Football

WILLIAMS: The importance of a trustworthy punt team; weekly Big 12 picks

Sep 11, 2021; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell watches his team play the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium. The Hawkeyes won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

My daughter came home sick from school on Thursday and while in prime dad mode, I turned on Iowa State’s game at Texas from the 2020 season. 

I always reference that game as the epitome of what Iowa State Football under the leadership of Matt Campbell is supposed to look like. 

Patience: Iowa State got down 10-0 early only to maintain its composure and slowly chip away at the Longhorns.

Discipline: Zero turnovers for the good guys on that day while forcing one by the Longhorns. 

Complimentary football: Every phase of the game worked together. 

There was a key point in that game that constantly stands out to me when analyzing Campbell and the Cyclones. With 4:30 to play at their own 41 yard-line, Campbell sent his punt team on the field trailing the Longhorns 20-16 on 4th and 2. 

Twitter exploded. 

The media hated this decision. 

Fans despised it even more. 

Campbell was strategically choosing to trust his elite defense and as a result, hopefully, have better field position when the offense eventually got the ball back to go down and win the game. 

The stout Cyclone D forced a three and out. 

Iowa State got decent field position at the 30, marched right down the field and completed one of the most important wins in program history. 

There is a key aspect in that segment of events that often gets overlooked though. 

The punt from Joe Rivera. 

When Campbell surrendered the ball on 4th and 2, Rivera booted a respectable but not flashy 35-yard punt (or so) that had enough hang time to make it un-returnable.

However, if Campbell didn’t trust his punt team, perhaps he would have gone for it on 4th and 2. Maybe Iowa State would have gotten stuffed. Or, Iowa State converts, scores too fast and leaves too much time on the clock for the Longhorns. 

I don’t know. It’s all hypothetical. 

But the greater point here is that having a consistent punt team is crucial to playing the way that Iowa State wants to play. 

The Cyclones absolutely have to get this cleared up in the coming weeks.

Weekly Big 12 picks

Texas @ TCU — A tough game to handicap. The obvious lean is to roll with the Longhorns, who blew out Texas Tech last week. Texas’ loss this season came to Arkansas, who all of the sudden is in the top 10. Since switching to Casey Thompson at quarterback, he has completed over 80 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. However, TCU will be amped for this game for a handful of reasons (SEC, SEC, SEC). The Horned Frogs have won six of seven in the series and should be fully focused after losing to rival SMU last week. Texas 31, TCU 24

Oklahoma (-10.5) at Kansas State — A terrifying game for the Sooners, who have lost two in a row outright to the Wildcats. Kansas State is so one-dimensional though. Oklahoma has a top 30 rush defense at this point in the season and should be highly motivated after the last two years. I don’t think we will see an offensive explosion out of the struggling Sooners but this pick is more about the Wildcats’ offensive deficiencies. Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 13

Texas Tech at West Virginia (-7.5) — Neal Brown is a heck of a coach. Meanwhile, Texas Tech was no contest for Texas last week. Still, Matt Wells’ Red Raiders did put up 39 in the loss, so that’s somewhat encouraging. West Virginia has a top-three defensive front in the Big 12 though. How will the Mountaineers get off the deck after a heartbreaking loss in Norman last week? West Virginia 34, Texas Tech 24

Kansas at Iowa State (-34) — Feels a lot like the Vegas game, except this is at home and the Jayhawks are better than UNLV. Weather is a concern with rain in the forecast and could play as a smidge of an equalizer. Iowa State bounces back and feels good going into the bye week. Iowa State 45, Kansas 10 

Baylor at Oklahoma State (-3.5) — A prove-it game for Baylor, who upset our beloved Cyclones last week in Waco. My guess is that Jon Heacock exposed Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohannon in the second half last week. Iowa State and the Cowboys are very similar teams. I’m a fan of this Oklahoma State squad, who suffocated Kansas State last week. Oklahoma State 27, Baylor 17

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