It's the state we all make fun of. Iowa leads the country in corn production, is notoriously flat, and has no extremely significant urban areas outside of Des Moines.
Everything I thought I knew about Iowa was rendered irrelevant when I got off the plane. Des Moines is a beautiful, well-maintained city with immaculate infrastructure and pretty good food. Yes, there is corn everywhere - and it's awesome. The entire state is clean (based on what I saw) and the culture, while not nearly as vibrant as many other places, is relaxed and welcoming.
Kirobaito had an intriguing statistic.
Iowa had only 33% more people in 2003 than it did in 1900. Almost all other states tripled in population, at least.r— Casey Graham (@cgrahamophone) September 27, 2014
Somehow Iowa has developed its economy and infrastructure without dramatically increasing its population, and the result is an extremely nice place to live.
The high school football is fun but vanilla next to Texas. Whitehouse would be ten-time state champions there without having to try too hard.
2. Jack Trice Stadium
I got to Ames at just after 11 a.m. on game day, and I was riding in this beautiful... thing.
Check out the swag wagon I'm riding on to Ames. pic.twitter.com/JnJmCz9oyS— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) September 27, 2014
Without any sailgating to be had, Iowa State fans have resorted to accumulating a fleet of cardinal and gold school buses with satellite dishes and grills. My group was one of the first to arrive, but within an hour of getting set up, the lots around Jack Trice were packed with happy Cyclone fans. The tailgate culture at ISU is alive and well. The food was great, and the positive reactions to my Baylor fandom were far more common than the negative reactions.
The people at Iowa State love their school and their state as much as any fan base I've ever seen. Frankly, it's amazing that a program with such an average tradition as Iowa State is still able to draw so many tailgaters and so many fans at the actual game. Ames isn't huge, either. Most of these folks were from out of town.
The stadium is beautiful from the outside. It is ringed with deciduous trees that are just beginning to change color at this point in the year. It's built into the top of a hill, and much like Floyd Casey, a good chunk of it is dug into the ground, which means it's a bit less imposing from the outside than a lot of other stadia.
When I finally entered the stadium, I continued to marvel at the welcoming nature of the locals. Everyone - fans and stadium personnel alike - was happy to be there. To reach the stands, one has to scan their ticket and walk a path up the hill behind the stadium. From there, one can either head to the lower deck or the upper deck. I recommend the upper deck, if any of our readers elect to go to Ames two years from now. The view was spectacular.
This is nice. Incredible weather. pic.twitter.com/mSClVLdjS9— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) September 27, 2014
Look at that horizon. Not big sky country like Texas, but still gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/1nHxh5WooS— Conner Morris (@ConnerSaurusRex) September 27, 2014
The stadium looks smaller than 55,000 because it is. Four berms occupy the four corners of the stadium, and they were filled to the brim. These count towards the official capacity of the stadium without actually being part of the stadium, much like our own. The seats are also laid out in such a way that fans are packed in like sardines. It was awesome, but my shoulders ached by the end of the first quarter.
Iowa State's entrance is wonderful. They start blaring a tornado siren and play their intro video, and everyone gets appropriately hyped. Then the video screens freeze and this sound plays.
It's absolutely, horrifyingly chilling. I hate that sound. Everyone hates that sound. It whips Iowa State into an absolute furor. Props on a really weird and unsettling and awesome team entrance.
Final note: ISU has a thing for hair metal. Besides some pre-game Drake and some late Iggy Azalea, all the music in the stadium was hair metal.
3. Fans and Atmosphere
With a few extremely isolated exceptions, Iowa State's fans were amazing hosts. It was easy to walk around and strike up casual conversations about whether Sam Richardson is a dog or a Heisman candidate (answer: it depends on the drive). I spoke extensively with the man next to me about Baylor's defensive line. Everyone was civil, friendly, and enthusiastic about their team. It was the perfect experience for a visiting fan and a shining example of what college football should be.
I won't analyze the game. We already have plenty of writers doing just that. I'll talk a bit about the atmosphere during the game. Jack Trice was loud at kickoff and during the first few Baylor first downs. Louder, I'd venture, than Oklahoma State when I visited Boone Pickens last year. One of the loudest moments came when they paraded the 2013 basketball team around the stadium.
Understandably, fans started exiting near the end of the first half. After showing some salt early on, the Cyclones were being ground into oblivion by halftime. At the start of the third quarter, just over half of the stands remained full. By the fourth, that number was about a third. Those who stayed to the end were rowdy the entire time, but it must have been hard for them. The entire second half was garbage time and we all knew it.
Thank you to Ames, Iowa State, the stadium staff, and the fans for making this trip a great one. Even if the Clones had pulled off the upset, I'd have no complaints about my experience. You were gracious and inviting hosts who offered up good food and good conversation, and I hope to make the trip again - hopefully when I don't have a rooting interest in the visiting team and can fully enjoy the experience. Iowa State remains one of my favorite college teams.
I've now seen games in Floyd Casey, McLane, Boone Pickens, and Jack Trice. Seven to go before my tour of the Big 12 is complete.