Powell: This is far from just a ‘Matt Campbell issue’

Brock Purdy warms up against No. 10 Iowa on Sept. 11, 2021.

James Powell

It was said many times during Matt Campbell’s post-game press conference after another Cy-Hawk loss that sent the Cyclones to 1-1 on the young season:

“It’s a Matt Campbell issue.”

Those were the words said by Campbell over and over in some iteration, making sure to place as much of the blame as possible on his shoulders, so as to lighten the load placed on his players.

But I’m here to tell you it was far from just a Matt Campbell issue.

Campbell wasn’t the one fielding (or not fielding) punts that sacrificed precious field position in a game that the Cyclones desperately could’ve used. Campbell was not the one who fumbled the ball at his own ten-yard line, letting the air out of all 60,000 plus fans in Jack Trice Stadium in a single moment. Campbell was not the one who threw three crucial interceptions, two of which coming on back-to-back drives.

However admirable you find Campbell’s gesture to put the focus on him, there were certainly no shortage of blunders made by many of his players in the 27-17 loss. Did I, or anyone else, expect Campbell to come in and tear apart his team in front of the media? Absolutely not. That’s not Campbell’s style. 

But not for a second should one think that this is a product of the Cyclone head coach not having his team ready for the moment, or not preparing them the best he could to face a tenacious Iowa Hawkeye defense. While I’m not taking the entirety of the blame off of him, there is much more to point to in this game to see why it went so poorly for the home team.

Let’s start with the signal caller, Brock Purdy. His stats on the surface aren’t pretty. 13 of 27 completions, 138 yards and three interceptions. He was benched, for whatever the true reason may be, early in the fourth quarter. 

I’m not here to say that all three interceptions were completely on him. The first one was a 45-yard bomb from his own two-yard line, but if he had more arm strength that allowed him to lead star Xavier Hutchinson, it may not have been picked off. Hutchinson looked to have a step on the cornerback defending him, but Purdy’s short throw forced him to come back in order to make a play on the ball. 

Interception number two was a shorter throw again to Hutchinson, who will make that particular catch more often than not. Certainly not deflect it directly into Iowa’s hands. The third pick was deflected at the line of scrimmage, again into the hands of a awaiting Iowa defender. The fact that they came back-to-back was unfortunate and was the main reason why Purdy was benched in favor of Hunter Dekkers. 

“I would assume that Brock’s going to be our guy,” Campbell said when asked if Purdy starts against University of Nevada Las Vegas this Saturday. “I think from the perspective of ‘man, did we put Hunter Dekkers in to challenge Brock’s position on this football team’, absolutely not. I think what we put Hunter in to do is kind of allow Brock to gather himself and settle the game back down.”

While Purdy certainly didn’t help his team, he was far from the only one. Breece Hall, a Heisman hopeful coming into this game, only had 69 yards rushing and gave up the fumble that arguably changed the course of the entire game. Tarique Milton has caught dozens of punts during his time at Iowa State, yet he was unsuccessful in catching, or even attempting to catch, one that ended up 30 yards from where he would’ve caught it.

Cyclone fans have been so accustomed to Hall consistently rushing for over 100 yards, most of the time putting up a score or two. But now that he’s the first guy opponents pull up on film as they prepare to face the Cyclones, teams so far this season have had a recipe to stop him, or at least contain him.

Other notable offensive players who were relatively quiet included Charlie Kolar (four catches, 34 yards), Xavier Hutchinson (three catches, 22 yards) and Chase Allen (one catch, two yards). It is also worth mentioning that Joe Scates had zero catches. 

The defense did the best they could after they repeatedly got put back on the field following Cyclone turnovers. This was certainly a game where offensive struggles told the story.

There is also the fact that, with all this experience they are known for, they still did not look nearly ready enough to face their Cy-Hawk foe. Most of the key playmakers have played the Hawkeyes once, twice, for some players four times. They surely knew what this game could’ve done for their confidence, their ceiling as a football team this year, not to mention the sanity of Cyclone fans who have watched them for years.

All this being said, most everything that was thought to be in reach for the Cyclones this year, still is. They fell to No. 14 in the latest AP Poll, but a Big 12 Championship game appearance is obviously still in play. Another step forward in the bowl hierarchy is still possible.

They still have plenty of opportunity to show they belong. But this loss, particularly the way that it happened, feels incredibly deflating given the attention and national buzz this game created.

And it’s not just Campbell’s issue for that happening.