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Iowa State Daily

Iowa State pushes to right the ship against Oklahoma State

Daniel Jacobi II
Iowa State’s Jayden Higgins celebrates a first down during the first half of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series football game against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

Coming off a rough road loss to Ohio, the Cyclones are looking to get moving in the right direction as they host Oklahoma State to open Big 12 play on Saturday.

After a week of practices in hopes to figure out what has been going wrong on offense, Iowa State discovered some areas it hopes to improve upon before the first game of the conference season. The biggest area that needs work is the run game.

“We’ve gotta be able to have consistency in the running game,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said.

The biggest reason the Cyclones have struggled to move the ball in each of the first three games of non-conference play has been because of the run game. Whether it is the run blocking from the offensive line or the running backs breaking through holes, the run game has struggled.

There have been flashes of greatness from all the pieces on the run game, but those flashes are not consistent. If the Cyclones want the offense to excel, it starts with building up the run game.

In both the loss to Iowa and the loss to Ohio, a slight improvement in the run game could have made the difference in what turned out to be tight games. The Cyclones lost by just one score in each of their two losses.

Iowa State is not a stranger to one score losses. Last season all but two losses were decided by one score.

If Iowa State had made one of the two field goal misses or converted on a drive, the outcome of the game against Ohio may have been different. But that is football; it is decided on inches.

“The difference of winning the inch and losing the inch is football,” Campbell said. “I know that’s cliche and the old coach speak, but that’s also reality.”

Although the offense struggled throughout the game, the defense was as good as ever. The Cyclones only allowed 10 points, which is three straight games where the defense allowed less than 14 points.

Even with the defense playing at an elite level and sitting atop the Big 12, it is still hungry for more. The Cyclone defenders know they can do more to help the offense even if it is just a little.

“Defensively, we just gotta help out the offense as much as possible,” linebacker Will McLaughlin said. “Getting the ball back, getting takeaways, getting the momentum back in our hands so that we can control the game.”

The defense will have many opportunities to make plays as it takes on Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are one of the oldest teams in the Big 12, with veterans scattered across the board.

With how young the Cyclones are, the Cowboys pose a threat to show out with their experience and cause problems on Saturday.

“It pushes us to mature at a faster rate,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase said.

Iowa State is aware of the weapons that Oklahoma State will bring. Every position group is loaded with talent, and with Mike Gundy at the helm, they have the tools to make a splash in Ames.

“They’ve got great wide receivers, they’ve always had really great tailbacks and really all three of the quarterbacks have got experience,” Campbell said.

Campbell is not too worried about the personnel though, as he said the team is preparing more for the scheme. Gundy knows how to run an offense and will have many opportunities to find the few cracks in Iowa State’s defense.

No matter what Oklahoma State brings, the Cyclones are just ready to get back on the field. The loss to Ohio left a bad taste in the team’s mouth and they want to right the ship as soon as they can.

“We’re just ready to get back at it,” McLaughlin said. “Back to practicing, correcting mistakes that need to be corrected and become the best that we can be on Saturday.”

The Cyclones open up Big 12 play by taking on Oklahoma State at 3 p.m. Saturday in Ames. The game will be aired live on FS1.

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