INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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AMES — When he became a head coach and was tasked with developing his philosophy, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell went with what he had always known to work — players, formations, plays.
Finding out the personnel at your disposal is the most important thing, followed by the formations to line up in and, lastly, the nuance of specific plays. Iowa State football has quickly seen an uptick in offense because of that.
In the last three games, Iowa State has averaged 39 points and 472 yards of offense and will be in a position to continue that trend against high-scoring Texas on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“I think we’ve really figured that out and have done a really good job of coaching and putting those kids in the best position to be successful,” Campbell said. “The second thing is consistency of play by our ‘A’ players.
“I think we’re a lot better than what we have been and you see our guys really starting to execute and play to what they’re capable of playing and that’s certainly gone a long way.”
Part of that growth has been a more consistent running game with 187, 204 and 165 rushing yards in that three-game span.
Quarterback Joel Lanning’s emergence in the running game has helped in that, too. He has 32 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown the last two games, with 10 carries for 56 yards in the second half last week at Oklahoma State.
“There were probably three designed runs for me, the rest were reading something just kind of how the game is going or unfolds will determine what happens with that,” Lanning said. “We kind of knew that we were going to read some certain people, some keys, and we ended up doing that and it worked out well for us.”
Iowa State (1-5, 0-3) didn’t utilize its running backs much in the second half last week with Mike Warren getting just two carries for eight yards in the final 30 minutes. David Montgomery got one carry for two yards.
“Situationally you don’t want to be in second-and-10 and third-and-eight,” Campbell said. “We’re not a very good football team when we’re in those situations and that’s what happened in the fourth quarter. I think that kind of hurt their number of carries ... when we got in the situation behind the chains.”
Lanning’s run-game success has coincided with a strengthened pass-game presence. He is 42-for-63 for 587 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games and is responsible for 12 of the Cyclones’ 21 touchdowns this season. With the Longhorns (2-3, 0-2) averaging 41 points per game, Iowa State needs to continue this string of efficient offense if it wants to get its first Big 12 win.
“(Lanning’s) studied very hard to make sure he knows exactly who he’s reading and how the defense will react,” said offensive coordinator Tom Manning. “He’s done a good job consistently of approaching the football game with the right manner.”
Defensive end J.D. Waggoner is out for the year with an injury to his pectoral muscle, Campbell said Wednesday. The junior didn’t play last week against Oklahoma State and has 12 tackles and two tackles for loss this season.
“I don’t think he’ll be back by the end of the season so we’ll see how that is,” Campbell said. “He’s already had the surgery and is already working rehab. I don’t expect him to be back.”
Wide receivers Trever Ryen and Kamari Cotton-Moya both participated in practice this week. Campbell said he expects to see Cotton-Moya at the game while Ryen was limited in practice and is questionable against Texas.
Linebacker Bobby McMillen, who suffered a sprained ankle against Baylor, is questionable this week, too. He has six tackles as a redshirt freshman.
“It was a pretty bad sprained ankle,” Campbell said. “He’s moving around, but to the extent of playing this week he’s probably still questionable.”
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