Publisher's Note: This is the 10th in a 12-part series, projecting the outcome of the upcoming Iowa State football season. These are works of fiction, obviously, and all the information and quotes printed are figments of the writer's fertile imagination. However, they are also meant as analysis and prognostication. The schedule for the rest of the Monday Musings throughout the offseason are as follows:
May 2—Iowa State 38, Illinois State 3
May 9—Iowa State 23, Iowa 21
May 16—Iowa State 26, Army 14
May 23—Iowa State 27, Nebraska 20
May 30—Iowa State 35, Baylor 14
June 6—Missouri 28, Iowa State 16
June 13—Iowa State 31, Oklahoma State 27
June 20—Texas A&M 21, Iowa State 7
June 27—Iowa State 17, Kansas State 16
July 11—at Kansas
July 25—2005 Preview
Jack Trice Stadiums
Iowa State 34, Colorado 10
Ames, Iowa – Houston, we have touchdown. Or at least we will in three weeks.
Expect the city of Houston's Chamber of Commerce to be some happy campers come the first weekend in December. That's because a strong throng of Cyclone Nation is headed their way for the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time ever. Savor this one Iowa State, because it's been 93 years since you've experienced anything like this.
The 21st-ranked Cyclones clinched their first outright North Division title by defeating Colorado at home for the first time since 1983, 34-10, before a sellout crowd at an unseasonably balmy Jack Trice Stadium.
Temperatures in the mid-60s, sunshine, a little breeze, a packed house, a national cable audience on Fox Sports Net, and the clinching of a championship. If you're a lifelong ISU fan it didn't get any better than Saturday's historic setting.
"When we arrived here 10 years ago we dreamed of a day like this," said a jubilant ISU Coach Dan McCarney. "When you work hard, have good kids, and do things the right way dreams do come true. We've proven that now, no doubt about it."
But this was more than just a win over a traditional Big 12 rival that's had ISU's number for the last generation. And it was even much more than an inaugural division championship.
This was for the 1944 Cyclones, which finished just inches from beating Oklahoma and claiming the Big 6 crown. This was for the "Dirty Thirty" of 1959. This was for George Amundson's incomplete pass on a two-point conversion play against Georgia Tech in the 1972 Liberty Bowl. This was for the 1976 Cyclones, who went 8-3 and finished 18th in the final AP Poll but were snubbed by the bowls. This was for Woody Hayes playing punchout against Clemson in the 1978 Gator Bowl, creating the job opening that sent Earle Bruce away from Ames and home to Ohio State just as he was establishing a Big 8 power. This was for Tony Yelk's controversial missed field goal at the end of the 2001 Independence Bowl. This was for Seneca Wallace getting no quarter by the referees when he reached the goal line on the last play against Florida State in 2002. This was for last year's stunning home-loss to Missouri in overtime.
In other words, this was for all the times throughout the decades that the Cyclones were about to take that next step in their football evolution, only to have fate step in and deliver a cruel blow to the collective psyche of a fan base.
This was for all the times all of you sat back and asked, "Why not us?" This was for all the times you wondered if your team would ever make it to college football's high-rent district. Well, wonder no longer. These Cyclones are about to go where no Cyclones have gone before. And they're one victory over Kansas away from being the first ISU team to ever win nine games in the regular season as well.
"People, people I trust, told me not to take this job," said McCarney, who could be in line for his second straight Big 12 Coach of the Year Award. "They said it was a coaching graveyard. This program was down, no doubt about it. But now we've won bowl games, been ranked nationally, upgraded our facilities, built a state-of-the-art indoor facility, and won a conference championship. This is for all the Iowa Staters who have patiently endured through the years. All of the folks I've met at media days, Cyclone Club outings, or in the parking lot after the games. This is for all of you that love the Cyclones."
So, how'd they do that?
