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Iowa State Daily

Cyclones ready to head home for last road test before Big 12 play

Daniel Jacobi II
Iowa State’s Head Coach Matt Campbell huddles and talks to the players 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.

Iowa State is looking to get one last win before Big 12 play starts up as the Cyclones travel to Athens, Ohio, to take on a formidable Bobcats team.

Ohio is coming off a 10-4 season where the Bobcats found themselves in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship. They lost to Toledo 17-7, which is the school that Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell coached at previously.

“You’re talking about one of the premiere programs in the Mid-American Conference. A team that played in the Mid-American Conference Championship game a year ago,” Campbell said. “Had they not lost their quarterback last year for that game, who knows?”

Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke was having an incredible season en route to the MAC Championship before he got injured. He finished the 2022 season with 3,256 passing yards and 25 touchdowns to four interceptions.

Although Rourke has had a rocky start to the 2023 season, throwing just one touchdown to two picks, Iowa State is still wary of the potential he brings to the field.

“They got a great quarterback. It’ll be the best quarterback we’ve played against so far this football season,” Campbell said. “One of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen in a long time.”

Alongside Rourke, the Ohio offense is sporting two other quarterback options who have been efficient in their own areas. Alongside the quarterbacks, the running game also helped the Bobcats with their 2-1 start to the season.

Ohio’s sole loss came in week one to San Diego State 20-13. Ohio most recently took down Long Island 27-10 and Florida Atlantic 17-10. The Bobcats showed a variety of looks on offense in all three of those games.

“It will be a tremendous challenge for us. It will be probably one of the steeper challenges we’ve played to this point on our side of the football looking at the veterans they have on offense,” Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said.

The game will also be a homecoming of sorts for a good chunk of the team. Many players and coaches are from Ohio and have been involved heavily in Ohio sports.

Iowa State gets to make the trip to Ohio twice, with the game against Cincinnati being on the road as well.

“It’s great,” Iowa State offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford said. “I get to go back to God’s country twice this year.”

Along with players, Campbell and other coaches such as Heacock also have ties to Ohio. Campbell is from Ohio and coached the Toledo Rockets before coming to Ames.

Heacock was defensive coordinator at Toledo during Campbell’s tenure before following Campbell to Iowa State. Whether it is coaches or players, Ohio is a meaningful place for the Cyclones. 

Along with that, Ohio is a tough place to play. The Bobcats did not lose a single game at home last season and are flawless in Athens to start the 2023 season.

Although many Cyclones will be back home in Ohio, Campbell is sure the emotions will not play a role in the football game. 

“I think my emotions have gone into our football team responding to Saturday,” Campbell said.

The Cyclones are coming off a Cy-Hawk loss in Ames. The game started slow for Iowa State, but the glimmer of hope late in the game faded as the clock ran out.

Now Iowa State is looking to right the ship and get a win under its belt before Big 12 play starts.

“It really felt like our guys hung in there and fought to the end,” Heacock said. “Gave us a chance there at the end. That’s all you’re ever looking for in a game is to have a chance.”

Playing in Ohio will give Iowa State the reset week it needs. Ohio poses a different threat than the other two opponents the Cyclones have faced. Although, that does not seem to faze the team.

For the Cyclones, the game plan is the same as every other week. Go in and get a win.

“It’s just another week,” Hufford said. “I think if you put too much focus and effort on one team and not just look at the whole picture, I think that’s where you find mental mistakes.”

Iowa State gears up to play Ohio at 11 a.m. Saturday in Athens, Ohio. The game will be streamed live on ESPNU.

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    Larry | Sep 16, 2023 at 9:36 am

    Should be no contest for the Cyclones but considering their inept play against a very poor Iowa team there may be an upset cooking.