ISU 17 Missouri 52
Iowa state traveled to Missouri on Sat. and was greeted by a homecoming crowd of 71,004. They were not very friendly to the Cyclones to say the least. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that because I am such a die-hard Cyclone fan, that I am going to try to put some glorious unrealistic positive spin on this game, right? Wrong. Here are some of my thoughts on the game and I guarantee this will be as honest of an assessment that you will ever get from a Cyclone fan.
Before I get into any of the details of this game, I am going to summarize the problems the Cyclones have experienced this season in 2 words…line play. Maybe being a former defensive and offensive lineman for the Clones, I am extra sensitive to this, but I feel that what makes me really educated on this particular point. I will not use specific names in this because lines function as a group and I feel that they should be judged as a group. You are only as strong as your weakest link.
Let me start with the defensive line. Plain and simple, you have to disrupt the opponents offense by pushing their offensive line back and making them react on their side of the line of scrimmage. It is a defensive lineman’s job to take up 2 blockers. If their offense is not double-teaming you, you better be getting some penetration and disrupting things. Take up space and don’t let the offensive lineman get off and block the LBs. We have a group of really tough LBs and I am very impressed with how hard they fight. Can you imagine what they could do to the opposing QB and RBs if the fatties from the other team were not blowing them up every play? Teams would not be able to run the ball at all on us. The other big job of the defensive lineman is to put pressure on the quarterback on passes. Don’t give the QB time to read all the way down to his 4th and sometimes fifth reads. Make him uncomfortable. If you are being double-teamed, fine, you are doing your job, but if someone is being double-teamed, simple math tells you that someone is not being blocked. It is your job to get to the QB and make him hurt. It is an attitude and you have to find a way to get it done. I understand that we lag behind other Big 12 schools in both size, athleticism, and overall talent on our offensive line, but you can make up for that with heart. If our line can’t find the heart to get it done, then we need to find some players who can. I know this sounds harsh, but that is the reality and until we find lineman who can do this, we will always struggle to slow down these high-powered Big 12 offenses.
Now to the side I know best of all. The offensive line. It is pretty simple. You have to win your one on one battle more times than you lose it. On run plays you have to knock their DL back and tie up the linebackers and if a silly DB decides he want to blitz, you make him regret it. You hit him so hard that his unborn children hurt. By pushing their defense back, you have gained 2 or 3 yards on offense before the RB even gets the ball. You don’t settle for covering up the guy you are blocking and prevent him from making a tackle, you have the mindset that when the whistle blows he is laying flat on his back. Anything less is not good enough. On pass plays, you keep everything in front of you and you NEVER let a guy you are blocking touch your QB. They are trying to hurt him and you have to prevent it. When they run line stunts you pass your guy off to the man beside you knowing he has him and you pick up the guy who comes into your gap. Don’t get me wrong, we have a very athletic OL and they have plenty of size, but in my opinion, until they develop the mentality that they want to destroy the guys across from them on every play, it is just a waste of talent. We have a QB who is capable of doing great things, we just have to give him the time to do those things so he is not hurried. You signed up at Iowa State to play against the best in the country, well guess what? You are. No step up and act like you belong in the same area that they do.
Whew! Sorry, got a little carried away there. Felt good though.
This was by far the worst we have played on offense so far this season. On our opening drive Jantz fumbled the ball on our 38 yard line and Missouri picked up the fumble and returned it for a TD. That is the second game in a row that Jantz has fumbled and it was returned for a TD. There is no excuse for that. It is disgusting. Jantz ended up causing two turnovers in this game through fumbles he had. No excuses. This can’t continue to happen. If it does you have to remove him. I don’t care if you replace him with Mary Poppins, but it is not fair to the other players on the team to leave him in there. Coach Rhoads knows this and he is struggling with this right now. If it is a RB, you pull him and put in the next RB. Well, it isn’t that simple with the QB. I think if we had a more capable backup, Jantz would be on the sidelines right now. All I got to say is that I hope Steele has a great week of practice and that he does not fumble against A&M.
This brings up a glaring problem with our offense this season. We are terrible in the first quarter. On the season so far we have scored only 10 points and have allowed our opponents to score 54 points. Hard to win games when you have to play catch up. Against Missouri, they outscored us 21-3 in the first quarter. We have also been outscored in the second and third quarters by our opponents this fall, but the gap is not nearly as glaring. The 4th quarter is actually our strong point. We are outscoring our opponents 54-45 in the 4th quarter. This tells me that if we could just be close score-wise going into the last quarter, we have a very strong shot at winning the game. This was proven true in our 3 wins at the beginning of the year. Somehow, we have to find a way to start games strong or we don’t stand a chance.
Jantz was 17-32 passing for 161 yards and threw for no touchdowns. On a positive note, Steele did not throw any interceptions this week so that was a positive. He rushed for 50 yards which was OK, but his two fumbles were…well I already talked about that…no, it was horse shit!
