Iowa State looks to hit its stride against Louisiana-Monroe

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              Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar catches a pass between Iowa defenders Djimon Colbert, left, and Jack Koerner during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa won 18-17. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State has just one more chance to find its rhythm ahead of Big 12 play.

Louisiana-Monroe might not be the pushover that most Power Five teams are looking to play as they tune up for the conference season.

Iowa State, hamstrung by struggles on offense and on special teams, has yet to look like the team predicted to finish third in its conference. The Cyclones (1-1) are averaging a paltry 15 points per game in regulation and are minus-3 in turnovers through two games.

The Warhawks (1-1) enter Saturday’s game at Jack Trice Stadium with a senior quarterback in Caleb Evans, one of the nation’s better rushing attacks and the confidence that came from pushing Florida State to overtime Sept. 7 before losing 45-44. ULM also had a bye after that narrow loss, giving it an extra week to prepare for the Cyclones, who are 18 ½-point favorites.

“Probably the most, in terms of skill, the most talented team we’ve played,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “A team that can really run (and) defensively creates a lot of havoc.”

SCOUTING THE WARHAWKS

ULM’s attack is headlined by Evans (424 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 66.7%t completion rate) and junior running back Josh Johnson, who ranks fourth nationally with 149.5 yards rushing per game. The Warhawks also brought back eight starters on defense, although those players were part of a unit that let up 31.8 points a game in 2018. Florida State had little trouble moving the ball against ULM, compiling 501 yards and going 10 of 19 on third downs.

IOWA STATE’S STRUGGLES

The Cyclones have scored touchdowns just three times in seven trips to the red zone. They’ve also converted just 10 of 27 third downs despite averaging 440 yards of offense a game, and 16 of Iowa State’s 46 points came during the three overtimes it needed to beat Northern Iowa 29-26 in its opener.

“It’s those details, those little things that we’ve got to continue to shore up and pound away at if we want to be the best version of us we can be,” Campbell said.

CYCLONES D

Iowa State’s defense has been about as good as anyone in the country. The Cyclones, who confuse opponents with multiple looks from its base 3-4, are allowing just 15.5 points a game in regulation and have allowed just one TD in non-overtime play. That ties Georgia for second nationally, with only Wisconsin having yet to allow a TD in 2019.

“I’ve never seen, certainly in all my years of coaching, some of the things they do and how they do it,” ULM coach Tommy Viator said.

EXTRA POINTS

ULM is 0-11 against Big 12 opponents. That includes a 42-7 loss to Iowa State in 1980. …Iowa State’s Deshaunte Jones leads the country with 9 receptions a game. …Evans had 273 total yards and four TDs in that loss to the Seminoles. …Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy has completed at least 70 percent of his passes seven times in 11 games. …Iowa State’s last five games have been decided by a total of 13 points.

HE SAID IT

“We want to get this into the second half with a chance to win. That’s what Northern Iowa did.” — Viator.