Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State 26, Akron 13: Cyclones victorious despite mistakes

ISU settles for 4 field goals in first win of 2018

Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Hakeem Butler runs after a catch against Akron Zips at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Hakeem Butler runs after a catch against Akron Zips at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

AMES — Iowa State coach Matt Campbell’s constant and unrelenting message to his team is winning in the margins.

Campbell’s theory is if a team wins in the margins, the scoreboard will take care of itself.

Iowa State didn’t always have the upper hand in the margins against Akron, but the Cyclones kept at it enough to pull out a 26-13 victory Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.

Iowa State (1-2) lost the turnover battle 2-1 and had 5 more penalty yards.

“We’re not na´ve,” Campbell said. “The reality of it is those are areas on both sides of the football and even in special teams where big plays happen, good things happen and then we shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit. You can’t do that here at Iowa State. You can’t win games.

“We won today because we stayed the course and ran the football and stopped the run. Those things are really what allowed us to mitigate some of those mistakes.”

Iowa State’s biggest mistakes were two lost fumbles — Iowa State didn’t lose a fumble all of last season until the bowl game.

The first fumble of the game came from Tarique Milton in the first quarter and it led directly to an Akron (2-1) touchdown.

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“We had a few fumbles and we’re definitely going to get back in the room and work on that because it’s unacceptable,” receiver Hakeem Butler said.

The Cyclones got points on all five of their red zone trips, but only scored one touchdown. Connor Assalley kicked four field goals.

It’s probably a good thing Butler isn’t the head coach.

“I want to score (a touchdown) every time,” Butler said. “I play (the video game) Madden and I think I wouldn’t be a good coach because when it’s fourth down, I go for it every time. Coach Campbell is the coach for a reason.”

Campbell was more cautious than his big receiver.

“I think we were just playing smart down there to be honest with you,” Campbell said. “That team had two red zone turnovers last week that go for touchdowns. They do that because of their ability to play off of the football and see the ball. Our big thing was how do we complement our defense? We’re winning the field position battle, we’re doing a good job — let’s not put our defense in a tough situation.

“I thought we did a really good job of managing through those and the only way you do that is if you trust a guy like Connor to go in and get points on the board for you. I would also tell you, do we have to get better down there? Yes. You have to score touchdowns, especially in critical situations. But I thought the game dictated how we played down there as well.”

Running back David Montgomery was the sole Cyclone to find the end zone inside the 20-yard line. He ran for 107 yards on 23 carries and gave ISU a halftime lead with a 1-yard TD just before the break.

“(Our offense) was subpar,” Montgomery said. “It could be better. That’s the unique thing. It could be better. We haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet in terms of running the ball and passing the ball well. I feel like when it happens it’ll be a scary sight.”

And Iowa State will need to be better.

The Cyclones’ next three opponents are all ranked in the top 25, starting with No. 17 TCU on the road next Saturday. Campbell knows the mistakes can’t continue.

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“If you’re talking about where we want to go and what we have the potential to do, obviously those things aren’t what we can do to win football games at the caliber that we’re about to play in,” Campbell said.

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