AMES — The last nine months of build up have been centered on how Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell can turn around a program hungry for wins.
It was evident through the Cyclones’ 25-20 season-opening loss to Northern Iowa that establishing a way of life, even within a football team, doesn’t happen overnight. There will likely be many bumps in the road for a program that is trying to rise above its eight wins in the last three seasons.
Campbell’s disappointment was clear, but his reason was a little broader than regretting what his personal wins and losses record indicates.
“My biggest regret is for this fan base. We’ve got a great fan base here. I told our kids it’s not OK,” Campbell said. “The environment and the fan base and the people that come out week in and week out, there’s got to be a point in time where we draw the line and quit disappointing them. That’s my mission.”
Iowa State showed flashes of promise through wide receiver Allen Lazard, who had six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, as well as true freshmen David Montgomery and JaQuan Bailey among others. The change has to come with fewer self-inflicted mistakes.
The Cyclones had nine penalties for 89 yards and was behind in the turnover margin 4-1. Penalties, usually in the form of holding, consistently set back the offense that produced just 51 rushing yards. The turnovers kept the defense on the field for 35:56.
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“It’s very disappointing knowing that we left a lot of plays out there and obviously turned the ball over a lot as well,” Lazard said. “You just know that you can’t do that especially playing in the Big 12 and playing good programs like UNI. We’ve just got to be able to correct our mistakes.”
Iowa State’s defense wasn’t problem free — it allowed a 13-play drive for 75 yards in 4:15 with 47 rushing yards leading to a field goal — but was on the field for 85 plays. That rivals the number it would see in Big 12 games against offenses that don’t tend to run the ball as much as the Panthers.
“We’ll watch film and we’ll see the negatives,” said linebacker Reggan Northrup, who had a game-high 13 tackles. “Our guys, we ran to the ball. We played physical to a certain extent in the second half and we’ve got to make sure we do that in the first half as well as the second half defensively.”
Quarterback Joel Lanning displayed promise with his 18-for-28 passing and 256 yards with three touchdowns, but inconsistencies arose too frequently. A fumble gave Northern Iowa possession in its red zone and two interceptions within the final five minutes stymied the chance to preserve a win.
Iowa State goes on the road for two consecutive weeks, first to No. 15 Iowa and then to No. 14 TCU. The Cyclones will continue their quest to get Campbell his first ISU win, but that has to come through playing with substantially less self-inflicted woes.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the reality of it is we got outplayed,” Campbell said. “We put ourselves in some really bad situations and we’ve got to get better. That process starts right now and we’ll see where we’re at obviously by next week.”