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Royston: Beating Cincinnati was the most important win of the season

Tyler Coe
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell greets Cincinnati head coach Scott Satterfield after a Cyclone victory at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

CINCINNATI — I’ll say it, the 30-10 win over Cincinnati was the most important and biggest win of the season. Period.

The Cyclones needed a win given their history with road games. Most people, including me, lost faith in this team’s ability to win on the road a long time ago.

The last road win came over a year ago, as the Cyclones traveled to Iowa City and took down the Hawkeyes in the 2022 Cy-Hawk matchup. The last Big 12 road was in 2021 when they took down Kansas State.

“This win is special,” Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht said. “We haven’t won a road game since last year [in the] early part of the season. We haven’t won a Big 12 conference-away game here in two years.”

Going into Cincinnati, the Cyclones needed to prove they could win on the road. They did just that.

The Cyclones didn’t just beat Cincinnati, they destroyed them. The Cyclones had the game wrapped up in the third quarter.

Iowa State looked good on offense, as Becht balled out connecting with a variety of receivers. The defense also looked to return to its elite form from earlier in the season, stopping the Bearcats at every turn and picking off Emory Jones twice.

Jeremiah Cooper ended the first half by picking up his fifth interception of the year.

“That’s big, that’s big overall for the whole team and the whole defense and our confidence individually,” Cooper said.

The most impressive part of the day to me wasn’t even the ability to win on the road. It was the creativity and fearlessness that the Cyclones showed at times.

The biggest play that showed off that fearlessness was Chase Contreraz’s fake field goal, where he almost rushed in for a touchdown. Contreraz picked up a crucial first down that eventually led to a touchdown and jumpstarted Iowa State’s offense through the rest of the win.

“This was huge,” Contreraz said. “Big momentum builder, especially going into the bye week.”

The Cyclones also had other creative plays and ripped off a big run on fourth down on the same drive as the fake field goal. The momentum created from the win should give Iowa State confidence going into the bye week.

Now that we’ve seen Iowa State win on the road, it does not seem impossible for the Cyclones to travel to Baylor and keep the win streak going. Having a week off to prepare for another tough road challenge is a blessing for the Cyclones.

“This is a long season,” Iowa State head coach Campbell said. “You’re in a critical time. We go into a bye. Can our youth handle that? You have to go back on the road, can you keep getting better, because you know everybody else will?”

That’s going to be the question going into the next game. Can the Cyclones keep getting better?

It does seem that Iowa State is on the rise. The potential that Campbell has seen in the team throughout the season, even in the rough weeks, is starting to shine through.

“If we want to continue to be where we want to be at the end of all this, then our growth is going to be critical going forward,” Campbell said. “Some teams have the ability to do that, and some don’t. Hopefully this team does.”

However, the growth can’t stop because Iowa State finally won on the road. Of course the win was extremely important, but it will all be for nothing if the Cyclones can’t keep rolling.

This team keeps surprising every week. When the offense was struggling, they locked in and started balling out. When the defense started to slip, they locked in to become dominant again. When road games caused issues, they showed they can win on the road.

Now, the Cyclones have to keep getting locked in and tackle the back half of the season.

“We just gotta stay locked in and keep what we’re doing and not do anything stupid,” Becht said. “We’ll be good at that, and we’ll keep treading along, and we’ll be fine.”

Going forward, it looks like Iowa State is on pace to do just that. The Cyclones will be fine.

Beating Cincinnati was the biggest win of the season so far. Not only that, it might end up being the biggest and most important win of the entire season.

The win was important in showing what the Cyclones can do. They can win when it matters most. No obstacle is too big to overcome.

“Keep playing hard,” Jayden Higgins said. “Keep playing hard every week. No matter the opponent, just keep playing hard and just do what we can do.”

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