Matt Campbell is the king-slaying, miracle-working toast of college football

Cyclones' opportunistic defense sparks upset (0:48)

Iowa State's Brian Peavy takes advantage of an overthrow at the goal line for a pivotal pick in a 14-7 win over previously unbeaten TCU. (0:48)

AMES, Iowa -- Matt Campbell is pleading with you. Well, it's not like he's desperate. Far from it. But the second-year Iowa State coach wants anyone willing to listen to hear the same message that he implored to his football players after a watershed win Saturday in the first matchup of two ranked teams here since 2002.

"Stay the course," Campbell said outside the doors to a defensive meeting room at the Bergstrom Football Complex after his more passionate locker-room appeal to the Cyclones in the wake of Iowa State's 14-7 upset of fourth-ranked TCU.

This victory, the second in four weeks for the Cyclones over a team ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll, induced thousands of jubilant bodies to flood the grass at Jack Trice Stadium.

Campbell doesn't want for a second to consider the ramifications.

"Keep grinding," he said, both hands moving up from his waist. "Keep demanding of yourself and your staff and your players."

Campbell let off the gas before -- after he experienced accolades that followed his appointment as the head coach at Toledo in 2011 at age 32, though it's doubtful anyone but Campbell himself noticed a drop in intensity. Still, he's not about to think about letting it happen again.

"You're constantly coaching," he said. "You're constantly teaching, and you've got to constantly remind yourself that our margin for error is so small. And it's got to start with me."

Campbell said he believes he's "just learning to be a head coach."

So the answer, by now, is clear to this question: Do you allow yourself to briefly enjoy these accomplishments, monumental at a program that had not been ranked, until last week, since 2005?

"I don't," Campbell said. "Because as soon as I do, everybody's looking at me. That's the thing I learned as a young coach. We had success and got a little wrapped up in it."

He's still a young coach. In fact, he's the fourth youngest in the FBS at age 37. And suddenly, Campbell is the hottest name in the profession. Just 20 games in at Iowa State, he's fending off speculation that he'll jump at the first lucrative offer to leave Ames.

A hint: Campbell won't.

He earned a $500,000 bonus for getting Iowa State to six wins, then demanded that the Cyclones refuse to feel satisfied by gaining bowl eligibility, a first at Iowa State since 2012. Campbell's team jumped 11 spots in the AP poll on Sunday to No. 14. At 6-2 overall, they're tied for first place in the Big 12 at 4-1 with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU ahead of a visit to West Virginia on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Campbell is motivated by the mundane. He complimented the band, the dance team and, of course, the Iowa State fans on Saturday in addition the school's cross country teams for winning Big 12 titles.

"That's what makes Iowa State special," Campbell said. "It's not about any one of us. It's about all of us."

Room still exists in the game today to stress attitude, discipline and effort, Campbell said.

"Fall in love with the process," he preached to his players after the win Saturday, a catchphrase they've taken to heart.

Campbell said he knew the messages of the coaching staff had taken hold last offseason when the Cyclones began to "take ownership," staging unscheduled conditioning sessions on weekend nights.

All-Big 12 receiver Allen Lazard declined a chance to jump to the NFL to return to a team that won three games in 2016. Former starting quarterback Joel Lanning embraced Campbell's idea to move to middle linebacker as a fifth-year senior.

"We're playing 11 as one right now," said Lanning, a phenom so far on defense. "We don't let the lows and the highs affect us. We're going out there, thinking we're going to stop them, we're going to stuff them."

Lanning was a junior at nearby Ankeny High School on a recruiting visit to Iowa State in November 2011 when the Cyclones last beat a top-five team before this year. That win over Oklahoma State represented the only such victory in 59 attempts before Iowa State beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma on Oct. 7.

"You're constantly coaching. You're constantly teaching, and you've got to constantly remind yourself that our margin for error is so small. And it's got to start with me." Matt Campbell

"It's crazy, isn't it," Lazard said. "What's crazier is that we still haven't played our best."

When asked to step in at quarterback against OU, career backup Kyle Kempt showed the importance of preparation. He's now 4-0 as a starter, ranking alongside J.T. Barrett, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Jalen Hurts as the only active FBS quarterbacks to defeat more than one top-five foe.

"It doesn't really matter," Kempt said. "We haven't won around here a lot, so why are we getting satisfied? We still have a long way to go."

Campbell has trained the Cyclones well. Some of them, in fact, seem only to grow more resolute in showing a hard-edged toughness as Iowa State adds to its win total.

Asked Saturday if he felt the win over TCU proved that Iowa State belonged in the Big 12 title race, running back David Montgomery answered without a moment of thought.

"No," he said. "We've still got five games left."

Is it difficult to stay in the moment, as Campbell demands, after the landmark wins?

"No," Montgomery said. "It's in the past."

Do you find it gratifying to receive recognition such as the national rankings?

"The only people who are really with us are us," said linebacker Marcel Spears Jr., who snagged the game-clinching interception of Kenny Hill with 76 seconds to play on Saturday.

And what about the next challenge at West Virginia?

"People are out for us," Spears said. "We've got to prepare harder."

The Cyclones, after this October run, are oozing with confidence.

None of this should come as a surprise, considering the methods and mantras of their coach, who shows up to the office at 5:15 a.m. when he's getting a late start.

Campbell praised his team's attention to detail against TCU but hardly offered a compliment outside of his meeting with the players.

"We played harder for longer," he said in the postgame news conference, "which was really rewarding to see."

Iowa State understands the recipe for its success and continues to improve, Campbell said. They are a mirror image in that way of Campbell.

The key to "real football at this level," he said, "is you've got to grind it out."

"There's a rhythm and a way to win football games. You figure it out, and then you stay the course when you figure it out."

Before the Big 12 and beyond figure him out, Campbell just may take them all by storm.