AMES — Iowa State is four plays away from being undefeated.
That, however, is not realistic. Even the best teams can’t make every play when they need to.
But according to ESPN’s SP+, Iowa State’s expected record given how the Cyclones have played is 7-2 at this point.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, football games aren’t played on a computer and Iowa State is 5-4 with the four losses coming by a combined 11 points. Iowa State has lost three games by two points or less.
The Cyclones have been painfully close to a team that some predicted would be in the Big 12 championship game, but that’s not in the cards anymore.
Iowa State hosts Texas on Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium and the Cyclones want to show they’ve learned from the close losses and that they still have fight left in them.
“It’s really frustrating as a player and I’m sure for our coaching staff with the amount of time that they invest,” tight end Chase Allen said. “We really care.
“I think we showed in the fourth quarter at Oklahoma that we don’t have any quit in us. We have to keep fighting and use that to our advantage.”
Part of the problem this season has been slow starts. The Cyclones have a plus-72 scoring differential in the fourth quarter this season, so Coach Matt Campbell and his staff are able to make in-game adjustments but that’s not always enough.
“You give credit to coaching and you give credit to our kids to make adjustments,” Campbell said. “People play us differently than sometimes what you see on video and you have to have the ability to adjust. We’ve been able to do a really good job of that as a coaching staff to put ourselves in a better position.
“The equal to that is you say, ‘Man, how do you play that way early?’ That’s the biggest thing from our end. We can’t wait as long to make those adjustments or doing our details better. Whatever it is, it’s certainly caught us the last two weeks and we’ll have to continue to pound away to do a better job there.”
Campbell put the onus on himself for not getting his players better prepared.
“I’m more hard on me than I am on our kids,” Campbell said. “At the end of it, it takes both of us — in a great win or a tough loss. The things you can evaluate from your kids is, how hard do they play? What’s the intent and effort? What’s it like being down 21 points in Norman, Oklahoma? Well, you can look at our history here and you can see what’s happened in the past and you can see what’s happened in the present and know where we are and where we’re going. That I can take solace with.
“Then, it’s how do you take the detail and present it and say here are the areas we have to continue to pound away at if we want to be that team or continue to take those steps forward. What you’re up against is teams that have been there and done that for a long time. We’re a team that’s continuing to show that we can and how to do that.”
Iowa State’s players and staff showed growth last week against Oklahoma — the problem is the growth came in the ninth game of the season.
Against Oklahoma State, Iowa State got down early and threw the ball 62 times. The Cyclones learned from that and, even down by 21 against Oklahoma, ISU continued to run the ball to keep things balanced.
“I thought we did a great job as a staff not panicking, too,” Campbell said. “I think that’s growth. I think sometimes you can get down and you’re just trying to get points on the board. Our ability to stick with the run throughout the game and really continue to kind of push the envelope there, which certainly was a positive sign and something we haven’t done here since probably I’ve been here.”
Campbell has found many signs of encouragement, but he still wants to see more from his team to know his encouragement is well placed.
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“Obviously, those losses can be frustrating if you let them be or they can be great growth opportunities if you let them be,” Campbell said. “I thought that was the strongest we’ve played in the month of November since I’ve been here, which is really exciting and encouraging. And it’s only exciting and encouraging if we continue to push forward.
“There are a lot of ways that we’re really, really close and we just have to keep pounding away at those details and those margins that allow us to take that next step.”
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