Iowa State (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) still is in search of its first win while Akron (2-0, 0-0 MAC) is in no hurry to lose.
Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell and Akron Coach Terry Bowden are familiar with each other because of Campbell’s time as the Toledo coach.
Let’s take a closer look at the teams.
1. Akron had an unbelievable defensive effort in the second half against Northwestern last Saturday. The Zips trailed 21-3 at halftime, but three defensive touchdowns propelled them to a 39-34 victory.
“I think that’s when you know your program’s in a really good spot,” Campbell said. “They have a lot of veteraness on that team. A lot of guys that have played a lot of football. And where that veteraness shows up is the defensive side. Defensively, their front four, outstanding. Their front four is the reason why it really starts to go their way in the second half. They’re able to get pressure on the quarterback.
“The strip sack is the first thing. Next thing you know, they get pressure on the quarterback, he’s going down, instead of going down and taking the sack, he throws the football, pick-six goes 80. The next pick-six, same situation. He’s rushed out of the pocket, throws it away and their guy makes an unbelievable play and goes in for a touchdown. So I think it’s a team that’s really confident. And you and I know — we’ve talked about this before, defense, elite defense, gives you the opportunity to be a really good football team and they have that.”
While it was a complete defensive effort, the guy who made all the plays for them was cornerback Alvin Davis. The junior had both of the pick-sixes.
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2. Quarterback Kato Nelson played in the fourth quarter of the game last season when Iowa State visited Akron. He went 2-for-4 with an interception in that game, but he has shown he’s much improved this season. Against Northwestern, he passed for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He also the led the Zips in rushing with 53 yards.
He’s not Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, but is a threat with his arm and his feet.
3. Relevant numbers — Akron is inefficient in the red zone. The Zips only have one touchdown in five trips ... Akron is turnover prone, giving the other team the ball four times through two games.
1. Iowa State won last season’s game, 41-14, but Campbell still wasn’t happy.
“That’s not what I want in our program to play like,” Campbell said. “It didn’t matter in terms of what the score was or if we won or lost — and I think I’ve been pretty adamant about, to me, the scoreboard will take care of itself. It always does. But how you play the game and the intent that you play the game with is important.
“I refuse to settle for that and if I don’t see it done the way it should be I’m going to address it and I’m going attack our culture every day. I felt like last year’s game was an attack on our culture, on how we played the game. That’s not what I want it to look like and it’s not what I expect to look like.”
2. Iowa State’s defense has shown the ability to rotate at every level. Against Oklahoma, 22 players recorded a tackle. That depth will help the players stay fresh, especially as the season wears on.
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“Those guys didn’t just go in and play, they actually went in and played meaningful snaps in a big-time-game atmosphere,” Campbell said. “To me, that’s where we’re getting to and in some areas, we need to continue to get there. Real teams, real programs, that consistency of playing a lot of guys is absolutely critical because if you get into the fourth quarter of a championship style game, you want to be at your best, and to be there you have to be able to play multiple guys. I think we’re a lot farther along today than where we’ve been in our football program.”
3. Relevant numbers — Iowa State, like Akron, is bad in the red zone. The Cyclones have just one touchdown in four trips to the red zone ... Iowa State led the Big 12 in turnover margin season. So far this season, Iowa State has only turned the ball over twice — both at the end of games trying to force a play, but the defense has only forced one turnover. The Cyclones need to get back to the plus side of the margin to be successful.
Iowa State 38, Akron 13
Akron doesn’t have the horses on defense to keep up with the likes of David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler. Defensively, Iowa State forces a couple of turnovers and gets back to forcing teams to make mistakes.
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