SIOUX CITY -- All the decades I’ve immersed myself in sports statistics, there have been a few that simply boggled the brain.
Take, for example, the 1-45-1 formula that popped up over the weekend after the Iowa State football team, playing without quarterback Jacob Park, stunned third-ranked Oklahoma 38-31 in Norman.
With tie games no longer acceptable in football matchups below the NFL level, younger readers might not recognize 1-45-1 as a plausible record for a series of contests between two rivals.
And, of course, that’s overlooking the obvious confusion, which is how utterly dumfounding it was that Iowa State, prior to Saturday’s shocker, could have posted a 1-45-1 mark in its last 47 meetings with a longtime conference foe. But, yup, aside from one ISU win in 1990 and a tie in 1981 over this span, it had been an almost automatic win for the Sooners.
Nearly as outrageous was the Cyclones’ overall 5-74-2 ledger for all 81 previous encounters in a series that actually began with a 13-0 Iowa State triumph on Nov. 3, 1928, in Ames.
Back then, incidentally, an Ames High grad named Orrie Roe was in his second of three seasons as a starting guard for ISU. And, many of you are quite familiar with Orrie’s son, Bob, the restaurateur who grew up with the family dairy business here.
After tough losses to Iowa and Texas, two quality teams trending upward, Bob and many other Cyclone fans were a bit discouraged by a 2-2 start to the second season for Coach Matt Campbell. They’d expected more from a fellow seen by many as one of college coaching’s rising stars.
Things were even gloomier after learning late last week that Park was out of commission for an indefinite period -- a personal matter, we’re told, and the junior quarterback from Charleston, South Carolina, is certainly entitled to his privacy.
Then again, with that 1-45-1 record since back-to-back wins over OU in 1960 and ’61, the Cyclones didn’t seem likely to knock off the unbeaten Sooners even if they had Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings.
What unfolded, though, was both a reminder of Campbell’s coaching prowess along with an indication of how well he and his staff have already fortified this program from a personnel standpoint.
Even though his first season yielded just a 3-9 record, the word all along has been that Campbell, the 37-year-old son of a high school football coach from the gridiron hotbed of Massillon, Ohio, knows how to win.
A two-time NCAA Division III All-American defensive lineman at the University of Mount Union, he helped the remarkable Purple Raiders rake in three of the 12 national championships they corralled in 23 seasons through 2015.
With another seven runner-up finishes, the school from Alliance, Ohio, 20 miles from Canton, had played in title games no less than 19 out of 23 years before last season. That’s when the Raiders dropped a 14-12 semifinal playoff loss to eventual champion Mary Hardin-Baylor of Texas.
Bear in mind, there are 243 schools vying for that Division III championship, which is far more than the fields chasing four other title trophies in the four-year college ranks -- the FBS (129 teams), FCS (123), Division II (168) and NAIA (88).
It was also at Mount Union, which boasts a staggering 242-11 record since the 2000 season, that Campbell launched his coaching career as a young assistant. More recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Toledo, becoming the skipper when Tim Beckman left the school for an ill-fated three-year stint at Illinois (12-25 record and then a preseason 2016 firing after allegations of abuse by some of his players).
Campbell, meanwhile, fashioned a 35-15 record as the Toledo head coach, moving to Ames after Paul Rhoads (32-55 in seven seasons) was fired. A first-year salary of $2-million was a nice bump from the $495,000 he was making with a Mid-American Conference power, but it was still less than 55 other major colleges were paying a year ago.
The victory in Norman definitely puts Campbell on the radar for some of those big spenders, particularly if it helps him bring the Cyclones their first winning season since 2009.
Rightfully so, I might add. That’s because this second-year Iowa State regime definitely has its ducks in a row, pulling off a win like this one after not just losing a talented quarterback but having so little time to prepare an understudy.
Park, in case you didn’t know, is a former four-star recruit rated among the nation’s top 15 high school quarterbacks by most sources after being named Mr. Football in South Carolina four years ago. Even though things didn’t work out for him at Georgia (and he also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Notre Dame and Tennessee, to name a few), he played well enough as an ISU newcomer last season that he took the starting job away from Joel Lanning.
Lanning, now a senior who has made a remarkable switch to linebacker, led Ankeny to Iowa’s Class 4A state title in 2012, the last time any school other than West Des Moines Dowling has reigned in the state’s big-school division. He’s one of three former first-team Class 4A all-state quarterbacks on the ISU roster, joined by Southeast Polk’s Kyle Starcevich, a junior, and Waterloo West’s Devon Moore, a freshman.
Then, the roster also includes Georgia import Zeb Noland, a redshirt freshman who grew up an hour east of Atlanta, playing on a high school team coached by his father, a former quarterback at Appalachian State. Noland was actually listed No. 2 on the latest depth chart.
Although Lanning took 13 snaps at quarterback Saturday while also putting in a full day at linebacker, the improbable hero was Kyle Kempt, a fifth-year senior with only two career passes to his credit after previous stops at Oregon State and Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
That’s not because Kempt, listed as the third-stringer, pulled some rabbits out of his hat, completing 18 of 24 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns. A 6-5, 210-pounder, he’s just a guy who hadn’t got his shot after an outstanding prep career in Massillon, Campbell’s hometown. Kempt is the all-time leading passer (3,056 yards as a senior, 6,034 in three varsity seasons) at Massillon’s Washington High School.
Saturday’s head-turner also underscored the overall quality Iowa State has developed elsewhere in the lineup. Certainly, the Cyclones have an exceptional receiving corps with NFL-bound Allen Lazard from Urbandale along with Ida Grove native Trever Ryan and sophomore Hakeem Butler.
The 6-6, 219-pound Butler is a Baltimore native who was a teenager when his mother died of cancer. In order to escape a tough environment, he relocated to Texas to live with his cousins, twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who have both reached the NBA after one of those University of Kentucky basketball pit stops.
With Cincinnati native David Montgomery at running back -- another sophomore -- this offense definitely has some playmakers.
With or without Park, the Clones are heavy favorites in a Saturday home game with Kansas (1-4). They also have a road game left against winless Baylor (0-5). The other five opponents, though, all having winning records and three of them are ranked, which means those sleeves will have to remain rolled up.
Incidentally, the likeable Rhoads, at age 50, is now the defensive coordinator at Arkansas, where the natives are growing restless with head coach Bret Bielema. A former Iowa defensive lineman who left Wisconsin after going 68-24 in seven seasons, Bielema is 27-29 five games into his fifth season with the Razorbacks, who fell to 2-3 after a 48-22 loss Saturday to South Carolina.