AMES — The details — the little things — are keeping Iowa State (1-1) from doing big things.
The Cyclones lost 18-17 to No. 18 Iowa (3-0) Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
In their first game, it took three overtimes to beat FCS Northern Iowa.
In both games, Iowa State gained more than 400 yards and only punted three times. And the defense kept the opposing offenses at bay, allowing less than 4.5 yards per play.
But it’s turnovers and penalties in key spots that stop drives in their tracks.
In both games, quarterback Brock Purdy fumbled in the midst of a drive where Iowa State could have widened the gap on the opposing team.
In each game, late in the game, the offensive line was called for costly penalties.
“It was frustrating because it was our detail that earned us the loss,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “There was certainly a lot of growth from week 1 to week 2. But unfortunately, the growth of the detail and the discipline, which is the job of the head football coach — that’s my job, that’s my responsibility — obviously I didn’t do a good enough job to make sure that those things were shored up because it’s really what caught us tonight.
“I’m really proud of our kids’ effort and how they played. From an attitude, effort and investment standpoint, really proud of our kids. From a coach Campbell standpoint, obviously I have to be better. I’ll own it and we’ll move forward from it.”
Campbell wants better special teams and a more disciplined team on both sides of the ball.
Iowa State allowed Iowa to convert on 10 of 19 third downs. On special teams, the kickoff return set up terrible field position for Iowa State twice with drives starting inside the 15. And the game-sealing play was a botched punt return.
“We can’t do that on third downs, on special teams we had a couple of errors, our kickoff return was atrocious, and it cost us big time,” Campbell said. “Tackling in some situations was difficult for us. Then consistency on offense. I thought we got into some really good flows, then shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. Those are all things that are correctable, that’s why it’s way more on coaching than it is on one of those kids in the locker room.”
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The biggest key on defense might be the lack of turnovers. Iowa State’s defense, which has limited both offenses it has played, has yet to force a turnover.
“You can take one simple stat, and this’ll be the fourth year in a row we lost the turnover margin against Iowa,” Campbell said. “It was 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and other than the punt tonight, it would’ve been another 1-0. The difference is in the detail. We know our opponent is a detailed football team, too. You take that simple statistic over the last four years, and it’s been a huge game changer.”
In the grand scheme of things, this loss doesn’t change what Iowa State could do this season. It’s not a conference loss, it won’t affect the Big 12 standings and it likely won’t affect where Iowa State plays a bowl game.
The Cyclones have one more nonconference game against Louisiana-Monroe at 11 a.m. Saturday before they head to Baylor to open up conference play.
“This doesn’t define us, and it wouldn’t define us if we won the football game,” Campbell said. “I probably would’ve had the same disappointment even if the scoreboard looked different and we had won.
“We want to be the best possible team we can be when we need to be. And when we need to be that is as we start Big 12 play and continue on. We have great challenges ahead, but we have amazing leaders in this locker room that stand for and believe in each other. They’ll do a great job to get done what we need to get to where we need to go.”
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