Iowa State seeking strong finish after ugly 1-6 start
AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State's first season under coach Matt Campbell will end in a month.
How the Cyclones perform over the next four weeks could be a strong indicator of where they're headed.
Iowa State (1-6, 0-4 Big 12) will almost certainly finish with a losing record for the seventh year in a row. But the Cyclones still have a lot to play for over the next five games, even if that's mostly just playing time in 2017 and beyond.
Iowa State, which had a much-needed bye last weekend, hosts Kansas State (4-3, 2-2) on Saturday and No. 16 Oklahoma just five days later.
''Just stay the course, to be honest with you,'' Campbell said Monday when asked what he wanted to see from his team in its remaining games. ''We haven't talked about winning games since I've been here. We've talked about the process that it takes to be successful. And those are things that we have to master before anything else can happen.''
The Cyclones had the week off to get some rest and evaluate themselves after their first seven games under Campbell.
For a program in Iowa State's position, having some extra time for development was crucial.
The Cyclones have 13 freshmen listed on their depth chart, a number indicative of how early they are in their rebuilding effort.
Iowa State has found some youngsters who look like strong pieces for the future too.
Running backs David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu are already significant contributors. Wide receiver Deshaunte Jones has caught 15 passes with three TDs in his last five games and is second nationally among freshmen with 17.1 yards a catch.
''Especially as a freshman, as you first come in and now that you know that you're playing, and then you have class on top of that, it's a bit overwhelming at first,'' said wide receiver Allen Lazard. ''It's hard to grasp all that. So having that first bye week is very useful for the freshmen.''
Iowa State's bye also allowed two of its key players, wide receiver/returner Trever Ryen and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, to get closer to returning to full health.
The Cyclones need both of them to have the kind of closing stretch they're hoping for.
Ryen, who at one time this season was leading the nation in punt returns , first hurt his ankle in a 38-31 at Oklahoma State on Oct. 8 and re-injured it against Texas the following week. Cotton-Moya, who had been battling a shoulder injury, also used the time off to rest.
Both are listed as starters for Saturday's game.
''Needed is probably an understatement, just as far as health more than anything,'' Campbell said of the bye. ''We're not very deep. The guys that are playing are playing a lot of snaps for us.''
The Cyclones also needed a break mentally. After a string of agonizing losses, some time away from the game could help them capitalize on the improvement they made from August until now and gain some momentum for next season.
''I definitely needed it,'' quarterback Joel Lanning. ''It was just nice to relax. I hung out with my family a lot ... I enjoyed it.''