Homecoming game history shows Cyclone performance over time

A student celebrates Iowa State’s first touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs game at Iowa State’s Homecoming tailgate Oct. 28, 2017.

Noah Rohlfing

Homecoming Week starts with a parade, ends with activities and parties and is a cherished week for many on college campuses. But at Division I schools, the week is scheduled with one big sport in mind: college football.

The Homecoming game is a tried and true tradition in college football. Alumni come back to visit their old stomping grounds, there’s a higher demand for tickets (Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard recently tweeted that the Homecoming game against Oklahoma State is headed for a sellout) and there are events throughout the week to keep the hype high. 

But one question remains: will the home team win on Homecoming?

With the rise of college football conferences in the late ’80s and early-to-mid ’90s, Homecoming games for many power-conference teams fall during conference play. This makes it a near-crapshoot as to whether the game is going to be easily winnable or a near-impossible task. 

Iowa State’s 2019 opponent, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, sit directly in the middle of the scale. The Cowboys are 4-3 — a record only one game worse than the Cyclones’ 5-2 mark — but have a 1-3 Big 12 record, having only beaten Kansas State since mid-September. 

Coach Matt Campbell isn’t taking the Cowboys lightly, though.

“Our greatest challenge to date,” Campbell said of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have plenty of offensive weapons to make the Iowa State defense sweat — mainly standout running back Chuba Hubbard, redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Saunders and wide receiver Tylan Wallace. 

Linebacker Mike Rose said the Cyclones are up to the challenge of defending such an explosive offense. 

“The past couple years, we’ve struggled against them,” Rose said. “They’ve had success against us.”

But enough about Saturday’s game, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and answer the question: Is Iowa State good in its Homecoming games?

2018 — W, 40-31

Last year’s Homecoming game was a showdown with Texas Tech and then-coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Cyclones were in a back-and-forth contest for much of the game, with the Red Raiders matching Iowa State’s offensive output.

A 41-yard interception return from Marcel Spears gave the Cyclones a 24-17 lead briefly in the third quarter, but the Red Raiders fought back and tied the game at 31.

Iowa State took the lead on a safety with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter and sealed the win with a Brock Purdy pass to Hakeem Butler. 

2017 — W, 14-7

The second of two monumental 2017 victories responsible for turning the tide on Iowa State’s program, the Cyclones’ 14-7 win over then-No. 4 TCU had all the makings of a classic October upset victory. It was 42 degrees at kickoff, the wind was blowing at 10 mph and the Cyclones’ defense held TCU scoreless on offense. 

Two first-half Kyle Kempt touchdown passes — one to Matthew Eaton and one to Hakeem Butler — were enough to overcome a third-quarter kickoff return touchdown from KaVontae Turpin. 

The fans in Ames stormed the field at Jack Trice Stadium and the Cyclones moved to 6-2 on the year.

2016 — L, 26-31

This one still stings for Iowa State fans, as do many of the close losses the Cyclones suffered at the hands of legendary former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. “The Wizard of Manhattan” pulled off a number of fourth quarter comebacks to defeat the Cyclones during his tenures with the Wildcats. 

However, this win was off-script — the Cyclones nearly came back from a 31-10 deficit by scoring 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Now-senior Deshaunte Jones scored a touchdown on a pass from Jacob Park to bring the Cyclones within five with 51 seconds left, but the Wildcats held on.

2015 — W, 24-0

The win that could have saved Paul Rhoads’ job with the Cyclones’ 2015 Homecoming game included an unexpected win over a disappointing Texas team that would finish the season at 5-7. 

Texas had just 204 yards of offense against a Cyclone defense in the middle of a down year, while Joel Lanning (still a quarterback at the time) threw for one touchdown in his first career start and ran for 64 yards. Freshmen running backs Mike Warren (who had 157 yards rushing) and Joshua Thomas ran for touchdowns. 

This would be Rhoads’ last big win at the helm, as he was let go following the end of the season and replaced by Campbell. 

2014 — W, 37-30

A fun case of foreshadowing, in 2014 the Cyclones hosted their future head coach at Homecoming when Campbell’s Toledo Rockets came to Ames on Oct. 11. This is the last time the Cyclones have held Homecoming during a non-conference game.

The Rockets were game, leading 13-9 at the half and causing problems for Cyclone quarterback Sam Richardson. But in the second half, Richardson threw for three touchdowns and ended the game with 353 yards passing. Allen Lazard scored what would be the game-winning touchdown.

Less than two full years later, Campbell would be the head coach in Ames.

This was Iowa State’s second and final win of 2014.

2013 — L, 17-21

This loss was in the midst of a 3-9 season and was a come-from-ahead defeat for the Cyclones against TCU. Iowa State led 17-14 but gave up a touchdown to Trevone Boykin with 38 seconds left in the contest.

Iowa State scored its touchdowns on a kickoff return from DeVondrick Nealy and a 15-yard run from Sam Richardson. Richardson split time in-game with Grant Rohach and would continue to do so for much of the season.

2012 — W, 35-21

This win over Baylor put Iowa State one win away from bowl eligibility — the last time the team would reach a bowl until 2017. Five touchdown passes from Steele Jantz — Iowa State folk legend — was enough to overpower a Baylor team in the midst of a down season. 

Jarvis West scored three touchdowns for the Cyclones as Jantz tied a school record for single-game touchdown passes (five).

2011 — L, 17-33

The school’s last-ever matchup with Texas A&M to date ended in a two-score defeat. Iowa State was out-gained 510 to 305, and the Cyclones’ lone bright spot was a 117-yard receiving day from Josh Lenz. Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett split time at quarterback.

The Cyclones went on to win the next three games, including a win over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State, and were 6-7 on the year.

2010 — W, 28-16

The last entry of the 2010s — or rather, the first entry in the decade — was a 28-16 win over Kansas led by a strong showing by Iowa State’s defense and a third-quarter explosion.

Iowa State scored three touchdowns in the third period — all by different running backs — to take a 28-9 lead heading into the final frame, where Kansas was unable to mount a comeback.

This was the Cyclones’ fifth win of the season, putting them one away from a bowl birth. However, they would lose the last three of the season and finish 5-7.

The Cyclones have gone 6-3 in their nine Homecoming games of the 2010s — despite multiple three-win seasons and five below-.500 campaigns — ahead of Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. showdown with the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. The games have been held as early as Oct. 11 and as late as Nov. 9. 

Saturday’s game will close the Homecoming chapter on this decade for Iowa State — a decade filled with interesting names, a program-altering coaching change and a lot of history, forgotten or otherwise.