The dawn of a new football season is upon us. As the months and years pass by and the burden of responsibility grows, the first week of college football has a remarkable ability to slow down Father Time. In this era of instant gratification, nonstop news and political divisiveness, the familiarity of Saturday’s in the fall is a welcome interruption.
The first Saturday morning drive to Ames never gets old. From all corners of the state and beyond, families and friends pile into full-sized trucks and SUV’s with their sights set on Ames. Equal parts excitement and anxiety dance around the minds of every Cyclone. The remnants of losses of year’s past brushed aside by the belief in new beginnings.
The closer one gets to Ames, the amount of personalized Cyclone plates multiplies, miniature I-State flags affixed to car windows flap in the breeze. The final turn amplifies the senses. College co-eds drag coolers full of their favorite refreshment, the bass rumbles from the outer tailgate spots with parties well underway. Windows roll down and the trace of seasoned Iowa Pork fills the air, Cardinal and Gold dots every part of the landscape. Winding around University Avenue and it appears like a beacon of the season, Jack Trice Stadium primed and ready for its next Cyclone Family reunion, 61,500 strong. This is home for the next few months.
There is a newness and fresh perspective to the 2016 edition of Cyclone Football. Matt Campbell inherits a Cyclone team that stumbled to just eight wins total over the previous three years. National pundits and odds-makers prognosticate that this group of Cyclones is doomed for the same fate.
But history and recruiting rankings never picked up a blitz on third and long or fought for an extra yard. Everybody starts the year on the same level and the new regime brings the prospect of a different outcome.
Football is a simple game. Amongst the complex schematics and exhaustive statistical algorithms lies the same constant as ever. Twenty-two men boxed in by the same parameters in a game of hide and seek. One on one battles over 60 minutes present a true winner more than any other team sport.
If Campbell and staff are going to get Iowa State back on the road to relevancy, it all starts in the execution. The fine line between victory and defeat can be caused by just one out of 200 plays.
This summer and fall, the Cyclone coaches had T-shirts printed with the words “4 Quarters” blazoned on them. In 2015, Iowa State led or was tied in the 4th quarter of SEVEN games. They won just three. Iowa State was closer to success than many remember; now they need to finish. Attitude and effort are the apropos buzzwords of the Campbell regime.
For Iowa Staters, hope, loyalty and cautious optimism run hand and hand. When Campbell brought his Toledo team to Ames in 2014, he witnessed a raucous crowd of 50,000 arrive to tailgate hours before game-time for a 1-4 Iowa State team facing a MAC school. That atmosphere is why Campbell chose to come to come to Ames over several other opportunities. Imagine the passion and energy of Jack Trice Stadium if this staff can turn the proverbial corner. The party will be epic.
And so begins the adventure of a new year and a new era. Tens of thousands of Cyclones are prepped to make their pilgrimage to the Jack, meals have been arranged, beverages chilled and playlists assembled. The intrigue of the next chapter of Cyclone Football is just hours away. Will we look back on this week years from now and say “I was there for the first?”
For the next three months, Saturday’s belong to the Cardinal and Gold, everything else can take a back seat. The time has come, College Football is here. Everybody can start, now it’s time to finish.