few drives that were working were outshined by the many drives that fell short.

“We had some drives where we figured it out, and we just couldn’t finish them,” Becht said.

Although Becht’s performance was nowhere near as efficient as his field day against Northern Iowa, he showed flashes of greatness. Most notably on the 80-yard touchdown drive.

Iowa State’s offense moved the best it had all season. The running backs were tearing up the field and Becht was connecting on every pass he threw.

Finishing with the touchdown pass over the top to Jayden Higgins was the cherry on top.

“That touchdown doesn’t happen without him,” Becht said. “He made a lot of great catches today. He knows that. He knows he’s gonna get better every week.”

The touchdown pass got the momentum going in Iowa State’s favor and almost got the Cyclones back in the game. It also almost erased the memory of the pick-six that Becht threw earlier in the game.


The pick-six that could have been the mistake that cost the Cyclones the game will weigh on the mind of Becht. As he is still growing, it is clear that there will be points in every game that he loses his confidence. However, he knows that he just has to improve and fix those mistakes the next time.

“There’s still a couple throws I’d want back, that one especially,” Becht said. “I’m gonna move on, and this team’s gonna move on, and we’re gonna be better.”

The biggest takeaway from the game for Becht should not be the pick-six. It should be the fact that he is willing to move on and keep improving.

So again, I’m going to reiterate the fact that you should not worry. The team is still growing and will continue to learn from its mistakes going forward.

“I think a lot he will learn from this football game,” Campbell said.

On the other side of the ball, after an uncharacteristic start, Iowa State’s defense settled into peak form to finish out the game. Jeremiah Cooper even snatched his third interception of the season.

“He performs at practice every day. He practices how he plays,” Tyler Onyedim said. “He’s a real good player. Y’all don’t see it all the time.”

Despite the few mistakes early in the game on defense, there were plenty of good signs to look at going forward.

If you just look at the second half, the defense showed great growth, not only from the first week to the second, but from quarter to quarter. That quick growth and adaptability will be crucial when the Cyclones get into Big 12 play.

“Great challenges ahead,” Campbell said. “By no means are we there yet, but I think what you saw was elite growth from week one to week two, and we got to keep growing.”

That growth mindset will be beneficial going forward. Although a loss is a loss, it was a good loss when looking at the trajectory of the team.

I mean, it’s just one loss. Don’t worry.

“This game doesn’t define us,” Onyedim said. “It helps us. It motivates us harder, to be honest, for the Big 12 play.”

As competition gets tougher, any motivation the Cyclones can get will be crucial. The team knows how hard they can play and how good they can be.

So don’t worry. The Cyclones are just getting started.

“I feel like next week we’re gonna come out with a fire, and I feel like that’s just gonna follow us throughout the whole season,” Becht said.

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  • L

    Larry Thomas | Sep 9, 2023 at 10:25 pm

    Cyclones were beaten by a very mediocre Iowa team.

    • T

      tg | Sep 11, 2023 at 7:11 pm

      I wonder where the fire was Saturday? Let’s hope it’s a blaze next week or this formidable Ohio team will make it a tough day.