MEMPHIS – Iowa State football doesn’t need a turnover chain.
Coach Matt Campbell preaches turnovers and turnover margin to his team until it’s ingrained into it.
The Cyclones lead the Big 12 in turnover margin at +11 and Memphis is second in the American Athletic Conference with a +14 margin.
“The reality of turnovers is, we spent a lot of time on them,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “We spent the whole offseason, our kids have bought into it, and once you get a couple, you find out kids start believing in it and you get more turnovers by attempts and you see it happen in practice.
"It’s the old adage that you get what you emphasize, and we’ve emphasized the heck out of it. It’s obviously a tough challenge because [Memphis] is so good in the turnover margin – there numbers are incredible.”
Offensive coordinator Tom Manning said the defense’s emphasis on turnovers has helped the offense in taking care of the ball.
“The point of emphasis the defense has made on it has quite frankly really helped us on the offensive side in really being detailed in how we take care of the football,” Manning said. “When your defense has the ability to take the football away, it’s giving you another opportunity to advance the football, and not only play field position, but increase your opportunity to score.
“There have been many times throughout the season that we were able to change the momentum in the game because of defensive takeaways.”
Key pieces back and healthy
Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt and running back David Montgomery both missed games late in the season due to injury.
Both are back to 100 percent and ready to go.
“One thing as a quarterback, reps are very meaningful in practice, and there were times during the year, that it was difficult – being a first-time starter and some of your reps are being limited from a physical standpoint,” offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “That certainly makes things a little bit tougher. It’s certainly nice to have him back and ready to roll.”
Montgomery led Iowa State’s offense throughout the season, racking up 1,094 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“To be able to have David back and feeling good because I love David and I want him to feel really good,” Manning said. “I think he’s a guy that has a tremendous effect on our players because of the way that he works, the way that he cares about his teammates, the way that he cares about his coaches. He’s a phenomenal guy to have back and ready to roll. From the football side of it, he all believe David’s a guy that can make plays, and he’s proven that. It’s all positive to have him back.”
Iowa State is ready to go
Teams can start out rusty in bowl games, racking up penalties and mistakes in the opening minutes.
Manning said he believes his team is ready. But he’s also a little bit paranoid.
“No matter who we’re playing, when we’re playing, I always think we’re going to get beat by 400. I’m being honest with you,” Manning said. “What I can tell you is our kids have worked extremely hard and I think bowl practice is something you go through that’s tricky because it is a very long amount of time from the last time you played to this time you played.
“There’s a lot of objectives you have to go through, obviously you want to help your young guys develop and grow into your football program and use them to be advantageous down the road. At the same time, you have to do a great job of preparing for your opponent and making sure you’re sharpening yourself and giving yourself the best opportunity to win the game.”