Fans will remember the top-five wins, the national recognition and consistent play the Iowa State football team has produced the past month.
No doubt the players and coaches will remember that stuff as well, but there is an added layer to their experiences. The camaraderie, particularly on the road, are the truly lasting memories.
“Even for me as a player, I loved it,” ISU coach Matt Campbell told the Ames Tribune. “I kind of like the approach of us-against-the-world-sometimes. A lot of the distractions are out of the way. You don’t have to worry about where tickets are going, who’s coming to the game.
“I probably forget a lot of the snaps, but I remember those road trips and certainly remember some of those meetings and some of those dinners. That’s where I think it’s just a time where you can really breathe and reflect on what’s going on.”
The 14th-ranked Cyclones (6-2, 4-1) haven’t had much time to reflect or breathe amid their 4-0 stretch in October that saw them beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma, then-No. 4 TCU and move into the top 15 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Going on the road where the distractions are limited is something ISU relishes. They are 3-0 away from Jack Trice Stadium this season and have an opportunity to make that 4-0 at West Virginia (5-3, 3-2) today at 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2).
“It’s the mentality of there’s 70,000 people and 90 Iowa State fans,” senior linebacker Joel Lanning told the Tribune. “There’s only 90 people that want you to succeed, and everyone else wants you to fail. It’s like the mindset of going into a dogfight, and you have to do whatever you can to win.”
ISU has won four-straight road games dating back to last season, starting with a win at Kansas on Nov. 12, 2016.
“It’s so weird, I love playing on the road,” senior quarterback Kyle Kempt told the Tribune. “That’s not even an indictment on our fans. They do a phenomenal job.
“At Oklahoma we really bought into this thing where it’s us and it’s everyone else. When we’re on offense, they all try to cheer as loud as they can so it’s always great when you can quiet the crowd. But then our defense, it’s funny; it’s quiet when their offense is out there so they can communicate better.
“We like it.”
Part of the irony in ISU’s road trips is that the schedule doesn’t change from when it plays at home.
“It’s pretty much to the minute on exactly what’s going to happen,” offensive coordinator Tom Manning told the Tribune. “Coach Campbell’s always held the standard you’re going to be 10 minutes early for everything as well.”
After the bus and plane rides, dinner is always at 5:30 Friday night. Roughly 45 minutes of relaxation for the players follow, with a special teams meeting set for 7:15. Offense and defense meet at 7:45 with a full-team meeting scheduled for 8:30 on Friday night, home or away.
If kickoff is at 11 a.m., bed check for players typically happens at 8:45.
“Earlier in the season when we were playing 11 o’clock games,” senior linebacker Joel Lanning told the Tribune, “we were in our rooms and it was still light out. We were like, ‘What are we doing? What am I doing sitting in my room at 8:45?’
“My roommate’s (senior wide receiver Allen) Lazard so we just chill and watch TV and just chat. It’s honestly really relaxing, but they’re pretty cautious on our schedule.”
It’s even relaxing at times for the coaches.
“I think (going on the road) forges a bond and experiences,” Campbell told the Tribune. “I’ve always said this, there’s nothing in college football quite like Friday night meals. There’s only so many of them. Those Friday night meals, the meals before a game, I think it’s a chance for you to unwind with your kids and your team and just be able to be you.”
There are staff meetings and obligations Campbell has as head coach, but he stays in at the hotel with his team and doesn’t use the opportunity to go recruit. He wants to maintain as much continuity and togetherness on the road as possible.
“I can put my iPod on and really kind of start to hone in on some of the final details of the game,” Campbell told the Tribune. “For me, that’s what I love about it.”
Saturday mornings typically consist of a continental breakfast, 15 minutes of film work, stretch and light walk-through before players return to their rooms briefly. From there, Campbell’s routine for the team has stayed specific down to the minute.
“Three and a half hours before every game is chapel,” Campbell told the Tribune, “three hours before every game is pre-game meal and then we do a quick walk-through on both sides of the ball. Then boom, we’re gone.”
ISU was 1-4 on the road in Campbell’s first season with the Cyclones, but has spotless marks in the years before and after. He helped Toledo go 5-0 on the road in 2015 — including an upset against a top-25 Arkansas team in Little Rock — and has ISU 3-0 away from home with three games left.
“That’s what’s fun about playing in the Big 12 is you’re going into some places that you dream of as a kid to play in some of these environments,” Campbell told the Tribune. “I think all that has really added into it for us to be successful.”