AMES — Football coaches love a good cliché.
They hear something and they run with it until they retire.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is a fan of, “We need to get better day in and day out and week in and week out.”
The difference between the times Campbell has said it in the past and when he said it during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference was the fact he provided context.
The 20th-ranked Cyclones (3-1, 3-0) have a bye week this week and like every other team, they had a shortened fall camp. Iowa State didn’t get as much practice time on the field before the season as it did in the past, so it needs to keep improving nd make up time to maintain its position atop the Big 12. That means having no COVID-19 issues that would pause football activities.
“This is such a unique season that everything early on, it’s hard to evaluate any of it because the teams that are going to have success are the ones that grow as the season continues,” Campbell said. “When you talk about good teams or bad teams or where you’re at, I think you’re going to learn a lot more over the next couple of weeks because some teams are going to have the ability to continue to get better and some teams will not.”
Baylor, for example, had to postpone last Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State, Iowa State’s next opponent, and suspend all football activities due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing. This is the second game Baylor has had to cancel or postpone due to its own COVID-19 issues.
Baylor can’t practice until it gets its situation figured out. And in a season where practices were already limited, it’s going to be hard for the Bears to make up lost time.
Because of Baylor’s issues, Oklahoma State will, essentially, have back-to-back bye weeks.
“Nothing surprises us anymore with this year,” Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy said. “When we started this, we felt like we’d run into a game or two where there could be COVID issues. We’ve been working on Baylor for a week, so you take that, put it in the filing cabinet and open up Iowa State.”
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While the postponed game and back-to-back bye weeks are obviously not ideal, at least the Cowboys can still practice.
“I’m not really concerned at all,” Gundy said. “This has been such an unusual year. This isn’t anything new — the only option we have is to control what we can control, which is when they tell us when we get to play the next game. The mental approach with the team has to be preparation to get ready for the next game. We can’t do anything about the Baylor game — we just have to move forward.
“They’re mature enough to know that if we don’t have three good practices this week that we might not play as good next Saturday. Hopefully we’re mature enough to know that we still have to practice well.”
Campbell is using the Baylor situation as a teaching moment for his team.
“We have to make the best choices we can outside of football and that’s really hard because you have kids going to class and you could very easily be in the wrong place at the wrong time in some of these situations,” Campbell said. “You have to continue to try and educate your kids, you try to teach through it and remind your kids that you’re trying to play football through a pandemic.
“And the reality of it is that this is a sport where you have to get better if you want to have success and being available is a huge part of getting better week in and week out.”
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