AMES — Iowa State has completed the first third of its season and one common problem area has reared its head in every game.
Coach Matt Campbell made his name in Ames by preaching turnover margin and winning with details.
Now, the Cyclones sit 2-2 and 0-1 in the Big 12 and seem to be struggling in the margins and details.
The Cyclones are minus-four in turnover margin, converting 44 percent of third downs and are allowing opposing teams to convert 43 percent of their third downs.
“I think our football team — somewhere along the way — lost its way a little bit, and I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. It’s who we are right now,” Campbell said. “We’ve won a lot of games in the last two years in the margins. If you look back at the last six, seven or eight games that we’ve played, we’ve seemed to lose some games in the margins.
“You see a better football team, but yet, you see those margins are still important. Sometimes you get so excited because you’re a better team and there are expectations, but you still have to win in the margins.”
Quarterback Brock Purdy has been responsible for all but one of Iowa State’s turnovers this season.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
He’s also the captain of the offense, a unit that seems to always stall out around the 45-yard line because it doesn’t convert on third down.
“At first the feeling around here was hopeful because we can learn from the mistakes — and we still are learning — but it is a little frustrating now,” Purdy said. “We’re going into our fifth game of the season and you still see us stalling out on the 45.
“It’s frustrating. But we’re learning every single day. We’re going to practice to hammer out the little things.”
Purdy, who has been statistically spectacular completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,331 yards and eight touchdowns through four games, recognizes how close Iowa State is.
“We find ways to get penalties and shoot ourselves in the foot,” Purdy said. “If we clean that up we’ll be good to go.
“These two losses, they should be wins. If we clean up the little things on offense and defense, then we’ll be good to go. The vibe around here is still good, we understand it’s a long season.”
Defensively, Iowa State is in a strange place on third down. The percentage isn’t good, but the curious thing is, in Iowa State’s two losses, Iowa and Baylor have had more success on third and long than they had on third and short.
In its two losses, Iowa State allowed opposing offenses to go 9 of 15 on third-and-7 or longer and just 7 of 21 on third-and-6 or shorter.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“We have to figure out how and why and go back to doing and understanding those value systems are still really important — critical down and distances, third- and fourth-down offense and third- and fourth-down defense,” Campbell said. “If you look at the last couple of games, those things are still really important. When we do those things, we seem to have great success. When we don’t, it’s a great challenge.
“I think those are areas where you look back on some opportunities to get off the field and not getting off the field in some of those critical moments, it’s been a run here or a pass here. So, when those things happen you’ve got to go back to it’s not scheme, it becomes detail. What allows us to get back to the fundamentals and details that allow us to be successful in those critical moments? That’s our sport.”
Iowa State hosts TCU on Saturday at 11 a.m. TCU is a team that is as well coached as any in the Big 12.
“This game will be a great opportunity to finally push through and break through and get over that hump,” Purdy said.
“If we hammer out the details, we’ll do things that have never been done before here.”