Matt Campbell believes Saturday’s football game against Iowa presents his Iowa State football team with an opportunity beyond the chance to add to its win total.
The Cyclones coach sees the 3 p.m. game at Jack Trice Stadium as a chance for his team to move the ISU program forward.
“It’s an opportunity for us to take another step in the right direction,’’ Campbell said Monday during the weekly Big 12 teleconference.
The Cy-Hawk match-up will be the fourth Campbell has coached in and while Iowa State has lost its last four games in the instate series – including a 44-41 overtime game the last time the teams met at Jack Trice Stadium – Campbell has an understanding of the significance of the rivalry throughout the state.
“I think this is obviously of great importance because of the history of the game and the series,’’ Campbell said. “It’s a rivalry game and it is meaningful to this state and this institution.’’
Campbell, whose team lost 13-3 at Iowa last season, said success against the Hawkeyes would allow ISU to continue to build off of the growth it has had in winning eight games and reaching bowl games the past two seasons.
He was also quick to point it out it remains one of 12 guaranteed opportunities to take the field.
“It’s important because it’s the next game, the next challenge in determining who we are and what we are,’’ Campbell said. “That said, there is certainly a great importance and great tradition to this game.’’
With Iowa off to a 2-0 start and ranked 19th in this week’s Associated Press college football poll and Iowa State at 1-0 and filling the first position outside of the AP Top 25, this year’s Cy-Hawk game is attracting more than local interest.
Campbell said he will work this week to make certain his team’s focus remains on its opponent and not on potential distractions, including the first-ever staging of ESPN’s College GameDay just outside the gates of Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday morning.
“It’s great for our state, great for both programs,’’ Campbell said. “The big thing for us is you have to communicate about those things. Sometimes with environments like this, you can so easily get lost in the hoopla up to the game and miss the game.’’
He said he considers that “a great challenge for our team, especially for our program where we really haven’t been in a lot of these situations.’’
Campbell said during the teleconference two Cyclones injured during ISU’s season-opening triple-overtime win over Northern Iowa are nearing a return. Running back Kene Nwangwu, who suffered a shoulder injury, will likely be available for the game against Iowa after returning to practice late last week while starting center Colin Newell remains questionable because of a knee injury.