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Royston: Jeremiah Cooper’s loss was felt, Cyclones drop winnable game

Joseph Dicklin
Iowa State DB Malik Verdon stops Devin Neal of the Kansas Jayhawks during the Iowa State vs. Kansas football game on Nov. 4, 2023 in Jack Trice Stadium.

AMES — Iowa State had every opportunity in the world to take down Kansas and come away with a homecoming win.

However, when it mattered most, the Cyclones could not piece together a comeback and ended the night with a 28-21 loss.

The Cyclones played better in the final quarters of the game. It was clear that no matter how hard they played, they could not overcome a slow start to the game.

Whether it was miscommunication on offense or big defensive mistakes, the Cyclones just looked off.

“We just really weren’t in sync,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said.

The biggest factor in the result of the game was the new guys forced to step up into starting roles for Myles Purchase and Jeremiah Cooper, especially Cooper.

As Blake Thompson and Jontez Willams’ faces rolled across the video board, it was clear that there was something in the air. There was almost a buzz surrounding Kansas.

The Jayhawks knew there would be opportunities in the air and they made the most of them. Not only that, Kansas quarterback Jason Bean did not have to worry about the ballhawk that is Cooper.

When it came down to it, turnovers were the name of the game.

“Ultimately, the end all is that we didn’t take care of the football,” Campbell said. “I’m sure we lost that today, I think it was one to zero.”

Rocco Becht threw a pick six. Iowa State forced no turnovers. The Cyclones lost by one score.

I’m not saying that Cooper would have been a guaranteed turnover, but with Bean throwing four picks in two weeks, it was safe to assume at least one turnover would have been thrown to Iowa State’s secondary.

Jeremiah Cooper surveys the Oklahoma offense at Gaylord Memorial Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

With two new players starting, Bean did his best early on to target Thompson and Williams and keep the ball away from T.J. Tampa and Beau Freyler. When everything was said and done, Bean was perfect on the day.

“Our recipe to success is the ability to win those margins, and we didn’t,” Campbell said.

The Cyclones needed a spark to win the margins. That was clear.

When it mattered most though, they did not have that spark. Without a big playmaker on the field, Kansas waltzed over them at times.

“You hate to lose a guy like Jeremiah, because he’s playing so good, but you also believe in your roster,” Campbell said.

That belief came back to bite the Cyclones early on.

Big plays, especially in the air, came easily to the Jayhawks. Bean was connecting on deep balls on what seemed to be every other play.

By the end of the game, four Jayhawk receivers finished with catches of over 20 yards, as Bean finished with 287 passing yards and an 80-yard touchdown pass.

All the Cyclones could do was trust that the guys taking over, mainly Thompson, could buckle down and figure out how to lock down their receivers.

“Man, I love playing with Jeremiah Cooper, but anyone playing safety next to me, you know I got full trust in them,” Iowa State defensive back Beau Freyler said.

Thompson was the player that stuck out like a sore thumb early on.

When Bean needed a big pickup, he targeted Thompson. The first big catch of the game came on a wide-open receiver that Thompson was supposed to be guarding.

It seemed that every play that went his way caught him off guard. He was not locking down his receivers and looked nervous at times.

However, as the game went on, Thompson started to get into a groove.

“We had a young man step in there today,” Campbell said. “I thought started maybe a hair slow, but man, I thought played really great second, third and fourth quarter of the football game.”

Thompson was no Cooper, but he was doing his best to make up for his early mistakes later in the game.

One drive that stuck out came later in the game when Thompson was the main target of Bean.

Thompson let his receiver get wide open for a big pick up. Just a few plays later, Thompson clutched up and got a much-needed pass breakup on second down, which eventually led to a missed field goal.

Thompson finished the game with six tackles; a career high.

However, all the late efforts by the Cyclones could not erase the rough start. The Cyclones were down 14-3 at half and 21-3 coming out of the half. Although they pieced together an 18-point comeback, another mistake from the defensive back room caused the Jayhawks to pull out the 28-21 win.

Bottom line: the detail and precision that Campbell consistently preached just wasn’t there. No other player embodied detail and precision like Cooper.

“Our detail has to be there for us to win games,” Iowa State wide receiver Jaylin Noel said. “It wasn’t there at first, and we started to pick it up, but just time ran out.”

When the Cyclones finally found momentum, it was too little too late. Along with that, the defense could not get stops to get the offense back on the field.

Again, an area that Cooper could have helped in.

Cooper’s loss was felt big time, as the Jayhawks cruised to a lights out passing performance. The Cyclones needed some spark to get the homecoming win, but that spark was standing on the sidelines without pads or helmet in sight.

The only good news coming out of the loss is that Cooper’s injury is nothing to worry about. Campbell was confident that Cooper would see the field in the coming weeks.

“I don’t think it’s a long period of time,” Campbell said. “Hopefully we can get him back this coming week.”

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