Monday, November 23, 2020

Could Another 108-Year Drought Be Snapped?

By Jean Neuberger

108 years.

That's how long it took for those "lovable losers," the Chicago Cubs, to capture another World Series title.

108 years.

That's how long it's been since Iowa State won a conference title in football.

The 1912 Iowa State Cyclones went 6-2 that season, losing to Minnesota and rival Iowa. The Cyclones would play just two conference games that season, but won them both: a 29-0 road win at Missouri and a 23-3 win over neighbor Drake, whose Des Moines campus is about 30 minutes south of Ames. ISU easily handled four small in-state schools to claim their 6-2 mark.

Even then, because of a lowly two-game conference slate, Iowa State shared the Missouri Valley title with Nebraska. Their only other conference title? 1911, also sharing it with Nebraska.

Iowa State has never won an outright conference title. Ever.

This could be the year that changes everything in Ames.

It certainly didn't seem that way at the start of the season. Granted, it's 2020, so nothing can be taken for granted. Yet, Iowa State looked rusty, confused and in the case of their special teams, completely lost in a stunning 31-14 loss to Billy Napier's Rajun Cajuns of Louisiana.

They still hadn't figured it out completely the next week. Brock Purdy's horrific pass that resulted in one of the easiest defensive touchdowns you'll ever see had Cyclone fans flushing their hopes and dreams away. But Purdy, and Iowa State, got up, dusted themselves off and kept grinding, winning their first game at TCU.

Matt Campbell has preached about trusting the process in Ames since his arrival. Iowa State has started winning like never before: consistently. It took just that win to erase the nightmare of Louisiana and send the Cyclones on a quick trajectory up.

Next week? Iowa State beats Oklahoma at home for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.

They stumbled at Oklahoma State, losing 24-21 in Stillwater. But since then, they've won three straight, including a 45-0 rout of Kansas State in Ames. Now, here we are, heading into Thanksgiving, and it's not Oklahoma or Texas sitting on top of the Big 12 standings.

Nope. It's Iowa State, 6-1 in the Big 12 with just two games remaining.

The two games they have are must wins. Going on the road to Texas won't be easy, especially as the Longhorns have won three straight and seem to have found some stability. However, Brock Purdy has been outstanding the last few weeks. Last week, he went 16-20 for 236 yards and three touchdowns against K-State and has become the reliable field general that Iowa State was hoping he'd become.

It never hurts as a quarterback to have a great back to hand the ball off to and relieve some of the pressure off of his shoulders. In Breece Hall, Purdy has that and then some. Hall has already rushed for over 1,100 yards in this shortened season. He's averaging 6.5 yards per carry, up from 4.8 last year as a freshman. And he's done that playing almost an entirely conference-only slate. He'll be one to definitely watch in 2021.

Defensively, Iowa State finally pitched a shutout (albeit K-State was significantly thin on the roster). However, a shutout and dominant performance was what this defense needed to prepare themselves for Sam Ehlinger and the Texas offense. Jon Heacock's defense has some spectacular linebackers, notably Mike Rose, who has 4 interceptions this year already. But the guy I really like is defensive end Will McDonald IV. He's already eclipsed his sack total from last year with 6.5 and his speed on the end has been a catalyst for the Cyclone defense.

The pieces are there. The process is there. The opportunity is there.

Could yet another 108 year streak find its finale; this time in the craziest year of years?

Maybe it's time a conference trophy found a home in Ames.

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