Big 12 Sports Articles

Iowa State Defines ‘Trusting the Process’ in College Football

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Iowa State

After Iowa State’s narrow victory over the Texas Longhorns last Saturday in Austin, Breece Hall in the postgame interview dropped the now infamous line, “Five Star Culture versus Five Star Players.”

This, of course, may seem like the star running back at Iowa State was poking fun at the Longhorns. Yet it actually was an honest answer that he gave to the media.

Iowa State arrived in Austin last Saturday with a weight around their necks and a target on their backs. The pressure to keep winning for a team that historically hasn’t had a culture of doing so can seem heavy.

Lose to Texas, and you won’t be in the conference title talk come December. Furthermore, you are coming into a place, where historically, you haven’t played your best football.

Even when you had David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler you lost by two touchdowns in 2018. When you’re in the driver’s seat in the Big 12, or any conference, the target on your back just seems to get bigger the deeper you get into the season. And when you’re a team like Iowa State, who everyone expects to eventually falter, the pressure keeps building.

 

Many, including myself, believed Matt Campbell’s team needed to play error free football in order to win against the Longhorns. Those things that plagued the team all season couldn’t rear their heads again in such a pivotal game. The special teams errors that gave up “free” points all year. The missed field goals that already cost you one game this year. The penalties that walk you backwards due to false starts and illegal procedures.

Most believed we needed Breece Hall to continue his usual production of 135 yards and two touchdowns to win. We needed Brock Purdy to throw flames and be otherworldly behind center. And yet, none of these things seemed to fit against a brilliant Texas defensive strategy and defensive line.

Hall struggled to get moving for more than four yards a carry, as the Longhorn defensive line played very well. Brock Purdy was consistently good all game as well, but struggled to find pay dirt deep, except for Shaun Shaw Jr.’s athletic catch and run to the end zone early in the game.

Going into halftime, once again Iowa State failed to capitalize in the red zone with a missed FG by kicker Conner Assalley. And yet throughout the game, coach Matt Campbell treated the game as a process.

He respects the process.

Offense to defense to special teams, all of it is an extension of the next. This is the culture coach Campbell has instilled in just five years as the Cyclones skipper.

Let’s take Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman. His roster is undeniably loaded with four and five star talent. His teams are tough. Say what you want about not living up to some fans’ expectations, but this Texas team is gritty and at times nasty on defense.

Yet throughout the game we saw head-scratching decisions by Tom Herman that have no real process behind them. A fake punt at mid field, with Texas up 10 points. The Iowa State offense was having trouble moving the ball all game leading up to that moment. The fake punt was sniffed out by Rory Walling and a few minutes later, Iowa State is lining up to kick another field goal to bring the game to one score.

Herman believed his talent would beat the process.

 

The 4th and 1 in the red zone, already up four points in the 4th quarter. I can see if you were behind and crunched for time, but at this stage in the game, the sure field would have ensured at least touchdown lead.

Once again, the process of the game seemed to be ignored and the play was stuffed for no gain. Here again, Texas believed their talent could convert the play, yet the process would say take the points and widen the lead.

Finally, the Texas defense bows up and stops the Cyclone offense. Matt Campbell, against my hopes and amateur coaching skills, punts the ball, behind by four points with around 4:30 left in the game.

He wasn’t kidding about this process thing, guys.

He knew his best chance was for the always-sure defense to hold and to hand the offense back the ball with likely a minute or two remaining in the game.

Yet Texas, instead of trusting their offensive line and running back, who had ran surprisingly well all game against the usually solid Iowa State run defense, decided to throw the ball on 2nd and 3rd downs for incompletions.

The entire possession for Texas was around a minute and a half before they were giving the ball back to Iowa State with around three minutes left.

Once again the process called for running clock and forcing the opponent to burn time outs that would be needed on offense. But, the Longhorns believed, once again, their talent would make the plays in the end.

Five-star culture can mean a variety of different things. But it proved, at least in this game, its value when the entire team has bought in and it starts with the head coach and trickles down to the staff and players.

Bottom line, Iowa State had nearly 100 yards in penalties. They missed field goals in critical spots. Their reliable weapons were held in check, and their offense petered out in the red zone almost the entire game. And they still came out of Austin winners.

Culture is the only honest answer Breece Hall could give as to how they won that game. It’s a culture that understands the process of how to play football for all four quarters.

Trust the process.

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