Any fan of Iowa State, hell even within the state of Iowa in general, knows exactly what this is about. Teams from Iowa have a tendency to play their best for half a game, or maybe even three quarters if you’re lucky.
There have been too many instances when Iowa State could’ve not only kept their momentum but also could’ve completely impacted the whole season. Thus, a make or break scenario to see if Iowa State has truly progressed is if they play a whole game each week – or at least most weeks – this season.
A brief look into the past
2015 – Iowa State vs Kansas State
One prime example of this dilemma the Cyclones keep having was back in 2015, playing against the Wildcats. Iowa State commanded the first half and went into that locker room with a 35-14 lead. All of the momentum was on their side. There’s no way they’d manage to blow that right? And yet, they did.
Kansas State rallied back with 17 points in the fourth quarter and shut out the Cyclones in the second half. They didn’t even tie the game until there was less than one minute left. A last second field goal pushed the Wildcats to victory, and Cyclone fans were stunned.
Iowa State wasn’t going to a bowl in 2015, ending the season with three total wins. On the flip side, the “never say die” attitude from the Wildcats resulted in a win, and they did go bowling, narrowly, but were blown out.
2016 – Iowa State vs Baylor
Matt Campbell was in his first year of coaching the Cyclones, and experienced his first heart-breaking loss to the Bears. Up to that point, Iowa State had won one game, coming the week prior. The Cyclones and Bears lit up the scoreboard in Ames, and while the Bears weren’t fantastic, another win would’ve been huge.
Iowa State began the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead. While the margin wasn’t huge, fans expected Iowa State to tack on more points in the final quarter. After all, they’d scored 14 points in the first 45 minutes of game play. Alas, the Cyclones were shut out in the fourth, while Baylor put up 17 unanswered points. The lead was gone, and Iowa State wound up losing 45-42 on a last-second field goal.
2016 – Iowa State vs Oklahoma State
As if the pain of losing in the final quarter wasn’t enough, the Cyclones managed to replicate it the following week. Once again, Iowa State found ways to score in the first three quarters, and ceased to score in the fourth. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State scored 17 points in the fourth to win it 38-31. The Cowboys led for just over six minutes of game-play, before fighting back to take the lead with under four minutes left.
Slow from the get-go
Iowa State has failed to show up late in games at times, and other times they don’t show up till it’s too late. I’d say it’s a push when comparing the anguish fans have between heartbreak city and their team not showing up early on. There are a couple examples of the latter within the past couple of seasons alone.
2018 – Iowa State vs Kansas State
When games are close between Iowa State and K-State, it rarely works out in the Cyclones’ favor. That wasn’t the case in 2018 when Iowa State pulled off a comeback of their own. It was also the last game Bill Snyder coached before retiring, ending his legacy.
Iowa State was down as much as 17 points with just under a quarter to go. A couple of mistakes turned the tide and the Cyclones swung back with 21 points in the fourth to win it 42-38. Finally, one of the rivals knew the pain that Iowa State fans were all too familiar with.
2019 – Iowa State vs Oklahoma
Campbell and staff almost pulled off a big one last year down in Norman, but it wasn’t written in the stars. Of course, it didn’t help that Iowa State had to scramble late to even have a chance. The first half was one to forget for Cyclone fans after being piled on 35-14. It was so one-sided, I wouldn’t doubt many sporting Cardinal and Gold stopped watching. While that choice has come up far too often for fans of the Cyclones, it was worth watching the second half.
Whether Oklahoma took their foot off the gas or if Iowa State simply changed up their plan is up for debate. The facts show that the Cyclones matched Oklahoma with a touchdown in the third to stay in it. The fourth quarter was as one-sided as they come, with Iowa State putting up 20 unanswered points, including a last-minute touchdown. The Cyclones went down there to win and derail the Sooners’ playoff dreams. A failed two-point conversion proved to be the difference as Oklahoma won 42-41.
Most fans would opt to try their luck in overtime, but that wasn’t how it went down. Still, the outburst in the fourth quarter left Cyclone fans wondering where that offense/defense combo was the previous 45 minutes.
Will they get over the obstacle?
The instances of heartbreaking losses are slowly dwindling since Campbell took over. He’s got the program steered in the right direction and it’s paid dividends with their final standings in the conference. There have even been times when Iowa State hasn’t “needed” to play a full 60 minutes, and they still get a win. Five years ago, it didn’t seem like that was possible with this program.
If Iowa State finds out how to find their game from the coin flip, and play till the 60th minute, or beyond, they’ll do big things. Pair that with the talent they have on the field each week, and they should have a real shot at finishing third or fourth in the Big 12. If they don’t, they’ll lose games they shouldn’t, and 2020 will likely be looked at as a set back, with a huge missed opportunity to find consistent success.
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