For the third time in his eight years as the Iowa State Cyclones head coach, Matt Campbell finds his team sitting with a 1-2 or worse record heading into conference play. After a shocking and disappointing 10-7 road loss to the Ohio Bobcats last weekend, the Cyclones head back home to Jack Trice Stadium this Saturday for a 3 p.m. kickoff against the 2-1 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Last week, Oklahoma State was upset by South Alabama 33-7. Both teams are searching for consistency and it goes without saying that a win going into the Big 12 season will be a major momentum boost.
This is not opinion, it is just a fact that the Cyclone offense is underwhelming and it shows in the rankings. Iowa State is the third-worst offense in the nation with only 811 yards of total offensive production.
“We have got to be able to have consistency in the running game,” Campbell said. “That word consistency it’s not have you seen it, It’s just we have not seen it enough to win football games right now.”
Saturday’s game will feature the two bottom teams in the Big 12 Conference in terms of their offense. The Cowboys sit at 13th averaging 20.3 points per game, while Iowa State ranks last with 16.7. Despite the struggles, first-year offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase and Campbell have spoken highly of the poise and continued growth of quarterback Rocco Becht. In Ohio, after fighting through the same stomach virus that took out his top receiver Jaylin Noel, Becht finished with 233 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“That was a gutty performance by (Becht) and we saw him continue to lead our football team and I think those are real positives,” Campbell said.
Facing Oklahoma State at home may be exactly what the challenging run game needs to get back on track. Cartevious Norton and Abu Sama III combined for only 10 rushing yards in 12 carries. Iowa State has an opportunity to take advantage of the Cowboys’ lackluster rush defense. Head Coach Mike Gundy’s defense is giving up 4.4 yards a carry on the ground to their opponents. This ranks 85th nationally.
While the offense continues to struggle, the nationally ninth ranked Cyclone defense holds strong. Iowa State ranks in the top three of all major defensive statically categories in the Big 12. They are first in defensive efficiency (91.9) and passing yards allowed per game (143.7). While ranking third in points allowed per game with 13. Despite being ranked last in offensive efficiency in the Big 12 (108.7), Oklahoma State still poses a threat to Jon Heacock’s squad with a three-quarterback system and balanced run attack.
“They’ve got great wide receivers, they’ve got always had great tailbacks and all three of the quarterbacks have got experience,” Campbell said.
Senior Alan Bowman leads the way for the Cowboys throwing for 235 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns. He is followed by sophomore Gunnar Gundy (202 yards and one touchdown) and freshman Garret Rangel (172 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception) with a team-high QBR of 52.9.
Campbell believes in Iowa State’s youth and is not concerned with the veterans on the Oklahoma State sideline. For the Cyclones to beat the Cowboys they must take over the ground game and time of possession. Last week, Ohio controlled the clock for more the ten minutes longer than Iowa State, partially due to the Cyclones’ struggle on third down converting on only three of 11 attempts.
The first Big 12 game of the season should be a close one (the last eight matchups have been decided by seven or less points) with the edge favoring Iowa State because of their defense and having home-field advantage.