116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Trevor Downing shook his head.
Iowa State’s senior center spoke about the moments early in the second half in last week’s 31-24 home loss to Baylor that hamstrung his team’s comeback hopes.
But the first team all-Big 12 performer focused on those mistakes and bad breaks in order to learn from them — and turn those shortcomings into grist for a rebound Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against unbeaten Kansas in Lawrence.
“That was the biggest turning point in the game,” Downing said of the two failed offensive drives to start the second half against the No. 16 Bears. “I mean, we’re 17-14, we’re right there where we wanted to be.”
Until the Cyclones (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) weren’t. Two plays into ISU’s opening drive of the second half, quarterback Hunter Dekkers threw a 10-yard pass to star receiver Xavier Hutchinson., who tried to corral it, but couldn’t. Instead, it popped off his chest right into Baylor safety Devin Neal’s arms.
The Cyclones’ defense answered the turnover with a fourth down stop, but as ISU head coach Matt Campbell said after the game, the offense “sputtered” yet again as Dekkers was sacked, then missed receiver Dimitri Stanley on third-and-8. Cyclone punter Tyler Perkins unleashed an impressive 61-yard punt, but the Bears regained firm control of the game with a 93-yard touchdown drive that restored a two-score lead.
ISU eventually fell behind 31-14, which proved to be too deep a hole to climb back from.
“This game is about momentum,” Downing said. “Taking it and riding with it. We’ve just got to be better. We know what we need to do.”
That — as always — means playing clean football. Two doomed offensive drives in the third quarter told part of the story of last week’s loss, but a handful of penalties and being minus-two in turnovers set the stage and served as the emphatic conclusion.
ISU leads the Big 12 in turnovers gained with eight, but also ranks last in turnovers lost with seven. Inching higher on the plus side will be key to winning against the Jayhawks (4-0, 1-0) and down the road.
“We’ve drawn back on the fundamentals and we’ve worked in practice, and we’ve made some of those plays,” Campbell said. “Now, we weren’t able to make a play (last) Saturday in that regard and you saw the difference in the game maybe was the turnover battle. When you live in our margins and when the margin for error is thin, and everybody’s good, and everybody can beat anybody, those are things you’ve got to be great at.”
So far, the Cyclones have been OK in that critical component of the game, but that’s obviously a far cry from great. Still, ISU remains well positioned to notch its first 4-1 overall start since 2012 if mistakes are kept at a minimum this Saturday.
The Cyclones opened as 3.5-point favorites according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, but that number dropped slightly to three as of Wednesday morning. Kansas has fully emerged from its longtime league doormat status, so any “sputtering” on Saturday must be avoided in another pick ’em type game for ISU.
“It’s always fun to go into these competitive games,” Downing said. “I mean, you’re gonna have to take it.”