Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State needs to make more plays in close games to have winning October

Cyclones were unable to stop crucial drives against Iowa and Baylor

Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton catches a pass between Iowa State defensive backs Datrone Young (2) and Arnold Azunna (4) Saturday at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton catches a pass between Iowa State defensive backs Datrone Young (2) and Arnold Azunna (4) Saturday at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell has seen a common thread in the Cyclones’ 2019 season.

In its two wins, Iowa State was able to make plays. In their two losses, the Cyclones were unable to make plays in critical moments.

Against Iowa, Iowa State had opportunities to stop the Hawkeyes on third down to kill drives. Twice, Iowa State had an opportunity at an interception and let the ball go through their hands.

Against Baylor on Saturday in a 23-21 loss, Iowa State was unable to once again get off the field when it needed to on third down late in the game.

The Cyclones had multiple opportunities to stop Bears drives in their tracks, but each time Baylor was able to convert.

“I’m really proud of our football team,” Campbell said. “I thought our kids, the heart and character of our team, I really appreciate. I appreciate what they’re about, I appreciate how they responded. We didn’t get the final result that we wanted today and there are some details and little things we have to continue to correct but the character of this team — continuing to play until the very end — gave ourselves a chance to win in a tough road environment but didn’t get it done.”

In the first half, Iowa State’s defense played lights out and the offense couldn’t score. In the second half — mostly in the fourth quarter — Iowa State scored almost at will and the defense had a hard time stopping Baylor.

“It’s the story of this football team at this point in the season — consistency,” Campbell said. “We’ve seen greatness and flashes of excellence. It’s about putting together four quarters of it.”

The fourth-year coach is confident his team will get it figured out.

Campbell’s teams have notoriously slow starts. Iowa State started the season 2-2 in 2017 and 1-3 in 2018. In both seasons, the Cyclones finished 8-5. In 2018, Iowa State won seven of its last eight games with Brock Purdy at quarterback.

“Nothing is tough with this team because of the kids we have,” Campbell said. “The resolve and the character that we have, when our backs are against the wall, they continue to believe in each other. We just ran out of time. We have to continue to correct the areas before those things happen. This team is really easy to coach.”

October is usually when Campbell’s teams start to figure it out — last year “Brocktober” swept over Ames when Purdy, a true freshman at the time, came in and turned the season around.

Iowa State hasn’t lost an October game since 2016 in Campbell’s first season.

“The character of that guy (Purdy),” Campbell said. “I like to use the words competitive greatness. Competitive greatness is when your best is needed, your ability to give the world the best. That’s what Brock Purdy is. He owned it in the first half and came out and proved it in the second half.”

Now, Campbell needs Purdy to continue to prove it and make big plays in close games as Iowa State moves into the middle part of its season and the competition continues to grow.

Iowa State hosts TCU Saturday at 11 a.m. to see if it can continue its seven-game October winning streak.

l Comments: benv43@gmail.com

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