Goodwin: Iowa State is still the little brother


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Iowa State’s game-winning drive on Sept. 13 began on its own 25-yard line. There was a little more than four minutes left in regulation, and there was this feeling that something — maybe good, maybe bad — was about to happen.

What followed was a well-executed, 11-play, 51-yard, Kinnick-silencing drive that ended with the 44-yard dagger from Iowa State placekicker Cole Netten. It was the exclamation point on an excellent second half by the Cyclones, who — and you won’t like reading this — definitely deserved to win that game.

If this season turns into a successful one for that team 137 miles west of here, that 20-17 victory will likely be the first shown on highlight reels, a comeback win over the heavily favored in-state rival, an ending you might normally find in the movies — and then, as if on cue, Iowa State’s coaches took away from the whole thing by parading through the press box shortly after the game officially ended.

Well. This is their Super Bowl, I said quietly as they ran by.

Someone in the press box heard me. He was wearing an Iowa State polo. “That’s such an overused term,” he said, noticeably annoyed.

Maybe it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

First came the press-box celebration, the running and screaming and cheering and hollering you would only expect from coaches after their team wins a conference championship.

Then came the postgame press conference, where, in his opening statement, Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said he was “proud to be 1-2.”

“I’m proud of my kids,” he said. “I’m proud of their perseverance to get this season started in Week 3.”

What those both say about the Cyclones is something we already knew before this year’s Iowa-Iowa State football game: That most all the Cyclones care about, each year, is their game with the Hawkeyes. Win that, and the season is a success.

The examples go further than the press-box revelry and the postgame remarks. Early in August, during the college football preseason, a reporter from the Des Moines Register tweeted a picture of an Iowa State tackling dummy. It was wearing a black Iowa jersey.

It translates on the field, too. Before 2014, Iowa State had lost to Iowa seven times since 2002, and during just two of those seasons did the Cyclones reach bowl eligibility (2009 and 2004).

Conversely, Iowa has lost to Iowa State five times in that same span — and reached bowl eligibility all but one year (2012). That includes 2002, when the Hawkeyes lost to Iowa State but still finished 11-2.

Iowa’s football seasons aren’t ever dependent on the game with the Cyclones. The Hawkeyes can still have a nice year, can still do big things during conference play, and can still play in a postseason game in January (something Iowa State has never done, by the way).

The hometown team still has nine more games on the schedule to focus on, while that other team, the one that’s 137 miles away, left Iowa City celebrating as if they won the Super Bowl — because, in their minds, they did.

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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