‘Nature of the beast’: Campbell reflects on CyHawk game


Jacob Rice

Matt Campbell coaches the CyHawk game on Sept. 10

Another CyHawk series is in the books for Iowa State, and the team had a lot to reflect on and look forward to in weeks to come.

Although the Cyclones pulled out their first win against Iowa in head coach Matt Campbell’s time at the helm, the win was anything but clean. It was a hard fight back and forth on both sides, with many issues coming up on each side.

Campbell got his chance to talk with the media and discuss what he saw during the CyHawk game and what to expect going forward.

The biggest takeaway Campbell saw over the first two weeks of the season was the young offense’s ability to drive the ball down the field. With major offensive contributors leaving over the offseason, it was going to be interesting to see how quickly new players developed to fill the holes.

So far, the Cyclones haven’t had much of an issue moving the ball, as they cruised to a 42-10 win over SEMO and doubled Iowa in total offense. This ability to move the ball downfield is partly thanks to the efforts of offensive coordinator Tom Manning.

“Tom [Manning] has really done a phenomenal job,” Campbell said. “For the most part, he is putting us in the best position, play in and play out, for us to be successful.”

One position that has stayed steady so far on the year is the offensive line. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and Campbell made it clear that the offensive line was the main reason the offense can move so easily.

Trevor Downing, who Campbell described as the quarterback of the offensive line, has been the anchor of the line after his move to center in the offseason. The depth of the rest of the line also shined due to the absence of offensive tackle Jake Remsburg.

It is easy to miss the consistency of the offensive line and how it impacts the outcome of the game. Similar to special teams, the line isn’t shouted out unless something goes right or wrong.

“That’s the nature of the beast… you don’t get a lot of notoriety,” Campbell said. “Man, you don’t notice them until something good or bad happens. And usually when something good happens it just flies by the wayside.”

Although the depth looked great, getting Remsburg back should bolster the offensive line even more and allow the entire offense to be more consistent. Campbell said the other notable injury, running back Cartevious Norton, is also trending in the right direction.

“Both of those guys were out at practice,” Campbell said. “Both of those guys are trending right there to being ready to go. Jake [Remsburg] was really close by Thursday and Friday last week, we just didn’t feel comfortable with where he was on Saturday.”

With injuries affecting the first couple of weeks, players have been asked to step up and fill any roles that are needed. So far, plenty of players have gotten their shots at making an impact.

Quarterback Hunter Dekkers has been making sure to get many receivers involved in the passing game, while players on the defense stepped up to make stops when needed.

“We talk a lot about being ready for your moment,” Campbell said. “The one thing you’re seeing from our football team is there is more depth than we’ve had and guys ready to play than maybe we’ve ever had.”

Another position that stood out against Iowa was the running back room, but most importantly, Jirehl Brock. In two games, Brock put up over 200 yards on the ground and had the second most receptions against Iowa.

The combination of Dekkers to star wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson and Brock is the main reason the Cyclones are able to move down the field. Not only that, Brock showed off his explosiveness and quickness.

“The relentlessness that he has been able to affect the game, it’s been a joy to watch,” Campbell said. “Obviously, nobody was more disappointed in the stadium than obviously what happened at the one-yard line, but for him to come back from that and play the way he did. I do think those are good lessons we can carry forward.”

The fumble in the end zone was heartbreaking, but Brock didn’t let it put him down and came out on fire through the rest of the game. Brock’s fumble wasn’t the only mistake that the Cyclones saw on the day, as Dekkers threw two interceptions.

Along with the turnovers, Iowa State’s special teams also had a couple of blunders. Iowa’s defense played great on the day and was able to block two Iowa State punts.

“You hate that it happened,” Campbell said. “You’re glad it didn’t cost us the game. You’ve got to be humble enough to learn from it and grow from it.”

One area that shined against Iowa was Iowa State’s defense. Iowa State forced three turnovers and kept the game winnable for the Cyclones.

The defensive backs were also impressive to Campbell, as it differs from years past. The big topic over the offseason was Anthony Johnson’s move to safety. This move opened up more room in the cornerback room for younger players to get their chance to shine.

“It’s allowed us to be totally different on defense,” Campbell said. “Be a lot more multiple in things we want to do.”

Campbell has been impressed by how the corners played the first couple of games, which is a good sign going forward. Not only that, he was impressed with how Johnson picked up the safety role and is constantly getting better.

Now that the Iowa game is said and done, Campbell and the team are looking to the next challenge. The Cyclones take on Ohio on Saturday in Ames.

On paper, it should be an easier game than Iowa. However, Campbell isn’t going to take his opponent for granted.

Campbell knows what it takes to win and knows he shouldn’t underestimate any team. Ohio comes from the Mid-American Conference, which has had upsets in the past, and the team looked good in its first two games.

Iowa State wasn’t expected to win against Iowa, so the last thing the Cyclones are going to do is take it easy. They just have to do what they did the first two weeks and play hard for the entire 60 minutes.

“What you’ll see is a confident football team that’s built to win and beat anybody, no matter what conference or where they’re at; that’s college football,” Campbell said. “I think we saw it last weekend. Anybody can beat anybody. Any given Saturday.”