Matt Campbell is not the guy we thought he was. Matt Campbell is not the second coming of Bill Snyder, he is not the next big thing in the coaching universe.
Since 2017 when we saw the Iowa State Cyclones go into Norman, and beat Oklahoma, then win at home against a top 5 TCU team, we have continued to say, “Man next year will be the year Iowa State finally breaks through”. Then we sit back and watch as Iowa State shows tremendous promise and does not live up to their potential. We watched Iowa State find ways to lose the Cy-Hawk game, despite being the better team in the game the last two seasons. We saw Iowa State go to overtime with Northern Iowa, who didn’t even score an offensive touchdown against them in regulation. How does Iowa State beat Texas, and then lose to Kansas State? In 2017, you beat Oklahoma and TCU, but you lose to West Virginia?
Admittedly, the fact that we are even having this conversation today is proof that Campbell has done a lot of good things in Ames. Let’s be honest, had this year’s upset loss to Louisiana happened in 2016, it would not have even been worthy of discussion. Nobody outside of Cyclone Nation would have cared. Iowa State was a doormat, they were barely better than Kansas. However, that was then, and this is now.
The Cyclones are getting better recruits than they ever have, they have an absolute beast in the backfield in Breece Hall, and a possible first round NFL Draft pick at quarterback in Brock Purdy. Charlie Kolar, who is slated to be TE1 in the 2021 NFL Draft class did not play, but save me that excuse … this was a Sun Belt team!
How does a Group of 5 opponent, who only played man-to-man coverage against a projected first round NFL Draft QB, have tremendous success, especially when all of Iowa States receivers are 6’3 or taller? The answer is that simply shouldn’t happen. Iowa State was completely unprepared to play the game, Brock Purdy did not even complete 50% of his passes and his receivers did not help him with their drops.
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Also, the coaching staff didn’t help Purdy either. The Cyclones need to lean on Breece Hall more, as the guy could’ve carried the rock 10 more times. The Ragin Cajuns weren’t stopping him.
Plus, can we please talk about the fact that Matt Campbell doesn’t have an official special teams coordinator listed on his roster? You know, a special teams unit that’s been abysmal for multiple seasons. But if we only looked at Saturday alone, this unit gave up the lead Iowa State had for much of the game because of not bothering to cover kicks and punts.
Speaking of punts, remember that one time when Iowa State had two punt returners run into each other and create a fumble losing them the game to Iowa in 2019? Or in 2017, when Iowa State ended up beating TCU, but the game being in doubt until the very end because the Cyclones gave up a kick return touchdown? Iowa State’s kicker, Conner Assalley, though improved from last year, has struggled kicking field goals beyond 30 yards in his career.
Matt Campbell has proven he is a good coach, he has a great mind for football, he’s young and he has plenty of potential. However, there is a reason those rumors to major programs have stopped. The college football world is seeing firsthand what Matt Campbell teams do. They show up only when the games are big, but overlook opponents they should beat. They also, appear to struggle against their peers in Iowa City, where the expectations of both programs right now are similar. When Matt is not playing David to a Goliath, what has he done? But the bigger question now is what will he do? Can Matt Campbell lead the Cyclones over the hump? Will we always have to hear about “next year”?
The time is now for the Cyclones to prove their opener was a fluke. The Cyclones will need to go into Fort Worth in 10 days and put on a show. No more excuses in Ames. Win or don’t.
If the time isn’t now with Brock Purdy, when will it be? Is Matt Campbell what we thought? Or have we let them off him off the hook?
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