Iowa State still has a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship and still controls its own destiny, now just a win away from becoming bowl eligible for a fifth-straight time in Matt Campbell's six years atop the program.
Still, the Cyclones sputtered to a disappointing start in 2021 – as they plummeted from preseason No. 5 in the AP Top 25 to out of the polls after losses to Iowa and Baylor.
Saturday, Oklahoma State entered undefeated and had begun to stimulate some College Football Playoff consideration.
The Cowboys exited with a loss, as Campbell's ISU squad overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit and 21-17 fourth-quarter margin in a 24-21 victory.
“We're not naïve; college football is really hard,” Campbell said. “We're not one of those programs where we're ever really going to go up the nice, smooth side of the mountain.
“Every year we play, I don't care what they say before the season, and I really don't care really what anybody says, it's going to be the rough side of the mountain. The leadership, the character, the team, that's the only chance we have a chance here to be successful. And I think over the course of the last five years, we've seen when it's gone well and we've also seen maybe when it's failed.”
Campbell praised the Cyclones' “A players;” star quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns, without a turnover, Breece Hall rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown and tight end Charlie Kolar has six receptions for 69 yards.
Still, the ISU win was a collective effort and one that, Campbell explained, following the program script.
“Yeah, I think more than anything the character of this game is what we've talked about here,” Campbell said. “Man, it's not always going to be pretty. It's not real easy and yet you've got to keep fighting and keep willing to not look at the clock until the clock strikes zero.
“That's easy to say all that stuff and sit here and say all that stuff but it takes great leadership, player-driven leadership.”
The Cylcones are at West Virginia next week and then close the regular season in November against Texas, at Texas Tech and Oklahoma in back-to-back weeks, and then at home against TCU.