May 27, 2024

Matt Campbell demanding better protection from big boys up front

Iowa State Cyclones Football, Texas Longhorns Football

Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht is sacked by Texas defensive lineman Alfred Collins during the third quarter Saturday November 18, 2023 at Jack Trice Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

AMES, Ia. — There’s no denying that Texas’ defense exposed some weaknesses along Iowa State’s offensive line, and now Coach Matt Campbell is determined to fix the issues.

After all, his offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford posted a derogatory tweet about the Longhorns earlier in the week, which put the entire unit on blast. So Campbell knew his squad was going to get Texas’ best. The Longhorns’ defensive line looked massive compared to the Cyclones’ offensive line, and they used their size to their advantage.

The first half was a defensive slugfest, and neither scored a touchdown. The Cyclones were unable to get in a rhythm on offense, due to Texas’ brick wall up front. Defensive tackles T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy were very disruptive, and clogged holes throughout the evening. In return linebackers Jaylan Ford and David Gbenda went unblocked and were able to make plays. Which is the main reason why the Cyclones were limited to a season-low nine rushing yards.

“I think the flow of the game in the second half a little bit probably makes them unique in its’ own way,” Campbell said. “They are really good, they’re big and physical on the defensive line obviously, in their front seven are outstanding.”

Quarterback Rocco Becht was sacked three times, and harrassed on nearly every passing play. Campbell made adjustments at halftime, and attacked Texas a different way. The Cyclones were able to have some success too. Becht led the offense on a seven-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. He later connected with tight end Easton Dean for a 66-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, which required efficient protection.

Still, Campbell was frustrated that the offense failed to execute when it mattered the most. Iowa State (6-5) had an PAT blocked and returned for a score. The Cyclones got mauled at the line of scrimmage, and there was constant penetration in the backfield by the Longhorn defenders.

Campbell tried screens, and jet sweeps to throw Texas’ defense off balance. It took some of the pressure off Becht, but nothing really worked enough. It didn’t help that the Cyclones fell behind by double-digits. That basically forced Campbell to abandon the run, and alter his game plan.

“We knew coming that coming into the football game, you would have liked to have been in the situation the pace where you’re playing ahead a little bit because I think there were some things that maybe we would have had at our disposal,” he said.

The clock wasn’t on Iowa State’s side either. The Longhorn defenders were able to pin their ears back and knew Becht had to throw the ball to rally the Cyclones back. Regardless, the big boys up didn’t create no holes to run through. Texas attacked from all angles too. Iowa State had poor hand placement, and couldn’t seal the edge. Campbell was glad his team kept battling back and never gave up, but they couldn’t deliver in the clutch.

“You’re kind of playing behind the chains most of the game, and never put yourself in an advantageous situation in the run game, but certainly credit to them,” the 43-year old coach said. “They are big, physical, and really good on defense.”

Now Iowa State has to close out the regular season at Kansas State. Campbell will conduct some intense practices leading up to the clash under the lights at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Cyclones’ offense showed him enough bright spots to build on this week. At the end of the day, Texas was a great measuring stick for Iowa State, and now Campbell is determined to improve the areas where his offense struggled.

“We felt really confident because we started to gain some confidence on offense, but then we just never played at our best.”