AMES — We probably should not be surprised at this point.
Iowa State played its season opener on Saturday. It was the fifth season opener of the Matt Campbell era at Iowa State — and for the fourth time in those five season openers, Iowa State fans leave the program’s first game with a sour taste in their mouths.
Louisiana 31, No. 23 Iowa State 14.
The offensive play-calling was conservative and baffling at times. The special teams were worse than terrible, allowing a pair of touchdowns on a first half kick return and a second half punt return that took the game from mildly annoying to red alert.
The one bright spot was an Iowa State defense that more or less dominated the first three and a half quarters of the football game, allowing only one touchdown on a 78-yard pass, and consistently owning the line of scrimmage, but it is not the defense’s job to score touchdowns.
That job falls on the shoulders of an Iowa State offense that looked completely inept after starting left guard Trevor Downing left the game with an injury in the second quarter. Sure, the Cyclones played the entire game without All-American tight end Charlie Kolar, but the absence of one, or two after Downing went out, probably still should not derail an offense many fans expected to be the best of the Campbell era.
Junior quarterback Brock Purdy was skittish from the opening snap, consistently throwing to covered receivers and sometimes into double and triple coverage, finishing the game 16-of-35 passing for 145 yards and an interception.
The run game more or less disappeared once Downing left the game, but sophomore running back Breece Hall finished with 103 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. The other Cyclone touchdown, the team’s first of the season, was scored by senior tailback Kene Nwangwu but was immediately followed up by the kick return score.
Something like this should not happen to a college football program with more than 15 returning starters, many of them at key positions. Last season’s triple-overtime game against Northern Iowa could be excused on some level due to the inexperience of the roster, but not this one.
This loss cannot come without blame all around as this did not look like a team prepared to line up against a football team projected to win its league during a shortened season due the COVID-19 pandemic, especially offensively.
Campbell, whose record falls to 6-11 in games played in August and September since arriving in Ames, will have some tough questions to answer during his post game press conference coming up shortly.
The reality is this game is not a blip on the radar. Iowa State has underperformed in all but one of its season openers since he took over the program — and this was perhaps the worst one of them all.
But, we probably should not be surprised at this point.