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Matt Campbell gets program-defining win at Oklahoma

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma

5-74-2. I repeat, 5-74-2.

That was Iowa State’s record against Oklahoma on the football field. The Cyclones entered Norman on Saturday as a 31-point underdog.

 
Not only that, the last time Iowa State won in Norman, head coach Matt Campbell was all of ten years old (1990). That’s how this match up’s history has gone.

Coming into Saturday, Iowa State starting quarterback Jacob Park was mysteriously missing late in the week, which was then confirmed by coach Matt Campbell to be a personal leave of absence. Enter: Kyle Kempt.

We knew the talent would be there for Iowa State, especially on offense. David Montgomery, Allen Lazard, Hakeem Butler, Trever Ryen. But what about Kempt? Outside of folks inside the program, the rest of us didn’t know anything about what he was capable of on the biggest stage in the Big 12.

Well, with Iowa State was trailing at halftime 24-13 as it looked like OU would do enough to win the game and move on to 5-0. But the Cyclones offense had five possessions, including drives of 50 yards, 94 yards, 73 yards, 75 yards for scores.

 
The senior transfer from Hutchinson Community College (previously Oregon State) completed 18 of 24 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns.

After the game, Kempt admitted, “Besides the people in the locker room and the people that made the trip, no one gave us a realistic chance. It’s part of the reason there’s a big chip on our shoulder.”

“What’s really special is there’s been a lot of adversity at Iowa State for a long time,” Campbell added. “There’s a lot of cloud around it, and I think our kids said, ‘I’m sick of it, and we’re just going to keep grinding, we’re just going to keep swinging and we’re just going to keep getting better one day at a time.’”

Campbell has brought this team together in ways his predecessor, Paul Rhaods, never did. It was a topic of conversation throughout Big 12 Media Days in Frisco, TX in July. This group was close. But could it pay off in the win column?

Sure, Rhoads had one of the best wins in Iowa State football history over No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011. But this win topped that. On the road, in Norman, with a backup walk-on quarterback. Unbelievable.

Even Allen Lazard admitted this is the kind of win that can boost a team’s confidence unlike anything else, saying,  “You walk in here, and you see all the All-Americans, the Heisman Trophy winners, the other trophy winners — it shows that we’re very capable of hanging with anyone in the country.”

Lazard is just one of the many players who has helped this team gel and has shown his willingness to be selfless and help boost this program under Matt Campbell. He skipped out on last year’s NFL Draft to come back for this season. Yes, he wanted to boost his draft stock, but there was also something about seeing this through in Ames.

 
Last year, the Cyclones lost five games by ten points or less. Meantime, in Week 2 of this season, the Cyclones lost a heartbreaker 44-41 to Iowa. It was a game Iowa State should have won. Afterwards, Campbell said how his team responded would tell a lot about where the program is. The following week they crushed Akron 41-14. No sulking, no feeling bad for themselves.

Here they were, on the road against the mighty Sooners, who seemed destined for a Big 12 championship game and maybe a College Football Playoff appearance for the second time in the past three seasons. They didn’t have their starting quarterback eight days after the offense only mustered a touchdown against Texas. It was the perfect opportunity to feel sorry for themselves.

But linebacker Joel Lanning is another guy who won’t let this team pout. With the quarterback situation, Lanning played 57 snaps at linebacker, 13 at quarterback, and eight on special teams.

Afterwards, the linebacker/quarterback/whatever you want to call him said, “We came in here facing a 500-pound lion; 90,000 (fans) vs. 90 guys that we brought down with us. We just kept fighting and kept believing.”

And after Saturday’s win, there is a helluva lot of reason to believe in what Matt Campbell continues to build in Ames.

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