AMES — Matt Campbell knows both sides.
The second-year Iowa State coach has led midlevel football programs to wins against Power 5 programs and has lost to an FCS school in a span of two years.
When Iowa State plays at Akron on Saturday, he’ll be taking on a familiar program in his home state. The key for his Cyclones (1-1), though, is to approach the matchup against the Zips (1-1) similarly to how his Toledo teams used to view Power 5 opponents.
Kickoff is 11 a.m. Saturday at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field (CBS Sports Network).
“Is it great going back to Ohio? Absolutely,” Campbell said. “But, I also know what’s waiting for us in Ohio and that’s a great challenge. And so is the first road game.
“I look forward to that challenge for this team and to see what our response is as a football program this week.”
Iowa State found a consistent identity in the first two weeks. It scored 42 and 41 points against Northern Iowa and Iowa, winning by three scores and losing by three points in overtime, respectively. Weeks 1 and 2 were starkly different for Akron.
The Zips were thumped 52-0 at No. 5 Penn State and beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 52-3, at home the following week. The Zips aren’t without talent, either.
They have a sixth-year running back in Warren Ball, who transferred from Ohio State, and quarterback Thomas Woodson has started 20 games in his career. Akron Coach Terry Bowden, the former Auburn coach and son of coaching great Bobby Bowden, led his team to an 8-5 season — including a bowl win — in 2015. The Zips were 5-7 last season.
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Bowden, who was 1-1 against Toledo when Campbell coached there, said he’s seen substantial progress from Iowa State in the year-plus since Campbell arrived.
“We’re playing a program on the upswing,” Bowden said. “That’s what we’re playing in Iowa State and we’ll have to play our best football, not turn it over, play our best football and hope they come in here a little bit flat.
“I’ve been a head coach 24 years and I do not believe you win Xs and Os, you win with Jimmys and Joes. He’s getting football players there that can play football.”
Sophomore running back David Montgomery has been perhaps the brightest light for the Cyclones in the first two weeks. He’s averaging 107 rushing yards during the last five games — including last year — and has proved himself a capable pass catcher who can get extra yards at the goal line.
Montgomery, who is a Cincinnati native, said he’ll have roughly 58 friends and family at the game Saturday, but isn’t getting too caught up in the success he’s had in his young career. His mom influenced his demeanor.
“I don’t like when it’s about me. It just never has been,” Montgomery said. “It just never has been my whole life and I don’t plan on it changing any way soon. I kind of just take it how it is.”
Iowa State’s biggest task defensively will be slowing Ball down. He has 173 rushing yards and three scores this season, most of which came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He’s 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, and gives Akron a burly running back who can get through contact — much like Montgomery.
“He’s very big and he’s very agile,” said sophomore linebacker Marcel Spears, who is averaging 11.5 tackles per game. “We just have to make sure we get him on the ground.”
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