AMES — When Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt went down with a knee injury in last Saturday’s loss to Iowa, Coach Matt Campbell wasn’t sure what to expect.
But after a few days of evaluation, there is a little more clarity on the situation.
“We braced Kyle up Sunday, Monday and (Tuesday),” Campbell said. “We’ll have a really good idea of where he is after (Wednesday). I really do mean this, whether it’s this week or after, I see this being not a long-term injury. I think we dodged a great bullet there. I couldn’t be more happy for our football team.”
Zeb Noland is Kempt’s backup and while the two can do many of the same things, Noland does have a bigger arm while Kempt goes for the safer throws.
If Noland is the guy on Saturday against Oklahoma, who will back him up? Iowa State has two highly-touted true freshmen in Re-al Mitchell and Brock Purdy, as well as redshirt freshman Devon Moore.
“That’s a really great question and hopefully something that gets hammered out this week,” Campbell said. “We’ve got Re-al and Brock Purdy who have had a really good fall camp and Devon I see as a guy that’s continuing to grow in our offense.
“I’m really anxious to watch if Kyle isn’t able to go by Wednesday, who will be getting those second-team reps and how does that sort itself out through this week.”
Iowa State’s defensive line was good last year, but it didn’t have any depth. Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock was forced to change his defense from a four-man front to a three-man front.
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This season, Iowa State has enough depth to run a four-man front and have substitutes for each of them.
“Where we were this past Saturday was the ability to play multiples,” Campbell said. “In a lot of areas, we’re getting a lot closer to where we want to be — the defensive line’s one of them.
“I thought Matt Leo played a really good game, he put pressure on the quarterback. In a big-time situation, he made a play on the cutback. I thought Jamahl Johnson continues to play really good football for us. Spencer Benton was good — and you didn’t even get to some of those other names in that game on Saturday, which is a good thing.”
Campbell’s going to need that defensive line depth again against the Sooners who, in Campbell’s words, “are going to try and run a million plays.”
Picking up the punter
Part of a head football coach’s duties is keeping morale up. Punter Corey Dunn had a rough debut, shanking two punts that went less than 15 yards.
But Campbell is sticking with him because Dunn also had two punts that went more than 50 yards.
“What I was really proud of was his ability to come back,” Campbell said. “I think his last four punts were indicative of what he really is and what he can do.
“I think he’s got an opportunity ... to be an elite punter. We’ve just got to get him settled in and stay the course, but I was really proud of his reaction on Saturday because I think easily you could have seen him go the other way really fast.”
The two punts Dunn shanked were both rugby-style punts. Dunn grew up playing Australian Rules football, so he’s generally more comfortable with that style. Campbell said those punts will still be in Dunn’s arsenal.
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Big play ability
Campbell tracks offensive plays of 20 yards or more. Big plays are necessary to get a stagnant offense going, and the Cyclones never had two plays of 20-plus yards last week.
He believes his offense has the ability, they just need to get the ball to the playmakers in space with room to work.
“Sometimes the big plays come from making the simple plays,” Campbell said.
“I think where, offensively, you saw us maybe be negated is not taking what the defense gives you — we didn’t do that at times throughout the football game. And again, you put the ownership on (the staff) and we’ve got to do a better job of helping that out. But when you do that and you take what the defense gives you, usually then you have the opportunity to create some big plays within it.
“We’ve got great receivers here. We’re really proud of that group. We need to be able to function to where we can use those guys to the best of their abilities, so I put it way more on us than I put it on those kids.”
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