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AMES — Matt Campbell isn’t getting caught up in the logistics of where or who his Iowa State football team will play its next game.
The only piece he wishes he could change is when it’s played. Coming up short against Iowa doesn’t have him discouraged. It has him ready to get back at it.
“Shoot, I’d go play on the highway right now,” Campbell said. “I told our kids I wish we were playing today just because you wish you (could) have one more second or one more quarter from Saturday’s game.
“If you left there feeling any different, shame on you. I think we’re just ready to play.”
The who, what, when and where, of course, are relevant and it all points to taking Campbell and a number of coaches and players to their home state. Iowa State goes to Akron for its first road trip of the season.
Akron (1-1) lost at No. 5 Penn State in Week 1, then beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 52-3. It has sixth-year Ohio State transfer running back Warren Ball and quarterback Thomas Woodson, who has started 20 games in his career. A lot of the attention, Campbell said, was turned inward on the Cyclones, who hope to clean up details from last Saturday’s loss.
“You’re in a position where it is now details and when it’s visible and it’s right in front of you, the only way I know to attack it is to continue to work at it and continue to harp on the success that happens when you do these things well,” Campbell said. “That is what it is.”
In light of sophomore David Montgomery’s emergence at running back and limited carries as his backup, junior Mike Warren settled into his role as Iowa State’s kickoff returner in the first two games.
It’s a position, though, Campbell said still is being fine-tuned. Kene Nwangwu, who injured his Achilles in the offseason, had the role last year and the Cyclones have been searching for a replacement.
“We have to continue to evaluate that unit. That’s a really important area for us,” Campbell said. “The starting field position wasn’t great for our offense on Saturday, and it’s something that we must get better at. It’s something we’re all researching how can we be better? Do we have the right people where they need to be?”
Warren had two returns for 58 yards, with a long of 35, in the opener against Northern Iowa, but those numbers dipped against Iowa. He had five returns for an average of 17.6 yards with a long of 21. Campbell said the lack of big special teams plays doesn’t fall solely on Warren, but it gives the coaches things to evaluate.
“We made a bad decision on Saturday. We were deep in our end zone. We shouldn’t have brought the ball out,” Campbell said. “That’s not just on the returner, that’s on the halfbacks back there as well to help navigate that. We weren’t able to create some of the creases we were able to create in the opener.”
True freshman Johnnie Lang, who had three carries for seven yards against the Panthers, didn’t play against the Hawkeyes but is a candidate, Campbell said, to get reps at kickoff return.
“Johnnie needs to play more football,” Campbell said. “We all sat here on Sunday thinking not only Johnnie, but we have to continue to get more people to play. Our starters and our first-string guys played a lot of snaps on Saturday. If we go at that rate, we won’t be a very successful football team this year.”
Iowa State was without its two starting safeties late in the game against Iowa, but Campbell said neither absence is expected to be long term.
Free safety Kamari Cotton-Moya exited early in the second half with an elbow injury and is “day-to-day” heading into the Akron game, Campbell said.
“The biggest thing now is seeing if we can get him ready to play by Saturday,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if that’s the case. He looked good on Sunday. We’ll see if we’re able to get him into practice and ready to play this weekend.”
Georgia graduate transfer Reggie Wilkerson was in uniform, but didn’t play against the Hawkeyes after tweaking a hamstring in the second half against Northern Iowa. The expectation, Campbell said, is Wilkerson will be available against the Zips.
Senior Evrett Edwards and redshirt freshman Lawrence White were the primary safeties in the fourth quarter Saturday.
“(We) just thought it was in the best interest for (Wilkerson) to hold him back so we could get him ready to go,” Campbell said.
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