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Iowa State caps off its best season ever with impressive Fiesta Bowl win over Oregon

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Playing on the biggest bowl stage it has ever reached, Iowa State delivered.

The tenth-ranked Cyclones put together a complete performance, overwhelming No. 25 Oregon in a 34-17 victory in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl.

Saturday’s game marked the first-ever appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game for the Cyclones, and the physical brand of football employed by Matt Campbell’s team was on full display against the Pac-12 champions.

Breece Hall, the sixth-place finisher in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting, was given a heavy workload and finished the day with 136 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.

Hall’s first trip to the end zone opened the scoring and capped off a drive that established the tone for the Iowa State offense. The Cyclones received the opening kickoff and marched right down Oregon’s throat, going 75 yards in a 15-play drive that ate up more than half of the first quarter clock.

Oregon, to its credit, went blow-for-blow with Iowa State for much of the first half. The Ducks tied the score at 14-14 with a 98-yard drive late in the second quarter, but Iowa State scored twice in a 17-second span to take a two-score lead into the half and take control of the game.

Iowa State linebacker O'Rien Vance celebrates a defensive stop with defensive tackle Isaiah Lee (93), Breece Hall (28) and defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike (58) during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Oregon, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Iowa State linebacker O'Rien Vance celebrates a defensive stop with defensive tackle Isaiah Lee (93), Breece Hall (28) and defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike (58) during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Oregon, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

First, it was a Brock Purdy touchdown run that gave ISU a 21-14 lead with 1:44 remaining in the half. And then ISU immediately got the ball back when a perfectly placed pooch kick by Drake Nettles landed in between Oregon defenders, allowing the Cyclones to recover the loose ball.

Three plays later, Hall was in the end zone again, extending the lead to 28-14.

Oregon would tack on a field goal before halftime, but the two-possession advantage ISU established in the final minutes of the first half proved to be too tough to overcome.

Though the Ducks’ offense looked much better than it did in the Pac-12 title game against USC, some of the turnover issues that plagued them during the season crept up again.

Oregon got away with a fumble when its defense stuffed Iowa State at the goal line in the first half. But in the second half, a muffed punt set up an Iowa State field goal in the third quarter. And in the fourth quarter, a fumble by Anthony Brown near midfield cost the Ducks a chance to cut into the ISU lead.

Iowa State was able to milk nearly eight minutes off the fourth-quarter clock with a field goal drive that increased its lead to 34-17. The Cyclones then sealed the biggest bowl victory in program history when Mike Rose intercepted Tyler Shough with 3:19 left in the fourth quarter.

Matt Campbell has built Iowa State into a winner

The win was a heck of a way to cap off what could go down as the best season in program history. With the win, Iowa State reaches the nine-win mark for the first time since 2000 and just the third time ever.

The Cyclones already won the Big 12’s regular season title by going 8-2 (the eight conference wins set a program record). The loss in the Big 12 title game to Oklahoma was disappointing, but a win in the Fiesta Bowl is a legitimate landmark for Campbell’s program.

Campbell has done a remarkable job in Ames, leading a perennial Big 12 bottom-feeder up toward the top of the conference standings.

ISU had just one winning record in the 10 seasons that preceded Campbell’s arrival. The Cyclones went 3-9 in Campbell’s first season but have reeled off four consecutive winning seasons since. ISU has a 32-19 overall record over those four seasons.

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