AMES — When Iowa State coach Matt Campbell first got into the coaching business, he didn’t know much about Bill Snyder.
He was playing Division III football in Ohio, not paying attention to Big 12 football in Manhattan, Kansas.
Then Campbell went to a football coaching convention.
“I listened to him speak and I was so impressed,” Campbell said. “To be honest with you, as a Division III football player in Ohio, you didn’t know a whole lot about Kansas State. Then, all of the sudden, you get into the coaching profession, and you’re like, ‘Geez, you have such an admiration for what he’s doing and how he’s doing what he’s doing.’”
Now, Campbell wants to emulate what Snyder’s done for 24 years as the coach of Kansas State.
The two will meet in a clash of similar coaching philosophies Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., when Iowa State plays Kansas State at 2:30 p.m.
They aren’t similar in that they both want to run the score up, so don’t expect a shootout. They aren’t similar in that they both want to play grind-it-out, rough-and-tumble defense, so don’t expect a 3-0 slugfest.
They’re similar in that they want to play good, solid, fundamental football.
It sounds boring – it’s not.
“They’re a great team,” running back David Montgomery said. “Their coach is a great coach. He definitely preaches attitude, effort and detail — the same thing that Coach Campbell teaches, as well. I think the Kansas State team that we’re getting ready to face is a really good team.”
It’s not a flashy style and it doesn’t jump out to fans and spectators, but it works. Snyder took over a team that hadn’t won in 27 games before his arrival. When he got to Manhattan, Kansas State was the losingest team in the nation with 510 losses. He turned it around because of the culture he created.
Snyder’s all-time record is 208-110-1.
His record against Iowa State since 2009, when he took over as Kansas State’s coach, is 8-0. All of them were one-score games except the game in 2013 when the Wildcats won 41-7.
Fans attribute Kansas State’s success to Snyder being a wizard and using some sort of black magic.
But Iowa State linebacker Joel Lanning knows what the difference has been.
“We let our detail get away from us and they never get too high or too low — they’re the same team every single time. That’s why they win games,” Lanning said.
Detail is a word Campbell can’t seem to use enough.
“I think for us, and our kids, we played them a year ago and it was the same situation in a lot of ways — you really have to earn the right to beat a team like this,” Campbell said. “When we say winning in the margins and winning with detail, that’s how they’ve had great success there. I have a lot of respect for the opponent we play, and certainly Coach Snyder himself and what he’s been able to do.”
Not surprisingly, the details are where both teams excel. Iowa State (45) and Kansas State (61) are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big 12 in fewest penalties, respectively.
The Cyclones and Wildcats are No. 1 and No. 2 in turnover margin in the Big 12, respectively. Iowa State has the fewest turnovers lost with nine and Kansas State has the second-fewest with 12. On the other side, Kansas State has forced the second-most turnovers with 22 and Iowa State ranks fourth with 20.
The teams are tied for third in the Big 12 in opponent’s fourth-down conversions.
Iowa State and Kansas State are in the top-four of red-zone defense. Kansas State is at No. 2, allowing teams to score just 76 percent of the time. Iowa State is No. 4, allowing teams to score 80 percent of the time — both have given up just 22 touchdowns in the red zone.
“You talk about a culture program, they’re the best in the country,” Campbell said. “I think what Coach Snyder has done and what he’s been able to do there for the amount of time that he’s done it — the ability to sustain success in this profession is really hard. Here’s a guy that came to Kansas State and built a program. And he sustained the success.
“You know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a team that takes care of the football, that’s going to play really hard and that’s not going to beat themselves on defense. They’ve been able to win a lot of football games in this conference doing that.”