Cyclones have two Valley coaching connections
By Greg Gulas
Hardly anyone gave Iowa State a chance to beat No. 3 ranked Oklahoma last Saturday.
Why should anyone in their right mind believe that the Cyclones could win, especially when having to travel to Norman, Okla., to play.
Could it be the fact that the Cyclones, now in their 126th season, had never defeated a Top 5 team on the road?
Could it be that as 35-point underdogs they were being asked to perform such a monumental task with, of all players, a third-string quarterback in Kyle Kempf against a team that owned the nation’s longest current winning streak (14)?
Or could it be that Iowa State had beaten the Sooners only five times in 86 meetings, had not defeated them since 1990, lost 18 straight to the Sooners, only beaten them once since 1961 and had never beaten them in the Big 12 era (0-13)?
Reasons aside, you can track the Cyclones’ stunning 38-31 upset win to a well-orchestrated game plan by second-year head coach and Massillon native Matt Campbell. And there is he trust that he has given to his staff including the Youngstown Connection.
Offensive coordinator Tom Manning is a former Ursuline High all-state selection and Mount Union standout. Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock is a former Youngstown Syate head coach (2001-09).
Manning and Heacock reflected on the program’s monumental victory, agreeing that it’s a subtle reminder of what a signature win can do for a program or how fleeting the moment can be if they don’t take care of business Saturday against Kansas in Ames, Iowa.
“The fun part is watching how the guys have responded to what we are trying to do here at ISU,” Heacock said. “We knew going into the game that Oklahoma was awfully good, so defensively we needed to limit their scoring opportunities, prevent easy touchdowns and not allow scores on trick plays, which they always seem to find a way to do.
“In the end, we scored on long drives but forced them to do what we had hoped and that was no scores on big plays or freebies.”
Heacock’s defense lent their offense middle linebacker Joel Lanning, who switched from quarterback last year to middle linebacker in the offseason. Lanning played 78 snaps on both sides of the ball, rushed for 35 yards, passed for another 25 and registered eight tackles defensively.
“Joel is a player who always gives and never asks why,” Heacock said. “He does everything asked of him as long as it helps the team.”
Manning entered the game without the services of starting signal-caller Jacob Park, who was out for a medical reason.
His faith in Kempf, who had thrown just two career passes prior to the OU game, was rewarded immediately as his new signal-caller responded with 343 yards passing and three touchdowns, including the game winning heave with 2:19 to play.
“Kyle did an excellent job of leading us,” Manning said. “We played possession to possession, station to station and kept is as simple as possible.
“If we could keep our defense off the field, then we felt we’d have the success needed to win.”
Like Heacock, Manning appreciates how the players have bought into what Campbell and staff have been selling.
“I was happy for the players because they deserve a win like this and on a national stage for everyone to see,” Manning said. “These players are 18-24 years old and understand the emotion of the situation.
“They enjoyed the win for 24 hours, then it was back to work to prepare for the Jayhawks.”
When asked whether the win over Oklahoma was the biggest of his coaching career, Heacock said it ranks right up there.
“I’ve been coaching longer than the age of some of our staff members and my daughter, who is currently a student at the University of Toledo, asked me the same question,” Heacock said. “I told her if it wasn’t the biggest win, it was definitely one of the top two for me.”
Manning and Heacock share inside jokes and musings about Youngstown, which leaves other staff members scratching their heads because they don’t understand Mahoning Valley culture.
“Someone posted photos and information on Facebook about the Briar Hill Festival,” Manning said. “Jon and I understand and fully appreciate that memory, yet no one else understood what we were talking about as we reminisced.
“I’ve found a local pizza shop owner that is trying to duplicate a Briar Hill pizza for us and while he’s getting better, he’s not there quite yet.”