Nov 9, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) looks to throw during the second quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — It’s been a very eventful 21 days for Iowa State’s football program.
The sometimes fretful three-week stretch began with the Cyclones seeming to play themselves out of Camping World Bowl contention with a 27-17 loss at Kansas State — only to have those Orlando-based bowl officials choose them anyway to play storied Notre Dame in the annual Dec. 28 game.
Three days later — as rumors circulated regarding ISU head coach Matt Campbell and high-profile vacancies in college football — ISU director of athletics Jamie Pollard announced a contract extension designed to keep the esteemed coach in Ames through at least 2025.
Five days after that, Campbell and the Cyclones discovered their bowl destination and moments later, said the prep that ensued would be as much about “springboarding” into 2020 is it is about capping 2019.
What a whirlwind, especially now that the early signing day successfully wrapped up with ISU securing the nation’s 43rd-best class of 2020, according to 247Sports.
It was mostly a stress-free experience, with the new recruits deeply committed weeks before signing, which allowed Campbell and his staff to firmly fasten their focus on bridging 2019 and 2020 — and finally center themselves on the present: No. 15 Notre Dame. Orlando. Another prime opportunity to grow and develop in a first-ever Sunshine State-based showcase.
“These young men (2020 recruits) have been with us, the majority of them, for a good four or five months and some of them way longer than that,” Campbell said. “So I think for us, that’s a positive about the young men, a, we recruit. I think the relationships we build and the trust that young people have in us that they’re willing to stay the course. So It think that part allowed recruiting — at least the last two weeks we had since our last game — to go smooth. I think the second part of it for us has been the ability to be able to kind of be able to finally put our focus back on our own football team this week and really getting back to work with them, which has been really enjoyable.”
It’s also been fun to see players such as Greg Eisworth inch as close to full health as possible in the last three weeks, as other less severely dinged-up players also continue to mend for the matchup between the Cyclones (7-5) and Fighting Irish (10-2).
That’s the short-term “springboard.” And it’s vitally important ISU’s players emerge from finals week energized, not drained, with Notre Dame looming next weekend.
“I kind of feed off some of their energy,” Campbell said. “They’re finishing exams this week and we’re really working hard to put a game plan in. So I think it’s been crazier, probably, in the past, because there’s probably a lot of uncertainty, or we’ve been trying to play catch up. I think now you feel really comfortable with where you’re at and you understand what you’re recruiting to and who you’re recruiting and then, you know, obviously excited that we’re playing postseason football and preparing for that as well.”
Now those eventful three weeks dovetail into meticulous bowl prep.
For just the second time in school history, the Cyclones will play in a third consecutive bowl game. And for the first time, they’ll play in Florida — and against Notre Dame.
“I feel like, growing up, (Notre Dame is) a team I watched playing along with all the other programs,” ISU sophomore standout quarterback Brock Purdy said. “But to play against such a rich history of a program as Notre Dame, it’s pretty special, especially, you know, (with) all the things that we’ve been through. To cap off a season with a game like that is going to be really exciting.”