NOTEBOOK: Campbell and Lanning reminisce on turning point

Brian Peavy knocks TCU running back out of bounds during the Cyclones’ 14-7 win over No. 4 TCU. 

Jack Macdonald

On Wednesday, Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell and redshirt senior linebacker Joel Lanning talked with the media about various topics. 

Here are a few takeaways from Wednesday. 

Campbell talks Iowa game

For Campbell, the Iowa game serves one purpose. That purpose: the defensive turnaround. Against the Hawkeyes, the defense allowed 44 points in an overtime loss. In Campbell’s eyes, that is too many points to be giving up if you want to be a top-tier team. 

But more importantly, reaching the bye week was another key factor for a defense that seemed to be struggling. 

“Well I think the biggest turning point for us was getting into that bye week,” Campbell said. “The Iowa game I think showed some areas that were really positive in growth that we’ve had and areas where we still needed to grow and still needed to work on.”

One of the biggest factors hindering the defense was situational play. On third downs, the defense allowed the Hawkeyes to complete seven of their 15 attempts, compared to Iowa State converting only four of its 14 attempts.

However, just as Campbell spoke about negatives, he also pointed out several positives. That game, the offense was perfect on both of their fourth down conversions.

“What we had the ability to do after that was get through the Akron game, be able to get to that bye week and then make some really good adjustments,” Campbell said. 

And they delivered on good adjustments. The defensive line switched from a four-man front to a three-man front and have seen tremendous strides in terms of getting pressure to the backfield. 

More importantly, the defense has allowed their opposition to score more than 17 points just one time since the Iowa game. That one time was to the then-No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners who were led by Heisman contender Baker Mayfield. 

“The biggest thing was personnel work and just how do we group our personnel the right way, how do we start to become multiple,” Campbell said. 

Lanning touches on turnaround

Early on in the season, Joel Lanning was a young guy. Not young in the sense of age, but in the sense that he is playing a new position during his redshirt senior season. Part of that change came with realities. There was no way an Iowa State team could dominate early on, but then the reality of their talent kicked in after that Iowa loss. 

“We knew with a young defense and a lot of guys, Joel even being a young guy playing [linebacker] for the first time, that we had to be really simple early in the season,” Campbell said. 

A lot of the credit isn’t even due to Campbell, the second-year coach admitted. Rather, it is largely because of the defensive coaching staff. The likes of Tyson Veidt, Eli Rasheed, D.K. McDonald and Jon Heacock are the ones that have truly turned the defense around. 

If the Iowa game served as a time in which the defense knew a change was needed, then the Akron game was the game where that change was obvious. It also helped that Heacock brought a new level of intensity to the pregame meetings. 

“I just remember sitting in the meeting room at the hotel and coach Heacock was fired up at seven o’clock in the morning right before we were heading to Akron,” Lanning said. “We had a great week of preparation and ever since then we’ve just kind of been rolling.”

Heacock’s message was read loud and clear and the defense delivered. From then on, only one loss has been added to the Cyclones’ record and a first place standing in the Big 12 has been accomplished. But with four games still remaining, that means nothing to a team that has finally reached success. 

“We’re just playing more of a team football,” Lanning said. “Everyone’s gotten away from ‘oh I gotta be the hero to make every single tackle or I’ve got to make every single interception.’

“Everyone bought into the coach Heacock saying and everyone do their one-eleventh and play 11 as one and that’s literally what we live by right now.”