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AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell has the program's most talented receiving group in recent history at his disposal.
The group combines size, length, speed and playmaking ability.
On paper, the numbers the group has put up through three weeks have been good, but drops in key moments have stopped drives in their tracks.
The first three practices of the bye week will be used to focus on eliminating those self-inflicted mistakes.
'We've left a lot of things out there, at times, over the last couple of weeks,' Campbell said Monday during the Big 12 teleconference. 'We've got to be better in those areas.'
While the offense and receiving group is spending practice time trying to make plays on third downs, the defensive backs will focus on stopping them.
Iowa State has had trouble getting off the field in the first three weeks. The Cyclones rank last in the Big 12 in opponent third down conversion percentage, allowing opponents to get a first down 47.7 percent of the time.
'I think we've got some good players,' Campbell said. 'Getting them to play at optimum capacity in critical situations in third downs and other situations where we just have to be better – and we can
Iowa State's defensive line was a big question mark heading into the season, but through three games, it actually has proved to be a strength, thanks to the leadership from Vernell Trent, J.D. Waggoner and Ray Lima.
'When you talk about reshaping our defensive line room and really understanding work ethic and value from last January on, those guys have really led the ship,' Campbell said of the three players.
The things Trent and Lima, a junior college transfer, do in the middle of the defense don't always show up in the stat book. But they're plugging holes and taking on multiple blockers to allow their teammates to make the plays.
'Getting Ray was certainly a great addition,' Campbell said. 'His humility and those other two's senior leadership have been a really great combination to really start to infuse energy, confidence and leadership every day in that room. I think that's why you see that room really starting to play good football.'
As if Saturday night's loss against USC didn't hurt enough for Texas, the Longhorns' All-American left tackle, Connor Williams, went down with a knee injury during the game, as well.
New coach Tom Herman is tasked with quickly developing more offensive line depth.
'We have plenty on scholarship, but how many do we feel good with putting in a game? Right now the number is five,' Herman said. 'If (guard) Terrell Cuney comes back and he's 100 percent on that ankle that's kept him out a few weeks we'll probably be at six. Hopefully by the time you roll into Ames, Iowa, you're at least at seven with one of those tackles knowing they're a broken shoelace away from going in.'
The Cyclones host the Longhorns next Thursday at 7 p.m.
Baylor's struggles continue
Baylor is off to an 0-3 start with losses to Liberty, Texas-San Antonio and Duke. Liberty and UTSA had never beaten a Power-5 team before beating Baylor.
It's not getting easier for the Bears as they host No. 3 Oklahoma and a Heisman front-runner in quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The Sooners have been nothing short of excellent under new coach Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma is off to a 3-0 start with a win over then-No. 2 Ohio State.
'My guys are competitive, they want to play against the best teams and we've got to continue to try and get them better,' Baylor Coach Matt Rhule said. 'That's all we can do.'
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