ISU did it by playing its best game of the season at exactly the right time. The past few weeks it's been a bit of a struggle for the Cyclones. The defense went through a slump for a couple of weeks, and then just as the defense was coming back around the offense got stuck in neutral. On Saturday the Buffaloes saw what ISU is capable of when both units are hitting on all cylinders.
The offense was on the offensive, hitting a beleaguered Colorado defense with a haymaker on the very first drive of the game. Going 80 yards on 10 plays, the Cyclones took a 7-0 lead. Later in the first quarter, Bret Meyer hit Jon Davis for a season-long 68-yard touchdown pass.
"We got off to such a great start that I don't think we ever really let them into it," Meyer said. "We know that Colorado is a mentally-tough team, so if you give them an opening they'll take it. We didn't give them one."
In the second quarter, ISU went to a little trickeration.
Meyer threw a pass to quarterback-turned-wideout Austin Flynn in the flat. Just as Colorado defenders were reacting to his reception, Flynn flipped the ball back across to Meyer, who had a fleet of blockers lead him 37 yards to within a breath of the goal line. Stevie Hicks did the work from there, rushing two straight plays before reaching paydirt.
"That's a play we've been working on all season," McCarney said. "Barney (Cotton) was just waiting for the right time to use it. This was as good a time as any."
A 46-yard field goal by Tony Yelk minutes before halftime gave ISU a 24-0 lead at the intermission. It was clear there would be no letdown on this day. ISU had put its cleats to the throat of destiny, for a change, and wasn't about to let up.
"The message at halftime was don't let up, and we didn't," Nik Moser said.
In the third quarter the Cyclones scored on two of their three possessions. Bret Culbertson culminated a long, time-consuming drive with a 34-yard field goal. And then later on Jason Scales broke free for his career long run, a 24-yard touchdown jaunt that made it 34-0 at the time.
The Buffaloes scored all of their points in the fourth quarter against a defense largely made up of ISU's backups. Until then the Cyclones stifled Colorado consistently. Jason Berryman played his best game of the season, posting two sacks and two tackles-for-losses. Shawn Morehead and Nick Leaders also had a sack, while Brent Curvey and Tim Dobbins each had two-tackles-for-losses. Moser and Matthew Robertson each notched interceptions.
It was complete domination from stem to stern.
"This was a total team effort," McCarney said. "I'm just real proud of our team. We still not the deepest or most talented team, no doubt about it. But we don't get out-worked and played with tremendous character and poise (Saturday). We'll celebrate this for 24 hours, or a little longer, and then get ready for Kansas."
ISU (8-2) will face the Jayhawks the Saturday after Thanksgiving at 11:30 a.m. on Fox Sports Net. Kansas (5-5) needs a victory to be bowl-eligible.
Iowa State 14-10-10-0=34
ISU—Meyer 2 run (Culbertson kick)
ISU—Davis 68 pass from Meyer (Culbertson kick)
ISU—Hicks 2 run (Culbertson kick)
ISU—FG Yelk 46
ISU—FG Culbertson 34
ISU—Scales 24 run (Culbertson kick)
Colorado—FG Crosby 44
Colorado—Klopfenstein 7 pass from Cox (Crosby kick)
Rushing—Colorado (79): Charles 11-39, Cox 6-25, Greer 5-19, Klatt 5 (-11), Vickers 2-7; Iowa State (243): Hicks 22-118, Scales 15-78, Meyer 4-29, Highsmith 3-10, Coleman 2-8. Passing—Colorado (161); Klatt 11-23-1-96, Cox 7-12-1-65; Iowa State (213): Meyer 8-14-120, Highsmith 3-8-25, Flynn 1-1-37. Receiving—Colorado: Klopfenstein 6-58, Judge 4-38, Mackey 3-31, Sprague 2-16, Charles 2-14, Greer 1-4; Iowa State: Davis 4-90, Blythe 2-35, Meyer 1-37, Flynn 1-16, Nickel 1-10, Baum 1-9, Scales 1-9, Sumrall 1-7. Sacks—Iowa State 5, Colorado 1. Attendance—50,018.