AMES, Iowa — Even though Matt Campbell won just five of his first 15 games at Iowa State, fans largely cut him some slack.
It was evident that the Cyclones were making progress across the board, leading some optimistic supporters to wonder whether the team could snap a five-year bowl drought this fall.
The end of Campbell’s honeymoon in Ames could be coming soon.
The Cyclones (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) put forth one of their most disappointing performances in recent memory last Thursday in losing to rebuilding Texas 17-7. Iowa State abandoned its running game despite having one of the league’s best backs in sophomore David Montgomery, and an offense that had been averaging over 40 points a game was held to a single touchdown despite six trips into Texas territory.
Campbell called the loss gut wrenching.
“We did some really good things,” he said. “We were able to move the ball… (but) how can we be more efficient when we get (inside the 50-yard line)? What didn’t allow us to be efficient? Is it that we threw it too much? Is it that we didn’t force the run game? Hindsight is 20/20.”
The Cyclones will look to get back on track Saturday at No. 3 Oklahoma. But the Sooners (4-0, 1-0) are 28-point favorites, and Iowa State has lost 20 straight games against ranked opponents.
“No one is going to give us a chance, but we’ve got to just keep grinding,” Iowa State safety Kamari Cotton-Moya said.
Campbell said Iowa State made a conscious effort to throw the ball more than usual because Texas has “an elite defense” that the Cyclones figured would make life miserable for them on the ground. Iowa State ended up with some lopsided play-calling as a result, throwing 49 passes against 15 runs — which produced just 10 rushing yards.
“I think we did what we thought could give us the best opportunity to do it. Was it right? Was it not right? What can we learn from it? We evaluate all those things,” Campbell said.
Iowa State’s defense played well enough to beat the Longhorns anyway.
But a pair of easily avoidable blunders — miscues that losing programs so often make — helped Texas score each of its two touchdowns.
The Cyclones forced a three-and-out on the Longhorns’ first drive after JaQuan Bailey sacked quarterback Shane Buechele and forced a fumble that Texas recovered. But Bailey celebrated his big play with a somersault, which drew an unsportsmanlike penalty that both gave the Longhorns life and sucked some of the energy out of the crowd.
A 15-yard personal foul on cornerback Brian Peavy put Texas in Iowa State territory in the second quarter, and four plays later the Longhorns jumped ahead 14-0.
If there was a bright spot in last week’s loss, it was the play of linebacker Joel Lanning. In just his fourth game since switching from quarterback, Lanning had 20 tackles — reaffirming Campbell’s decision to move him after he lost the starting quarterback job to Jacob Park.
Campbell said had Lanning made the switch to linebacker earlier in his career, he likely would be talked about as a “high-end draft pick.”
“Joel is really talented,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the development he’s made. He’s really playing as a high level.”