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AMES — As Iowa State is continuing its pursuit of week-to-week growth, coach Matt Campbell is finding different ways he can get better too.
An ill-timed timeout against Northern Iowa turned a potential UNI field goal into a touchdown, leading to a five-point loss. In the first half of Saturday’s 44-10 win against San Jose State, Campbell was going to make another calculated decision.
The Spartans (1-3) were gashing the Cyclones (1-3) on the ground, collecting 69 yards on one series. When San Jose State got to the 2-yard line, Campbell called timeout to adjust personnel.
His decision was harkening back to that week one misstep.
“I go back to me being probably a ding-dong in the first game and we get down there and I call a timeout and the next thing you know they run it in for a touchdown,” Campbell said after his first ISU win. “Let’s not give any credit to me, let’s give the credit to the kids. I just wanted to make sure we locked in.”
The most heads-up player on the next two plays turned out to be safety Kamari Cotton-Moya. He led the Cyclones with 11 tackles and an interception, but two plays on this goal-line stand were indicative of Iowa State’s bend-but-don’t-break defensive performance.
SJSU running back Zamore Zigler ran a sweep to the outside on first down, but was hammered out of bounds by Cotton-Moya at the 1.
“I was out-leveraged and I thought I was going to have to fit inside and if I didn’t fit inside he was probably going to score, so I came over the top,” Cotton-Moya said. “I just used my athleticism to take him out of bounds and make a hit on him.”
On the next play, Cotton-Moya flew through the offensive line and brought Zigler down for no gain. Another tackle for loss, this one from Brian Mills, forced a Spartans field goal. San Jose State managed 332 total yards with 177 rushing, but had the ball for 34:28 and ended with just 10 points while tossing four interceptions.
Campbell saw efficiency and growth from quarterbacks Joel Lanning and Jacob Park as well as running back Mike Warren, but his defense also showed him quite a bit on that goal line stand.
“I thought it gave us some early momentum to see us not do what we were coached to do and let them get down there and then see us kind of stand up and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to have a little pride about ourselves,’” Campbell said. “Obviously Kamari’s play was excellent, but also those guys rallying from there on out was great to see.”
Iowa State turns around for another home tilt Oct. 1. against No. 13 Baylor. The Bears (4-0) are the highest-ranked Big 12 team and average 42 points per game, but haven’t played outside Texas this season.
The Cyclones saw progress in a loss last week at TCU, saw its efforts confirmed in a win against San Jose State and now faces eight-straight conference opponents with its lone bye-week on Oct. 22.
“We’ve got to keep at it,” Warren said. “It all starts in practice. It’s really evident and it shows. We’ve had some pretty good practices the last few weeks and we’ve gone out and executed a little bit. I think it’s all going to keep going.”
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