AMES- After a season opener that featured a close game against the Northern Iowa Panthers, Iowa State welcomes its in-state rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes, to Ames with the backdrop of ESPN College Gameday’s second trip to this game in three years.
Iowa State comes in ranked No. 9 in this week’s AP Poll, with Iowa coming in right behind them at No. 10. This is the first time that this Iowa Corn CyHawk matchup has featured two ranked teams, much less both being in the top-10.
It’s one of the more anticipated games in the series’ history and will provide an early season test for a Cyclone team that had unprecedented success last season and returns nearly every starter.
“It means something… there’s always a high level of energy,” Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell said when asked about the stakes of this game historically.
Both teams come in at 1-0, with the Cyclones winning 16-10 against the Panthers and Iowa picking up a convincing victory of the Indiana Hoosiers, to the tune of 34-6. The Hawkeyes’ victory shot them up the rankings from No. 18 to No. 10 in the AP poll.
One of the main factors in Iowa’s victory was the two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, both by Iowa’s senior defensive back Riley Moss. Moss earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts and Iowa State’s offense will have to always have eyes on him.
While Iowa’s 34-6 victory did not have much drama as the game went on, Northern Iowa was able to keep the game close against the Cyclones. The score margin never rose above seven and Iowa State had to come back from a first quarter deficit of seven to win.
While the Iowa State defense was able to shut down their opponent in the second half, Iowa State’s offense was never able to get their rhythm, and while Campbell was happy with the performance, he knows there are things to work on.
“There was some detail and precision that lacked… I thought we drove the ball really well, but it was the precision and detail to put points on the board and finish drives,” Campbell said.
The Cyclone offense picked up just one touchdown and just 69 yards from 2020 Doak Walker finalist Breece Hall. Hall averaged just three yards a carry. While certainly part of that can be contributed to the Northern Iowa game plan, Hall knows he can be better.
“I have high expectations of myself and for my team… I just felt like we didn’t come out and play how we should’ve,” Hall said.
Iowa State will look to build upon their opening performance, and one thing that could potentially aid that is the return of tight end Charlie Kolar, who missed last week’s game with a lower body injury.
Campbell mentioned that Kolar practiced Monday and that he feels good about where his All-American is at heading into this weekend’s tilt.
While Iowa State may be ranked higher than their in-state counterpart, history is not on the side of Campbell and his team. Campbell has yet to pick up a win against the Hawkeyes in his first four tries.
In all, the Cyclones have a five-game losing streak against Iowa, which means key players such as Mike Rose, Brock Purdy and the aforementioned Hall have yet to pick up a victory in their storied Cyclone careers.
“It’s a big game for everyone, especially a lot of our veterans, we haven’t beaten them yet so that’s definitely on our minds,” Rose said when asked about the stakes of the game Tuesday.
Campbell also has just a 7-11 record in his September games as head coach of this Cyclone team, so his struggles early in the season are spread throughout his tenure at Iowa State thus far.
The main takeaway from each of the previous five matchups the Cyclones have lost is the turnovers and the fact that Iowa has yet to yield one during their current winning streak. The last turnover for the Hawkeye offense was in 2015.
Turnovers played a big role in each of these teams’ first wins of the season, and it could be the difference maker come Saturday.
This year’s rendition of the Iowa Corn CyHawk game starts at 3:30 p.m. in Ames and can be viewed on ABC.