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AMES — Joel Lanning was really trying to remember the details from last season.
To be fair, a lot has happened to the Iowa State quarterback — and the team, for that matter — in the last 12 months.
Just more than nine months of the Matt Campbell era have been a built up to this — Iowa State hosting Northern Iowa in the season-opener at 7 p.m. Saturday. The first game of the season is unique enough, let alone the first game at a new school.
“The reality of it for me ... is that there’s no greater pressure that anybody can put on ourselves than what we put on ourselves daily within our program,” Campbell said. “How we do everything we do, whether it’s how we recruit, how we practice, whether it’s how we play and ultimately how we win and lose football games — our expectations are extremely high.”
Lanning embraces those high expectations as he readies for his sixth career start, but simultaneously tunes out the pressure of getting win No. 1 under his team’s belt.
“You can’t worry about it, can’t focus on it,” Lanning said. “Right now we have to focus on UNI and making ourselves better every week and prepare to win this game. You can’t really focus on anything else besides UNI right now.”
The Panthers have the Cyclones’ attention. Quarterback Aaron Bailey and Tyvis Smith are a one-two punch in the running game that helped UNI reach its 18th FCS playoffs last season. Not to mention Northern Iowa has beaten Iowa State twice in the last nine years, the most recent in 2013.
Bailey is a dual-threat quarterback and was a FCS top-50 player in pass efficiency, pass yards per completion, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards and yards per pass attempt. His 1,656 passing yards and 55 percent completion rate was accompanied by 1,334 rushing yards and 5.2 yards per carry.
Iowa State runs into a gauntlet in the Big 12 with the likes of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. The Cyclones see Bailey as a good test for that.
“As long as we’ve coached, it’s been a part of our schematics — especially with (defensive coordinator) Coach (Jon) Heacock, we’ve always talked that the starting point is the quarterback, what’s he do?” Campbell said. “How do you try and try and challenge that quarterback and Aaron certainly presents those.”
Eight wins in the last three years forced Iowa State into a coaching change, but the players are ready to flip the script and gain positive momentum.
“It’s a complete new era,” said middle linebacker Kane Seeley. “We’re not looking to the past, we’re looking to the future and at now. It’s exciting times for Cyclone football.”
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