Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football maintains focus as Big 12 championship possibilities linger

Cyclones, Texas are 1 game behind Oklahoma, West Virginia in standings

Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler catches a pass for a touchdown Saturday against Kansas at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler catches a pass for a touchdown Saturday against Kansas at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)

AME — The Iowa State football team essentially controls its own destiny.

Win out, starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Baylor, and the Cyclones (5-3, 4-2 Big 12) are more than likely in the Big 12 championship game.

There is a scenario if West Virginia wins out that Iowa State wouldn’t make it, but the Mountaineers still have Oklahoma on their schedule, along with TCU and Oklahoma State.

Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell knows what’s ahead, but he also knows what he wants his players to focus on.

“I think this is a team that’s stayed in the moment all year,” Campbell said. “Everybody thought it was hard to keep focus when you’re 1-3. Everybody will say, now, it’s really hard to keep focus at 5-3, or whatever it is. And the reality of it is the only way we have any shot — our margin of error is still really small — that we’re going to have to continue to get better.

“And there’s enough, especially over the last two football games, to say, ‘Man, if we don’t improve in some of these small value systems, we’re going to get ourselves beat.’ And the only people we’ll have to look at is ourselves.”

Wide receiver Hakeem Butler said Campbell preaches about staying in the moment and continuing to improve so often that it’s not hard for the team to do.

Just from Saturday’s 27-3 win over Kansas, Iowa State can improve on its open-field tackling, some areas of the passing game and red-zone offense. Twice, Iowa State failed to score a touchdown in the red zone Saturday — once when the Cyclones were on the 1-yard line. Iowa State special teams were improved, but they could still be better as well.

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(There is) a lot of work to do,” Campbell said. “We know that. The great thing is so does the leadership in that locker room and I think their value is I have to get better and we have to get better.”

One of Campbell’s most common sayings is, “focus on yourself and the scoreboard will take care of itself.”

That saying applies to the week in general, too. Iowa State isn’t going to focus on what’s happening around the league.

That’s exactly what we’re strict on,” defensive end Matt Leo said. “Sticking to every week, taking every week seriously, trusting the process and being present in that week; not looking in advance, not looking at how other teams are playing in the Big 12 Conference. Just knowing that we’ve got to be present for each week.”

Don’t get it twisted; players know what they’re playing for.

“That’s one thing coach Campbell always preaches to us — the sky is the limit and we can compete for championships here,” cornerback Brian Peavy said. “We’re in position to do that.”

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