Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football has plenty of questions entering Big 12 play

Cyclones visit TCU after bye week

Louisiana safety Percy Butler recovers a fumble ahead of Iowa State wide receiver Joe Scates, rear, and Landen Akers (82
Louisiana safety Percy Butler recovers a fumble ahead of Iowa State wide receiver Joe Scates, rear, and Landen Akers (82) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

AMES — Coaches are the people most familiar with their teams.

They prepare them and, for the most part, are with them year-round. Even this year with COVID-19, coaches have been around their teams since mid-June. The only time they weren’t with their teams was from about mid-March to mid-June.

Coaches know their teams and they know what their teams are about. But no matter how much time they’ve had together, some things are unknowable.

Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell had some questions before Iowa State’s first game against Louisiana, which it lost 31-14.

“I felt like our execution has been really crisp and sharp throughout fall camp but man, are we going to get out and tackle well?” Campbell said. “Are we going to take care of the football? Can we do those things in the first game when you haven’t done it? I don’t know.”

With the benefit of hindsight, those questions can be answered. And the answers, for the most part, were no.

Iowa State missed numerous tackles in the first half that allowed Louisiana to march down the field before halftime to kick a field goal.

As far as taking care of the ball, Iowa State star running back Breece Hall was benched for a couple of series due to fumble issues.

On the official stats, Hall was only credited with one fumble, but in Campbell’s eyes, the sophomore had two. The other Hall “fumble” happened in the second quarter when he rushed to the Louisiana 1-yard line. When Hall tried to reach for the end zone while being tackled, he lost the ball but he was called down by contact.

Still, Campbell wasn’t pleased his running back, who had already fumbled, put the ball on the turf again. Senior Kene Nwangwu went in for Hall and rushed it in from the 1-yard line to score the touchdown.

“I think we all know Breece is really talented,” Campbell said. “I don’t like the ball on the ground twice. Those are critical mistakes and in the first game of the season as you’re trying to get your bearings, critical mistakes get you beat. That’s kind of what occurred ... Obviously we know Breece is super talented. We’ve got great faith in Breece, but the fundamentals and the details are still critical to our success.”

Another thing Campbell mentioned before the game that reared its ugly head were drops.

Quarterback Brock Purdy admittedly struggled, but in the first half, his receivers weren’t helping him much. In the second quarter, Xavier Hutchinson and Sean Shaw dropped back-to-back passes that would’ve been enough for a first down and kept Iowa State’s drive alive.

Instead, Iowa State was forced to punt.

Campbell and Iowa State had plenty to work on and clean up during the bye week now that they’ve played a live game. The Big 12 slate starts Saturday with a road trip to TCU.

“There was some really good growth in some things we really put our mind to this offseason,” Campbell said. “But again, we struggled in some of those critical areas and at Iowa State, you’re going to have to win in the margins. And if you refuse to win in the margins, it’s really going to be hard for us to have success.

“Tough way to learn it, but again, for us it’s a great opportunity to take what we learned ... get ourselves back (in the) bye week and get ready for Big 12 football.”

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