Iowa State riding perfect red zone efficiency into final pair of Big 12 games

AMES – Iowa State’s red zone efficiency in Big 12 play is a perfect 100 percent.

The Cyclones have made 24 trips to the red zone since the change in offensive approach that came after the loss to Ohio in September, and each drive that has ended inside an opponent’s 20-yard line has resulted in points.

It’s also a Jekyll-and-Hyde improvement from the team’s numbers a season ago.

Last year’s College Football Playoff teams each had impressive numbers in the category, with Georgia recording a 98.67 percent mark, Ohio State at 95.24 percent, Michigan at 91.55 percent and TCU at 87.23 percent.

To put it bluntly, good teams finish their drives with points — and last season, Iowa State saw its worst red zone efficiency rating since head coach Matt Campbell took over the program in 2016. The Cyclones converted on 67.5 percent of the trips to the red zone — one of the worst success rates in all of college football.

Iowa State’s red zone efficiency under Campbell
YearRZ effNat’l rankBig 12 rankRecord
202084.78%51st 5th9-3
202267.50% 129th10th4-8

This isn’t to say that a high percentage mark in the stat guarantees success. It doesn’t work like that.

But having a top mark in this area — which is something Campbell’s teams have typically been able to achieve, no matter the year — sets the team up for more opportunities for success.

Campbell attributes the positive shift to a few different things, including kicker Chase Contreraz, who has drilled 13 of his 14 field goal attempts in Big 12 play through the uprights.

“I think we’ve we’ve been really fortunate at the kicker position,” Campbell said. “I think that consistency that Chase has brought has really allowed us to score once we get in that red zone and have the confidence.”

Throw in redshirt freshman quarterback Rocco Becht‘s poise and efficiency, and it’s easy to see how Iowa State has shined in the red zone, as well.

“I certainly think you look at Rocco’s production down there,” Campbell said. “I think he’s done a really great job of taking care of the football in some of those areas. That’s probably been the biggest growth area, in my opinion, is our ability to take care of the ball and put ourselves in scoring positions.”

It goes without saying that an improved rushing attack has also helped that overall number — of Iowa State going 92.86 percent overall in red zone efficiency this year.

“And then, I do think as the running game has grown – the field shortens and you’ve got to be able to run the football in some of those areas,” Campbell said. “So I just think all those things have collectively helped us as we’ve grown as a football team.”

As his team prepares for Saturday’s senior night matchup with No. 7 Texas, the importance of converting on red zone chances cannot be overstated.

The Longhorns have struggled with their red zone offense, scoring points at just an 80.49 percent clip, which is ranked 87th in the country.

The Cyclons likely need a 100 percent mark in the red zone to keep their slim, but viable hopes of playing in the Big 12 title game intact. If they can do that, Saturday night’s game should remain interesting well into the fourth quarter.