The Cyclones gave the seniors a parting gift on Saturday, as they defeated Kansas 41-31 and moved to 7-4 on the season.
There was a ceremony before the game to celebrate the seniors on the team and a couple of them had big games to help the Cyclones' cause.
"I think the thing that's really hard for me is knowing that if those guys hadn't bought in to myself and trusted this coaching staff and this program, we would be nowhere near where we're at today," said coach Matt Campbell. "I see how much they've changed in their four to five years, I've seen how much they've grown and I think the thing that you're really just proud of is — whatever happens on the football field will be great and however we finish we finish, but those guys are gonna go in life and they're gonna be great fathers, they're gonna be great husbands, they're gonna be great leaders."
It was one of the Cyclones' more ugly games of the season despite the win. Kansas — the perennial bottom feeder in the Big 12 — made it close and even took a couple leads late that stretched into the fourth quarter.
In the first half, senior La'Michael Pettway had two receiving touchdowns and finished the game with six receptions and 96 yards.
Pettway caught a key first down to allow Iowa State to burn most of the clock which made it improbable for the Jayhawks to mount a comeback.
Pettway's only spent a year on the team, but he said he knows what this moment means.
"It was a special moment for sure, but it hasn't hit me yet," Pettway said. "To leave on a positive note man is huge for me."
Pettway played a huge role for the Cyclones, but the Arkansas transfer started off his first and final year with the Cyclones rusty. Pettway played poorly in camp before the season started, but Campbell said that over the past few weeks, Pettway has been the best player on the practice field.
Pettway wasn't the only senior to turn in a good final home game at Jack Trice.
Senior wide receiver Deshaunte Jones caught seven passes for 74 yards before heading to the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury. Jones moved into second in Iowa State history in career receptions. The senior had been the most reliable target for sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy to this point in the season.
The defense played poorly against the Jayhawks with the run defense being constantly gashed apart by Pooka Williams, but a touchdown by Sean Shaw towards the end of the game effectively ended any Kansas chance.
Senior Braxton Lewis had a tough game on defense despite leading the team in tackles. The safety gave up multiple big plays to the Kansas offense.
Senior Marcel Spears — a hold over from the Paul Rhoads era — racked up seven tackles and also added a pass deflection.
Sheldon Croney — a senior running back who has seen minimal playing time — got one carry in the game and squeezed five yards out of it.
The Cyclone defense had a bad game, which limited the defensive contributions that seniors could make, but Pettway and Jones played huge roles in the passing game for the Cyclones.
Tight end Charlie Kolar wasn't celebrating his last game at Jack Trice, but his contributions were big in the win.
"Just happy I could do anything I could to play a small part," Kolar said. "Just super happy and blessed we could send them out with a win."
Kolar caught six passes for 100 yards, but he didn't find the end zone.
With the seniors having their final game, some freshman stepped up to ensure that the seniors got a win in their final game.
Shaw had the game sealing touchdown while Breece Hall got 30 touches in the game including a touchdown reception. Hall amassed 137 yards with 97 of those coming on the ground.
Possibly the most impactful of the freshmen was defensive end Will McDonald who talked about the importance of sending the seniors out with a win.
"All the defensive linemen, I do everything for them," McDonald said. "Especially JaQuan [Bailey]. I look up to him really well. He's my role model."
Bailey will likely see another season with the Cyclones thanks to a leg injury that allowed him to redshirt, but his presence was felt through McDonald against Kansas.
Iowa State has one game left not counting the bowl game. It remains to be seen whether the Cyclones can give their seniors a win in their final regular season game.