AMES – Iowa State coach Matt Campbell loves week-two bye weeks.
This is his first time having a week-two bye at Iowa State, but it’s something he always had at Mount Union as a player and as a coach.
“That was something we were really fortunate to have,” Campbell said. “I know I’ve always said that the greatest growth you can have in a football team is after the first game, and I said that because going back to my Mount Union coaching days, that really happened.
“I think what’s great in our situation, we got a chance to play a game, then we get a chance to evaluate who we are. There are so many areas on this year’s football team that we’re still trying to figure out. That happens in a lot of seasons – you have guys and you think you know who you got, and you get out there and maybe it’s not what I thought, or maybe that is better than what I thought.”
Campbell can use the bye week similar to how an NFL team uses the preseason to evaluate what they have.
Iowa State narrowly beat Northern Iowa in triple overtime last Saturday, 29-26 and while it was a real game that counted, it can be used like a preseason game.
Now, Campbell and his staff can look at which running backs stood out beyond the stats – all three primary backs averaged 4.3 yards per rush. How can they get other receivers more involved – Deshaunte Jones was targeted 16 times and had 14 receptions for 126 yards? What do they have to do to clean up the pass protection – quarterback Brock Purdy was sacked twice, both on blown pass blocking assignments?
On the defensive side of the ball they can evaluate how Mike Rose did at outside linebacker and how O’Rien Vance did inside at middle linebacker. They can look at how Will McDonald was used as both an outside linebacker and a defensive end and see how they want to continue to use him.
“I really love the ability to have a bye week because to me it allows us to really sit, use this as an evaluation tool – almost as an extension of fall camp,” Campbell said. “Now, we really do a great job now going into the bye week of saying, ‘Who are we? How do we continue to develop the plan around both sides of the football and special teams and then see where we’re at?’ It’s huge for this team.
“We’ve got enough youth and enough veterans that there’s a lot of work to be done and we’re going to have to do a great job of worrying about Iowa State here over the next seven days.”
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Purdy’s main goal during the bye week is to iron out the offense and find the offense’s identity.
“It was great to face that kind of adversity and for an offense that we’re still trying to find our identity with coach (Tom) Manning calling everything,” Purdy said. “It was a good test for us.”
The bye week is also good for Iowa State because it gives injured players a chance to recover.
Safety Braxton Lewis missed the season opener due to injury, tight end Chase Allen played through a minor injury, running back Kene Nwangwu and center Colin Newell both went down with injuries.
Newell’s appeared to be the most serious at the time, but Campbell said it is just a knee sprain and Newell has a chance to be back for the Iowa game.
Campbell said the other injuries are relatively minor and the players should have full healthy by the Iowa game for the Louisiana-Monroe game.
If Newell isn’t able to go against Iowa, Campbell, Manning and offensive line coach Jeff Myers will have to figure out what they want to do with the line. Do they move Julian Good-Jones back to center and have someone replace Good-Jones at left tackle? Do they play sophomore Derek Schweiger, who was the one that came in for Newell?
No matter what they decide, Campbell’s used to making big changes to his team in the middle of the season.
“(The bye week) allows you to continue to adjust and make adjustments,” Campbell said. “The last two years, we made wholesale changes, schematically. It was offensively last year and defensively the year before. We’re always trying to fit our personnel and play the best players and fit the scheme around those players.”