AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State has some cleaning up to do if it wants to become the team it hoped to be back in August.
Iowa State (1-1) had a chance to field a punt and move within field-goal range with less than two minutes left in Saturday's 18-17 loss to Iowa. Instead, the ball bounced off Datrone Young and into the hands of the Hawkeyes for a game-clinching recovery.
Young's miscue was the lowlight of a trend in which Iowa State has made crucial mistakes in crucial moments. It's what allowed Northern Iowa to push the Cyclones into triple overtime in the opener and, ultimately, allowed Iowa to steal a win on the road.
"The detail and precision that it takes to play elite football — we've shown we've been able to do that. The consistency of being able to do that is what's critical for us to win," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell
Iowa State's defense has been strong as expected, and its offense has been able to move the ball pretty well considering the inexperience at certain spots.
The Cyclones simply haven't been able to finish drives or force turnovers.
Iowa State is a respectable 49th nationally in yards per play at 6.29. But the Cyclones, who have a turnover margin of 0-3 despite quarterback Brock Purdy not yet throwing a pick, are 97th in points per game at just 23.
Take away the 16 overtime points that Iowa State needed to beat the Panthers, and that number drops to 125th out of 130 FBS schools going into Saturday's home game against Louisiana-Monroe (1-1).
The talent is there for the Cyclones to score points in bunches like they did at times in 2018. But those little things — like picking up a delay of game penalty when Iowa State was set to go for it on a 4th-and-3 in Iowa territory last week — are killing drives and keeping the Cyclones from hitting their stride.
"Just like coach (Campbell) says. It's footwork and fundamentals," wide receiver Tarique Milton said. "We just have to pay more attention to our detail and what we're doing."
One positive that has emerged this month: A receiving corps that lost star Hakeem Butler to the NFL has found a way to make a difference.
Deshaunte Jones was the star receiver against Northern Iowa, catching 14 passes, and graduate transfer La'Michael Pettway caught two touchdown passes. Last week, Pettway registered his third touchdown of the year on a 51-yard double pass from Jones that confounded Iowa's secondary.
Milton, who caught 34 passes as a freshman a year ago, then broke free for his longest TD catch yet from 73 yards out. He finished with career highs of eight catches and 144 yards against the Hawkeyes.
"What I saw in fall camp, I really did feel like Tarique has an opportunity to have a big-time, breakout year," Campbell said. "Tarique, I thought, really made a jump between game one and game two."