Coach Matt Campbell sat down with the media on Monday morning to hash out a few things on the season thus far and a look-ahead to the struggling Texas Longhorns on Saturday.
Another Moral Victory
While the Cyclones forgot to show up for the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State last Saturday, Coach Campbell saw a lot of positives from his team in their 38-31 loss.
“I think the kids made a lot of growth in a lot of areas,” said Campbell. “Unfortunately there’s some miscues in the fourth quarter, and those are things that we need to continue to learn in order to go win those games.”
“The competitor in me says we are really close. You win stuff like that in the off season though. You make those catches, you make those tackles, you do that because of repetition. You’ve seen these kids make so many strides in such a short amount of time because there’s such a great amount of want-to.”
“I think if we keep coming with that focus, sooner or later the scoreboard is going to reflect in a positive way.”
Growth of the Offense
Some of those areas of growth were the continuity of the offense and play from the quarterback position. Starter Joel Lanning and backup Jacob Park combined for 283 yards and three passing touchdowns on the day. Also, the offensive line has really hit its stride in the last couple of games.
Campbell went on to explain why the offense has grown the way it has. “I think there are two things — being able to identify what can our players do. I think it’s taken a little bit of time with the injuries and not knowing who we had in spring ball and fall practice, but we have figured that out. And you credit the coaching staff for that,” Campbell said. “The second thing is consistent play from our A players, and you see our kids are starting to execute, and play to what they’re capable of playing.”
Some of those “A Players” are Joel Lanning, Allen Lazard and Mike Warren. While the first two were given their opportunities, the last one (Warren) only had three carries in the second half. Campbell said that Oklahoma State was running a tough 6-man front, and ISU needed to counter against that defense.
“Well, the quarterback ran the ball really well, and we had to try to gain yards in some creative ways, and I think we were able to do that (with Joel),” said Campbell. “That’s what happened in the fourth quarter — we were behind the chains, behind the sticks.”
Growth of the Defense
After watching the Baylor running backs torch the Cyclones a week ago for 500-plus yards and force 22 missed tackles, this Cyclone defensive unit stepped up on Saturday against Oklahoma State, holding the Cowboys to only 3.3 yards per carry and making some huge third down stops.
“We tackled, our ability to tackle much better was a huge facet in the game,” Campbell said. “I thought our linebackers played a lot better, and we were able to get some vertical penetration in the defensive line.”
Campbell Gets on His Soap Box
There were a few interesting questions that permeated throughout the press room, and Campbell answered it unlike any other head coach of a college football team. Campbell was asked if he thought his players were pressing.
Here is his response: “18- to 22-year-olds have a memory of about 2 seconds. The reality of those guys thinking about that a week from now, I would be hard pressed that’s the case. Worrying about that is foolish,” Campbell said.
He was then asked about moral victories and not letting players settle, even though they are improving.
“I think you have to be honest,” Campbell said. “I think the one thing the kids tell you: I am as brutally honest as it gets, positive or negative. But you have to be 100 percent honest, and that way growth can occur.”
It sounds like Trever Ryen’s injury is day-to-day, and we will probably know by Tuesday or Wednesday if he will be playing in the Texas game. From the way it looked on the field, it sounds like they are fortunate it isn’t worse.
Receiver Allen Lazard was able to practice on a Sunday for the first time in a long time as he progresses through his nagging injuries.
Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is day-to-day, but it sounds like Campbell was pleased with the success of his backups, and thought both Evrett Edwards and Braxton Lewis played some of their best games on Saturday.
Looking Towards Texas
The Longhorns are coming off a loss to Oklahoma and post a left-to-be desired record of 2-3. Coach Charlie Strong is on one of the hottest of hot seats, and is literally playing for his job come Saturday.
Campbell was blown away with Texas’s abundance of talent.
“The thing evaluating (Texas) that jumps off the screen is the talent and the ability of the football program,” he said. “They’ve got great length and great players on the outside as far as skill players. The team is talented across the board.”
Even with all that talent, ISU still has a legitimate shot of winning on Saturday. They kickoff in Austin at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed through Cyclones.tv and the Longhorn Network.