Notre Dame isn’t taking the Cyclones lightly ahead of Camping World


Caitlin Yamada/ Iowa State Daily

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly speak to the media ahead of their matchup in the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28.

Matt Belinson

High praise came Iowa State’s way early and often from Notre Dame’s Head Coach Brian Kelly ahead of Saturday’s Camping World Bowl.

The ninth-year head coach of the Irish continually gave credit to the success of the Cyclones under Campbell in the short time he has been in Ames.

While Kelly gave praise to nearly every level of Iowa State as a team — Kelly sees the Cyclones feed off an attitude of being disrespected and overlooked. 

“You can just see the way they play with the disdain of, ‘We don’t care what you think about us.’ And I think they’re back in that same position. That’s why it’s a very difficult team to play because they play so hard with that kind of demeanor,” Kelly said. 

Iowa State comes into this game with a 7-5 record, which adds to Kelly’s belief that the Cyclones are flying under the radar too many in the country. With many close games under their belt, the Cyclones are a dangerous opponent for the Irish to overlook.

“Many people don’t know how good this football team is, but I can tell you, [with] my 30 years of coaching football, I know how good it is,” Kelly said about Iowa State. “It’s going to be a great football game.”

On the offensive side, Kelly noted that the size of the Cyclone’s tight ends will create matchup problems for the Irish defenders. Kelly was impressed with Iowa State’s ability to put up lots of points on high-level competition with specific mentions of Brock Purdy and Breece Hall who stand out. 

Flipping over to the defensive side, Kelly sees the scheme of the Cyclone defense creating the most issues for his team due to the uncertainty the scheme creates.

The Cyclones do a good job of setting up completely different looks against each opponent, making it harder than usual for Kelly and his staff to dissect the film on how the defense for the Cyclones will line up each play.

Matt Campbell, head coach of the Cyclones, has plenty of experience with being the underdog against powerhouse programs, but finding a way to end up on top.

Even with multiple top-five upsets and two eight-win seasons in his coaching tenure with the Cyclones, Campbell was not willing to say what another win against a top program like Notre Dame would mean for his program.

Instead, Campbell said he believes Iowa State is still in the stage of earning the right to play against high-quality opponents like Notre Dame.

“I think anytime we step on the field, we want, especially at Iowa State, as we’ve continued to build this program, to be able to continue to earn the right to play great football,” Campbell said. “And people look at our football team and say, ‘Boy, that’s a football team and a football program,’ that our kids play hard and they do it the right way.”

Purdy gave the matchup more weight than his head coach, saying a win over the Irish would provide a massive boost heading into the 2020 season for the Cyclones.

Purdy said Iowa State has had plenty of time since the Kansas State loss to end the regular season to figure out where it went wrong. The weeks since the 27-17 loss to the Wildcats have given Purdy and the rest of the Cyclones a chance to reflect as they get ready to face Notre Dame.

“This is like game-one for 2020, the coaches made that clear to us,” Purdy said. “If we start off by winning this game, it will create great momentum going into spring ball and the offseason.

“This is huge.”

Despite the high marks he gave, Kelly believes the Cyclones still have not received the attention they deserve and sees most of the strengths of the Cyclones come in their traits as a team.

“I think nationally they haven’t certainly gotten the credit that they deserve, but I think those that watch football and understand the game know this is a team that has a number of traits that you don’t put down on paper,” Kelly said. “Their traits really trump talent in that sense and make for a very dangerous football team week in and week out.”

Kelly knows Iowa State will be a tough matchup for his team, even going as far as to say he would rather play Coe College than the Cyclones on Saturday.

“I’d rather play Coe College. No disrespect to Coe. I’m going to get a ton of Coe grads that are going to beat me up on this one,” Kelly said. “My point being is Iowa State is not necessarily on the list of teams that you want to play for the first time.”