AMES — The third phase in football — special teams — is often overlooked and underappreciated.
On Saturday, Louisiana made Iowa State appreciate its special teams.
The Ragin’ Cajuns returned a kickoff and a punt for a punt for a touchdown and forced a fumble on an Iowa State punt return.
Louisiana handled No. 23 Iowa State 31-14 in the 2020 season opener.
“I don’t question their attitude or effort,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “That’s where you’ve got to look at all of us. From my standpoint, first and foremost, is, ‘Man, did we have them ready to play?’ It was the fundamentals like staying in your coverage lanes on the return game in terms of special teams, it was tackling and big plays in critical moments on defense and it was taking care of the football on offense.
“At Iowa State you’re going to have to win in the margins. And if you refuse to win in the margins, it’s really going to be hard for us to have success. Tough way to learn it.”
The loss drops coach Matt Campbell’s record in September to just 6-11 since he arrived at Iowa State in 2016. In the last three season openers, the Cyclones have scored just 14, 13 and three points in regulation, respectively.
“It hurts thinking about how we were sort of in this position last year,” Quarterback Brock Purdy said. “We started off the last season sluggish against UNI, and then obviously the loss against Iowa. I think for us, mentally we’ve been through this kind of thing. As much as it hurts to say, we’ve been through this.
“I know for a fact, none of the guys in our locker room are going to give up. We’re going to come back Monday, look ourselves in the mirror and see what we have to fix.”
Louisiana’s first touchdown was the kick return by Chris Smith.
Iowa State had just driven down the field for its first touchdown of the season. On the ensuing kickoff, Smith found a lane and torched the Iowa State coverage unit.
Then in the fourth quarter when Iowa State was struggling mightily to get anything going on offense, it was forced to punt. The punt was a low line drive which didn’t allow the coverage team to get down the field and Eric Garror found a seam and returned the punt for an 83-yard touchdown.
“I think special teams was huge and I think from a special teams standpoint, they had two opportunities to return the ball back for touchdowns,” Campbell said. “We were out of our coverage lanes and they have playmakers to make plays with it and so hats off to them. From my end of it, there’s no excuse. It’s something we’ve really worked on and we’ve got good specialists. We’ve got the ability to be good on special teams, but today, hats off to them because they made two big plays and were game changers.”
Purdy felt pressure to execute after the punt return for a touchdown. The Cyclone offense was shut down for most of the second half.
“In a way it added pressure,” Purdy said. “But I still think no matter what situation we’re in, we should have a neutral mindset of staying calm and staying poised and go out and score. But when things aren’t going your way, yeah you start thinking things like, ‘Ok, we have to score, we have this amount of time left to do it.’ But we’ve been in worse situations than we were in that fourth quarter today. I’m just disappointed in the way I performed.”
Purdy finished the game completing 16 of his 35 attempts for 145 yards and an interception.
Louisiana 31, Iowa State 14
Louisiana-Lafayette 0 10 7 14 — 31
Iowa St. 0 14 0 0 — 14
ISU — Nwangwu 1 run (Assalley kick), 4:28.
ULL — C.Smith 95 kickoff return (Snyder kick), 4:14.
ISU — Hall 11 run (Assalley kick), 1:17.
ULL — FG Snyder 30, :00.
ULL — LeBlanc 78 pass from Lewis (Almendares kick), 2:02.
ULL — Garror 83 punt return (Almendares kick), 13:58.
ULL — Ragas 2 run (Almendares kick), :10.
First downs 14 18
Rushes-yards 35-118 36-158
Passing 154 145
Comp-Att-Int 13-21-0 16-35-1
Return Yards 226 74
Punts-Avg. 5-42.0 5-43.2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 2-22 3-24
Time of Possession 27:42 32:18
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE — Ragas 14-49, E.Mitchell 8-46, C.Smith 8-25, Lewis 5-(minus 2).
IOWA STATE — Hall 20-103, Purdy 7-35, Nwangwu 7-21, Lang 2-(minus 1).
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE — Lewis 13-21-0-154.
IOWA STATE — Purdy 16-35-1-145.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE — LeBlanc 5-82, E.Mitchell 2-22, Jal.Williams 2-22, Pauley 1-16, Lacy 1-14, Eke 1-5, Fleming 1-(minus 7).
IOWA STATE — X.Hutchinson 4-43, Shaw 3-34, Milton 3-18, Hall 3-15, Ch.Allen 2-31, Nwangwu 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Louisiana-Lafayette, Snyder 27, Snyder 30.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE — McCaskill 4-6-10, Gardner 6-3-9, Moncrief 4-1-5, Wilson 3-1-4, Dillon 2-2-4, Pedescleaux 2-2-4, Garner 3-0-3, Butler 3-0-3, Trahan 1-2-3, Jones 1-2-3, Washington 2-0-2, Guidry 2-0-2, Landry 2-0-2, Quibodeaux 2-0-2, Humphrey 1-1-2, Solomon 1-1-2, Narcisse 1-1-2, Brooks 1-0-1, Skipper 1-0-1, Manac 1-0-1, Boudreaux 1-0-1, Johnson 1-0-1, Amoes 1-0-1, Holmes 0-1-1, Mensah 0-1-1.
IOWA STATE — White 4-2-6, Eisworth 4-2-6, Hummel 2-4-6, Rose 2-4-6, Vance 3-2-5, Ja. Bailey 2-3-5, Jo. Bailey 4-0-4, McDonald 3-1-4, Kyle 2-2-4, Azunna 1-2-3, Bankston 1-2-3, Johnson 0-3-3, Young 1-1-2, King 1-1-2, Uwazurike 1-1-2, Vaughn 0-2-2, Petersen 0-2-2, Akers 1-0-1, Walling 0-1-1, Miller 0-1-1.
Tackles for loss
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE — McCaskill 0.5-2, Gardner 1-6, Pedescleaux 2-6, Humphrey 0.5-1.