Soehner and Hummel Fiesta Bowl

A group of Iowa State Cyclones celebrate after recovering a fumble after punting the ball during the 2021 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Iowa State defeated Oregon 34-17. (Photo courtesy of PlayStation Fiesta Bowl/Slingshot Photography)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's a question that has been asked to Matt Campbell multiple times this season.

"Was this the most complete game of the season?"

Usually, the fifth-year head coach of Iowa State will give a typical answer, referencing he'll look at the film afterwards and make that determination in a couple of days.

There shouldn't need to be a film day to state the obvious after what transpired in the 50th annual PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: The 10th-ranked Cyclones dominated in all three phases against 25th-ranked Oregon.

With an offense that ate up 42 minutes, 48 seconds of clock, the defense becoming elite again in the second half and actually winning special teams all added up to a 34-17 triumph over the Ducks inside State Farm Stadium.

For the first time in school history, Iowa State has won a New Year's Six bowl game.

"I think that each group had its moments to be honest with you throughout the football game. That part was really powerful," Campbell said. "There's been a lot of moments that that's occurred, but I would probably agree, against a really good opponent, that was as complete as we've played all season."

With Iowa State's victory, it puts the finishing touches on the Big 12 going an unblemished 5-0 in bowl games.

Time of possession is an area the Cyclones (9-3) have had the advantage in a handful of games. Having a consensus All-American tailback and a steady offensive line will help that.

It was brought to another level in the dessert.

Brock Purdy Fiesta Bowl

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy throws a short pass against No.25 Oregon in the 2020 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. (Courtesy of PlayStation Fiesta Bowl/Slingshot Photography)

Iowa State's opening drive took 7:36 off the clock; the second chewed up 8:09. Both were completed by touchdowns so easy that an 88-year old grandma could've scored.

And to halt any chance of an Oregon (4-3) comeback in the fourth quarter, the Cyclones marched 55 yards down the field in 7:57 that ended with Connor Assalley's 39-yard field goal to make the lead three scores.

The amount of plays each team ran? Iowa State 85, Oregon 46.

"That's how the game turned out for us, the rhythm of the game," junior quarterback Brock Purdy said. "That set us up for success in the second half."

When the Iowa State defense was gassed by the Ducks backup (I use that term loosely) quarterback Anthony Brown twice, the offense bailed them out.

In the second half, when the offense generated a grand total of 136 yards, the defense proved yet again the success it has in the final 30 minutes.

O'Rien Vance, the Defensive Player of the Game, came up with the second of his two fumble recoveries; Mike Rose had his fifth interception to seal the win; the Ducks didn't convert a third down all game and had just 88 yards of total offense in the second half.

In 12 second halves this season, Iowa State has allowed 120 points. Only the first two weeks of the season did it allow more than 20 points in the second half.

"It's kind of been a theme, not a good theme, but the first couple of drives (teams) are giving everything they've got at us," Rose said. "After the first couple of drives, we figure out their game plan."

Finally, who would've thought the Cyclones would've won the special teams battle?

Not me.

Yet, somehow, someway, they did.

The pooch kickoff recovered by Des Moines native and now owner of a scholarship Rory Walling has the early lead in the clubhouse for best special teams play of the year.

Iowa State recovered a muffed punt once the punters actually made an appearance in the game.

It was in all three phases, the most dominant and most complete win of the season for the program that will likely end the 2020-21 campaign inside the top-10 when the final rankings are released in a couple of weeks.

O'Rien Vance Fiesta Bowl MVP

O'Rien Vance celebrates on stage after being named 2020 Fiesta Bowl(Photo courtesy of PlayStation Fiesta Bowl/Slingshot Photography)

"We needed it," Campbell said. "Those came at critical moments."

Now, as we close the book on this season of Iowa State, what will next season entail?

A lot of the same. Maybe even better.

Purdy and Rose both said following the Fiesta Bowl they will return for their respective senior years. Charlie Kolar said he hasn't made his decision yet.

Just with the first two coming back to Ames will be enough for what will also be back.

Breece Hall, wide receivers Xavier Hutchinson, Tarique Milton and Sean Shaw return as well as four of the five starters on the offensive line should be playing another year at Jack Trice Stadium.

The pass rush and the safety positions will take a hit due to graduation, but the talent at both spots is deep enough to whether any kind of storm of departure.

Iowa State, in my eyes with the news dropped Saturday night, is a preseason top-10 team. Without question. For many, the start of the 2021 season will be the most anticipated in the history of the Cyclones.

Still, let's remember how the 2020 season ended: With a big time win for a program looking to be big time in the years to come.

"I don't think at a place like this, it just doesn't happen overnight," Campbell said. "Every time we do something new, that is uncharted territory. We're always going to have to go up the rough side of the mountain at Iowa State.

"When you have elite character, elite leadership, great things can happen."

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