Yes, Iowa State just lost its eighth game of the year.
Yes, the Cyclones lost another close Big 12 game to one of top-tier teams in the conference–34-24 to the Oklahoma Sooners. However, a silver lining could be taken from Iowa State’s outing: The future is bright for this program.
All season long, the talk of the town surrounding this team has been the quarterback controversy. Should head coach Matt Campbell go with captain Joel Lanning or relatively inexperienced yet talented Jacob Park?
Through the first eight games of the year, Campbell has gone with Lanning as the starter with a little bit of Park sprinkled into the contest. Against Oklahoma, Park — the redshirt sophomore — earned his first collegiate start.
“I just think knowing that the front we were going to face, we had to throw the football a little bit, and you know, Jacob gave us the best opportunity to start the football game,” Campbell said on why Park got the start. “We just thought he’d give us the best chance against this team early in the game.”
While Park got the start mainly for matchup purposes, the 6-foot-4 quarterback was impressive in his first contest as the main man under center. He was 16-of-29 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. His second score to wide receiver Dondre Daley should make Iowa State fans eager for the future.
Park was under heavy pressure, but instead of pulling the ball down and running it, he kept his eyes downfield, rolled out and found Daley for the 23-yard score. While the Park certainly made a handful of those throws against the Sooners, he did suffer his fair share of bad throws. At times, Park simply overthrew his wide open receivers. However, that habit should go away with more experience.
Bad series by Jacob Park there. Overthrow followed by overthrow. That should wrap things up here in Ames.
— Alex Halsted (@AlexHalsted) November 4, 2016
The quarterback wasn’t the only youthful performer who had a great outing against Oklahoma; running backs David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu did as well.
Although star back Mike Warren was cleared to play, Campbell and his staff decided not to play him because he was banged up during the week and didn’t receive enough reps in practice. Montgomery–who has been the primary backup all season–earned his first collegiate start.
Early on Montgomery ran the ball effectively for the Cyclones. A five-yard gain here and a 14-yard rush there. However, Montgomery sustained a concussion forcing him out of the game after running for 44 yards on 10 carries. That injury opened the door for Nwangwu to gain his first collegiate action at running back.
Nwangwu has been Iowa State’s main kick returner all year. With Montgomery out, Nwangwu showed the talent Cyclone fans have been hearing about from the ISU coaches. Nwangwu finished the night running for 25 yards on six attempts–an average of 4.2 yards per carry.
The offense wasn’t the only unit with young players who stepped up for Iowa State. The defense did as well. Sophomore cornerback Brian Peavy recorded eight tackles against the Sooners while freshman defensive end JaQuan Bailey tallied three, two for loss.
Some other young athletes have made an impact for the Cyclones this year as well–receivers DeShaunte Jones and Hakeem Butler–and who will next year, according to Campbell.
Although Iowa State’s record now reads 1-8, the Cyclones are way better than that. They have taken the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys down to the wire. Iowa State has also stayed competitive with the Kansas State Wildcats and now Oklahoma. If those games are indicators of what is to come for Iowa State football, it is only a matter of a couple years until the Cyclones rejoin the upper echelon of the Big 12.
For now, Iowa State fans must be patient with this team. The Cyclones are still growing.
“They’ve been in a lot of tight games, one possession games with three of the last four opponents,” said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops on Iowa State. “I was very aware that they are a much better team than their record would indicate and I made sure Matt knew that after the game. They’re on their way and they’re doing the right things.”