Our offensive line gave up 3 sacks, which we know from my previous comments, is never acceptable. Steele is getting treated like a red-headed stepchild by Big 12 defenses and the guys who are supposed to have his back, the OL, are the ones letting him get beaten up. Very frustrating. 186 yards passing is just not enough, especially considering how many times we threw the ball. Our receivers had a very average game at best. No big plays. Reynolds has been outstanding this season and we only threw to him for only 2 completions for 34 yards…Really? That just does not make sense to me. Darks had 45 yards receiving and Josh Lentz had only 22 yards. The receivers need to step up.
Running the ball, we were very ineffective. We only had 157 yards rushing. Not enough. If we don’t do a better job of running the ball, it forces us to pass and that is when the defense lays their ears back and tees off on Jantz and one of these times we are going to lose him for the season. James White rushed for 77 yards, which honesty, is not enough.
After Jantz was benched, Barnett came in at QB and threw an interception on his very first career pass on the very first play. I love Coach Herman and I think he is an offensive genius, but he really dropped the ball on this one. You never have a QB who has never played in a college game throw a pass on the first play. At least call one running play first so the guy can get a feel for it. On Barnett’s first two college plays, he tripped on a QB knell down in the Connecticut game and an interception in this game. Not a good start. Barnett did stick with it and was able to move the offense on his next series that led to a 13 yard TD run by Jeff Woody so at least improvement was shown. Overall, the offense was bad, bad, bad.
To be honest, our defense started the year very strong, but we have been really bad the last two games. We gave up 294 rushing yard to Missouri and as a defensive unit, we have given up 689 yards rushing in the last 2 games. You are not going to win many games doing that. We allowed their RB (Josey) to gain 129 yards. That is too many.
We made their first year QB Franklin look very good. Franklin was 20-28 and threw for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. Franklin was also running wild on our defense gaining 84 yards on the ground. He single-handedly tore apart our defense.
Our defense opened in a 3-2-6 defense, which we ran very affectively in Ames against the Tigers last season, but this time it did not work. They came out and ran the ball right down our throats on the 8 play 50 yards opening drive. It was capped off by a 1 yard TD run by the QB Franklin. That is a tough way to start the game.
We had no sacks on defense and never got any pressure on Franklin. He had all day to make decisions. I do not need to go back into that right now.
The one bright spot of the afternoon was the play of LB AJ Klein. He had an outstanding game with 12 tackles. A highlight of the afternoon was when AJ intercepted a Franklin pass and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown. He now had 3 interception returns for a TD which ties him for the all time Cyclone record with Bret Curvey. I would definitely name him the MVP of this game.
WAshington chipped in with 10 tackles and Leonard Johnson had 8. Jake Knott was battling with arm pain and was only able to get 4 tackles. He is playing through a lot of pain right now and that is very admirable.
Again, the overall theme of bad, bad, bad seems to fit here.
Special Teams B
This was definitely our best phase last Saturday. They showed definite improvement over the previous game against Baylor.
VanDerKamp had 6 punts for a 40.8 yard average which, to be honest, is very average for what he is capable of. At least he is getting plenty of practice punting the ball this season.
On kick off returns, Jarvis West had a very good day returning 7 kicks for an average of 26.3 yards with the highlight being a 51 yard return. Josh Lentz chipped in with one 22 yard return.
Zach Guyer made his only FG attempt of the day from 26 yards which in of itself should be a given, but considering our history this season with FGs, it is definite improvement. We also made all our extra point attempts, which is an improvement. I never thought I would ever say that. lol
Grant Mahoney did have a good day kicking the ball off with 4 kicks for an average of 62 yards. We played better on special teams, but we need to continue to improve and make big plays, especially if our offense and defense continue to play the way they have.
I think I have said about everything that needs to be said and I never want to be accused of beating dead horses. Bad performance. To be honest, I am surprised we did not get beat by more points. Now we have to forget it and move past it. Work hard this week to improve and change it. I do want to implore the ISU fans not to give up on the season already. We are only half way done. We still have 6 and hopefully, 7 games to go. They can still have a successful season.
Texas A&M at ISU 2:30 pm kickoff
It is our homecoming game and should be a great fall day. This will be the last time that Texas A&M comes to Ames as a member of the Big 12 and I for one would like to send them home in style. A&M is a team that has been real up and down this season. They played very well against Baylor last week destroying them in College Station, 55-28. There are other games that they looked very beatable. On offense, they are averaging 493.4 yards a game which is 12th nationally, so our defense needs to play really tough. There defense is another story. They are giving up 424.4 yards/game which ranks them 99th nationally. This gives our offense a chance to really step up and show that we can move the ball and score effectively. The player to watch out for is RB Cyrus Gray. He is having a fine season.
I am very hopeful for this Saturday and I am confident that we can come out, play tough and win the game. Just do me one favor Cyclones, start better in the 1st quarter. Go Clones!