You don’t have to be a lifelong college football fan to realize that the Iowa State Cyclones have never been much of a powerhouse. Still, the 2020 season kind of spoiled the fans and raised the bar in terms of pre-season expectations. Then again, the 2021 campaign was a bit of a disappointment.
The Iowa State Cyclones spent the past five seasons taking trips to Bowl games, trying to build a consistent winning culture and become a legit contender in the Big 12. But after dropping five conference games in a row, this season didn’t exactly get off to the start they wanted.
Disappointments Of The Conference
The Cyclones were one of the biggest disappointments at the conference, finishing with a 4-8 record and, obviously, without a bowl appearance. Nonetheless, just two of their eight losses came by more than a single possession, which is why Head Coach Matt Campbell still saw plenty of positives in the season:
“The one thing you can say about our football team this year is so far we’ve been an inch short,” Campbell said. “But you’ve never seen our team bag it. You’ve never seen our kids quit. Our kids are playing hard for each other. The way this team continues to play the way it does and why there’s so much optimism in my mind through our second floor and coaching office is we’ve got this great veteran leadership that continues to lead from the front and not from the back.”
“You’ve been right on the verge of it quite honestly in every game you’ve played. In three you were able to do it, and then you’ve been a hair off from it in the last five games,” the coach added. “The ability to play the 60 minutes and do the things you need to do to win the game, that’s the starting point and then you build from there.”
Drops, Injuries And Poor Offense
The Cyclones struggled with drops, injuries, and poor offensive line play for most of the season. That’s likely to be a point of emphasis in the offseason after they were able to rush for roughly 100 yards per game this season, their worst since 1997. They also scored just over 20 points per game, their lowest in the past 15 seasons.
That led to a new Offensive Coordinator arriving in town. That, plus some changes in the Offensive Line through the transfer portal, could only help QB Hunter Dekkers, who did his best despite having little-to-no time to operate and his wideouts having a case of the butter-fingers. All in all, Dekkers was the best player on the team.
Go be great ❤️ https://t.co/sZEdyj7MXc
— Hunter Dekkers (@hunterdekkers) December 2, 2022
Hunter Dekkers Wasn’t Perfect, But He Was Still The Best
Sophomore QB Hunter Dekkers showed glimpses of great play this season. He completed 66.1% of his passes for 3,044 yards (6.7 yards per pass) and 19 touchdowns with a 129.6 passer rating, although he was picked 14 times. However, he was also sacked 26 times, which speaks volumes of how poor the protection he was.
Dekkers had some big shoes to fill, replacing 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy, who’s now leading the San Francisco 49ers to the playoffs after both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo suffered season-ending injuries.
Now, the best could be to come for the 21-year-old, as the Cyclones just recruited J.J. Kohl, their highest-ranked QB prospect in program history. Needless to say, his sole presence will push Dekkers to take a step forward, as he’ll give him some much-needed competition after having virtually zero pressure to perform this season:
“My expectations are to go in there and try and compete − give my best each and every day, and try to get better,” Kohl told the Des Moines Register. “I want to play somewhat early. If it works out that way, then great. If it doesn’t, I’m totally cool with developing and getting better each and every day.”
But then again, unless this team brings in some legit help, it’s unlikely that even Peyton manning himself is going to find any sort of success at quarterback.
Merry Christmas from the Dekkers Family!! pic.twitter.com/DnLyqrWhtm
— Jami Dekkers (@JamiDekkers) December 24, 2022
Backing Up Matt Campbell
Of course, this season was more of a fluke than an actual trend, as Matt Campbell’s tenure in charge of the team has been mostly successful. There is no denying that he is among the top 10 best coaches in the history of Iowa State University.
“I think all the things for us are a puzzle,” the coach said of revamping the coaching staff. “Whether it’s offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, strength and conditioning coordinator – it’s your job as the head coach to do a great job of putting the right pieces around those coordinators to be successful.”
Hopefully, the team will find the personnel they need to thrive again. The fans got a little too used to those Bowls appearances, and anything short of that will be considered a failure going forward for the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell had this reaction after a penalty call. pic.twitter.com/eIXE5pXu8L
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 24, 2022