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Defense standing tall for the Cyclones
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Defense standing tall for the Cyclones

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Baylor Iowa St Football

Iowa State defensive end Enyi Uwazurike said after the Cyclones' 27-17 loss to Iowa that the defense, while good, can be even better.

AMES — Iowa State’s defense has been as good as it was expected to be before the season.

The Cyclones are allowing just 2.7 yards per play, which ranks second nationally.

“Their challenge is continuing to rise in my opinion,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.

For as good as Iowa State’s defense has been, and it’s been great, there are still areas for it to improve.

While it allowed just 23 total yards against Iowa in the second half of a 27-17 loss on Saturday, the defense never got a turnover to swing momentum and flip field position.

“Even though we’ve had great moments of defensive football, and we’ve had a lot of those moments, but there are other moments where we’ve missed,” Campbell said. “We haven’t gotten the big turnover, yet, we missed a stop on third and long. There are still areas that coach Heacock and our defensive players would say that they have to be better at.”

Defensive lineman Enyi Uwazurike was the first to bring up the lack of key turnover to Campbell after the Iowa loss.

“Even after the game and meeting with the seniors on Sunday, Enyi is the first guy saying, ‘I have to be better, we have to get the ball turned over and we have to help the offense so they’re not starting inside the 10-yard line,’” Campbell said.

That kind of leadership is why Campbell has confidence that Iowa State’s defense, for as good as it’s been, has room to grow even more.

“That group, even as the game was waning, people were leaving the stadium and yet we’re still in the football game because of the defense,” Campbell said. “Doubt is starting to creep in, but that defense continued to fight and give us a chance to be in the football game. That’s who we’ve been here.

“Whatever the result is and whatever the scoreboard says, that’s what we have to live with, but the how we do what we do is the staple of what’s allowed us to be successful. That to me, is the most impressive thing I’ve seen through two football games. Their standard to just play the next play — good, bad or indifferent. It hasn’t been perfect, but they play and they don’t look at the scoreboard until the game ends.”

Breece Hall bounce back?

Running back Breece Hall hasn’t been playing up to the standard he expects from himself. He’s averaged just 3.5 yards per carry through two games.

Against Iowa, the junior fumbled the ball in the third quarter, which was returned for a touchdown. After that play, Hall ran with noticeably more purpose and averaged 6.75 yards per rush — much more in line with his career numbers.

“I hope he was running with more purpose,” Campbell said. “What a critical error in the game. When you’re an A player, you need to play A football. There has to be a sense of urgency to play that way. Breece is also a byproduct of the fact that the other 10 players have to do their job.

“But taking care of the football is singular. That’s your responsibility. From that standpoint, he’s disappointed. Nobody wants to make mistakes. Breece is a perfectionist and he knows what he wants to be and become. But I saw a sense of urgency and a demeanor about him in terms of how he responded to the fumble. Hopefully that same sense of urgency continues, not only for him, but for our entire football team.”

Injury report

Receiver Sean Shaw hasn’t played in a game yet this season and linebacker O’Rien Vance missed the Iowa game.

Shaw went through pre-game warmups but didn’t participate while Vance was in street clothes.

“I would tell you that Sean probably has gone from doubtful to day-to-day right now,” Campbell said. “I’m probably highly optimistic that there’s a chance he plays in the football game and I think we feel the same way right now about O’Rien Vance.

“I think that was one of the bright spots on Sunday. Our injury report of where we’re at and where we’re going into this part of the game was a lot better than I thought we would be at this point of the season, so I think that’s a huge positive.”

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