Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football notes: Cyclones hope to turn red-zone trips into touchdowns

QB Kyle Kempt still rehabbing injured knee

Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell paces the sidelines during last Saturday's win over Akron at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell paces the sidelines during last Saturday's win over Akron at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

AMES — Iowa State’s football team is either really bad or really good in the red zone, depending how you look at it.

On one hand, the Cyclones are the second-worst team in the Big 12 in touchdown percentage, scoring 6 points just two out of nine times.

On the other hand, Iowa State is one of only 14 teams to score every time it’s got to the red zone.

Three games into the season, Coach Matt Campbell isn’t concerned — yet. In fact, he’s pleased with certain elements.

“Where we are better than a year ago is inside the 10-yard line,” Campbell said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “Other than the first football game, we’ve been really efficient down there.”

Last season, it seemed like the only way for Iowa State to get the ball in the end zone inside the 10-yard line was throwing a fade to Allen Lazard.

“We’re able to do things we couldn’t do a year ago — getting into certain personnel packages, being able to get under center, being able to do somethings that will really help us in critical situations as the season goes on,” Campbell said.

Against Akron, Iowa State was in the red zone five times and came away with one touchdown.

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“Even Saturday, as I go back and look at that football game, I think a lot of it was situational and you’re trying to play within the flow of the game and get points where needed,” Campbell said. “To me, I think we are further ahead in a lot of ways than we were a year ago.”

The Cyclones open Big 12 play Saturday at TCU.

Connor Assalley excels

Iowa State wasn’t sure who its kicker was going to be going into the season. Campbell recruited Brayden Narveson to handle kicking duties, but it’s redshirt sophomore walk-on Connor Assalley who won the job and has kept it.

Assalley is 7-for-7 on field goals after going 4-for-4 on Saturday.

“That competition was certainly heated from the spring through fall camp,” Campbell said. “Just like any position battle — who is the most consistent over a long period time? At the end of it, Connor was the guy who earned the right to go out there to start the season. I still felt like he needed to prove it under the lights and figure out if we’re under the right situation.

“What you’ve seen so far in big situations, he’s stepped up and it’s been really fun to watch him do that. He’s earned the right to have success. Sometimes when you have to earn it and you have to do it the hard way, what you get is almost a finished product that’s very confident. That’s what I see in Connor right now. I see a really confident football player.”

Assalley’s done such a good job that he was named the Lou Groza Award Star of the Week. The Lou Groza Award is given annually to the nation’s best kicker.

Kyle Kempt update

Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt still is rehabbing a knee injury he suffered against Iowa.

Campbell said Kempt still is two or three weeks away from playing.

“I think a lot of it is seeing his progression through it,” Campbell said. “I think we’re all really happy with where he’s at and what he’s doing. It’ll be on his ability to get back. Believe me, nobody is working harder than he is to get himself back on the football field and be an asset for us. We’re seeing really positive momentum from him right now.”

Kempt isn’t practicing yet, but he is starting to get back on the field.

“Sunday was the first day he was back on the field and doing some movements and getting back involved,” Campbell said. “That was really good to see and I thought a huge sign of positive going forward.”

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