AMES — Historically, Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell isn’t a big fan of bye weeks.
He’d rather keep his rhythm and keep playing football, especially if his team is playing well, which Iowa State had been, beating two top-25 opponents, including then-No. 6 West Virginia.
But Campbell welcomed this bye week with open arms.
“The bye week came at a really good time for our football team,” Campbell said. “It was good for our older guys to get back to the basics and reaffirm some of the fundamentals that are really important to us to go forward. Then we took a really good look at some of the young guys in our football program, which was really good for us. Now, we come back to a really good football team (Texas Tech) that will be a great challenge for us.”
One of the most important things that happened during the bye week was star running back David Montgomery finally got healthy.
Montgomery has been dinged up since the first game of the season against South Dakota State, a game that was eventually canceled. Montgomery even had to sit out the Oklahoma State game. But rest two of the three past weeks has him back on track.
“I do feel much better,” Montgomery said. “It was something that was much needed. It was the proper timing and I took advantage of it. I’m still hitting it hard, but it was definitely refreshing for me.”
The bye week also helped another key to Iowa State’s offense in true freshman quarterback Brock Purdy.
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In two games, Purdy has completed 75 percent of his passes for 572 yards and seven touchdowns while also rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Purdy was able to review film and learn from what he did right and what he needs to improve on as Iowa State enters the second half of its season.
“Anytime you’re a young player, the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate your play — especially for him where he’s been thrusted into a really critical role and situation — is important,” Campbell said. “I thought it was really good for him to take a step back and be able evaluate what he’s done well and what are some of those areas that he needs to do better. Brock would tell you that there are still a lot of those areas that need to happen.
“I think that was a real positive, we were able to attack that as a program and as an offense — to continue to find ways to help him be the best version of himself as well. For everybody involved, it was a real positive.”
The bye week helped the players, but it also helped the coaches. The new redshirt rule forced the coaches to sit down and evaluate each true freshman and how they could help the team now or if they should save them and allow the freshmen to help them in the future.
Iowa State has used two true freshmen more than the allotted four games in linebacker Mike Rose and cornerback Anthony Johnson, so their redshirts are gone for the season. Defensive end Will McDonald has played in four games and Purdy has played in three games, so it appears they’ll burn theirs as well. But Campbell wants to evaluate players like linebacker Garry Vaughn, defensive lineman Isaiah Lee, and defensive end Zach Petersen.
“It’s one of those things that we’ve probably used more guys earlier than we thought we would,” Campbell said. “But that’s certainly a positive because they’ve earned the right to play. Now, we have to be really smart as we go into the last half of it in terms of how do we use some of these guys? Do we want to continue to play them? Do they need to continue to play for us to be the best version of ourselves, or do we not? We’ve talked a lot about that over the last couple of days with some guys who are in that position now where we have to be really smart with what we do.”
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