AMES — They healed. They reflected. They steeled themselves for what’s to come.
In short, Iowa State’s recent bye week served its designated function for the Cyclones (3-4, 0-4), who seek to rebound from four straight one-score losses in Saturday’s 11 am Big 12 matchup with Oklahoma (4-3, 1-3) at Jack Trice Stadium.
“It was huge for us,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said. “Obviously we had the seven really good games to evaluate and (see) what are we doing well (and) where are those margins for us that we need to continue to fill in? What’s the process for us to get there?”
Getting healthy is the starting point — and Campbell said his team did that during the week off from games. He said the Cyclones’ top two tailbacks, Jirehl Brock and Cartevious Norton, both practiced well on Sunday. It’s even possible that starting linebacker Colby Reeder could be back in the lineup against the Sooners after sitting out the 24-21 loss at Texas because of an injury.
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“We’ll see how he progresses through this week,” Campbell said.
The same holds true for ISU at large, which resumes conference play with back-to-back home games before going on the road to No. 9 Oklahoma State, and closing with Texas Tech at home and sixth-ranked TCU in Fort Worth.
“A bye week is a huge thing physically, but also mentally,” said Cyclones quarterback Hunter Dekkers, who is coming off a career-best 329-yard passing performance in the loss to the Longhorns. “It’s also a big thing, really, to just sit back and look back at rewatching the games and seeing what you can improve.”
That’s obviously quite a bit for ISU, which nonetheless can point to a handful of plays, along with a bad break or two in critical moments, to explain its first 0-4 start in conference play since 2016.
The difference between winning and losing, as Campbell often says, is “razor-thin,’ and learning to thrive rather than trip when the game hangs in the balance remains a work in progress.
“I think that’s always a challenge,” Campbell said. “(Once) we can get back on the field and play, we’ll really know where that’s at, but I think one of the things that I take great pride in this group and this team is, man, even as gut-wrenching as it as to get into that locker room after the game against Texas, I think the spirit and the soul of this team has been one of resiliency and the ability to create great momentum.”
The question — both pre- and post-bye week — hinges on how to sustain it. Answers must come rapidly and voluminously now for the Cyclones, who need to find at least three more wins to reach postseason play for the sixth consecutive season.
“They were fantastic in the bye week,” Campbell said of his team. “I thought they did a great job. I thought we had a great practice on Sunday. Really excited to get back on he practice field (Tuesday) with our kids to kind of see where we’re at.”