Kansas State 30 Iowa State 23
To those 47,392 fans who braved the cold and rainy weather and even waited through the 90 minute lightning delay, were treated to a really great football game. I think in seasons past, this game would have gotten out of hand in a hurry, not in the Cyclones favor, but this team is different. This team does not give up. This team steps up and plays against some of the best teams in the land.
Coach Rhoads is a very special coach and we are so lucky to have him. These players reflect Coach Rhoads mindset and they play for him. They love him as a coach and they would die for him. It makes them a very good team even though they are very mediocre on paper.
This is a team that is fun to watch. Even when they lose the game is exciting. The game on Saturday was no exception. Coach Rhoads is not afraid to take risks and he does this because of his belief in his team. The team responds and converts these risky plays more than not because they know that their coach believes in them. It is a really neat circle that you do not see very much in college football and when you do, it is pretty special. I think we need to take a moment and acknowledge that.
In Saturday’s game against KSU, Coach decided to pull out all the stops. In the game, there was a flea-flicker that resulted in a TD pass, a fake punt that resulted in a first down to keep the crucial drive alive, and they went for it on 4th down on 4 different occasions that were converted twice. Because Coach Rhoads decided to believe in his team and take chances with them, the Cyclones nearly pulled off another great upset in this historic season.
I think that overall, the offense played much better than they did last week against Oklahoma. They did a lot of good things in this game. They started the game strong and were really moving the football well which has not been the trend lately. The offense moved the ball into KSU territory on all five of their first possessions of the game. On the first two drives, no points resulted, but on the third offensive drive, the Cyclones scored on a 30 yard flea-flicker pass from Barnett to Darks to go up in this game with 2:01 left in the first quarter. The catch was Dark’s 3rd Td catch of the season. It was a great trick play, that was called at the perfect time, and it was executed perfectly.
The 4th offensive drive was jam-packed full of action. It started with Aaron Horne returning the KO 41 yards. On the drive, Hollis had a 44 yd run to the 1 yd line. Jeff Woody scored on a 1 yd TD run and then the extra point was blocked. It was a big scoring drive, but we need to keep our extra points from being blocked. I thought that definitely took some of the momentum of the drive away.
At the end of the game, the offense was playing hard and refused to give up. The drive in which we tied the game on the long FG, they showed a lot of heart by continually going for it against big odds and they still found a way to keep the drive alive. On the last offensive possession, we still were moving down to score and send the game into overtime. We went for it on 4th down with a run to Jeff Woody and he fought with everything he had, but just came up short. On the play, I saw one of the more unusual plays I can remember. When Woody realized that he was not going to get the first down, he intentionally fumbled the ball with the hopes that ISU would recover and get a new set of downs to keep the drive alive. ISU almost did too, but it did not happen and that was it. Maybe they should have passed it on that 4th down play, but who knows. We showed great heart and we went down fighting and I could not be more proud of our team and the heart we play with.
Jared Barnett had another strong game in my opinion. Did he make mistakes at times, sure, but the way he directs our offense for only being a red shirt freshman, I couldn’t be more happy. Barnett was 15-27 passing for 153 yards. He had 1 TD and 1 INT. He also ran the ball 14 times for 23 yds. I did think that the KSU defense did a very good job of containing Barnett and keeping him from getting any long runs. This did take away from our offense a bit and I do think that hurt us a little bit on Saturday.
I thought that the offensive line played very solid on Saturday. They did a great job of getting off on the snap and pushing KSU’s defensive line back. We did a really good job of running the ball and that really helped us. We also did a good job of pass blocking in my opinion. We only gave up 2 sacks in the game which was pretty strong. This line has been very banged up this season and they have fought through it and still played very well overall. This line will no get an opportunity to heal up a bit. It will be interesting to see how the healthier line performs in the bowl game.
I thought that the RBs had one of their better games of the season. We ran the ball well on a day when it was vital that we be able to run it considering the weather. I thought that Jeff Woody played his best game as a Cyclone. He carried the ball 23 times for 86 yds. He also scored 2 rushing TDs in the game which was huge. These were all career highs for Jeff. In this game, I thought there was 2 MVPs in this game and Woody was one of them. Hollis stepped up and had 4 carries for 56 yards. I am really happy with how he has showed up the last few games at a time when we really needed him to. James White ran the ball 8 times for 23 yards. VanDerKamp also had 1 rush for 9 yards which was one of the biggest plays of the day.
The receivers played a solid game I thought. They made some big catches at times, but there were also times we had some big drops. I understand that the weather was not ideal for passing, but we still need to work on our consistency catching the ball. I did think that the WRs did do a good job of run blocking thought which was a huge boost for our offense. Reynolds had 4 catches for 56 yds, Gary had 3 catches for 30 yds, and Darks had 2 catches for 33 yds including the TD reception. West chipped in with 2 catches for 9 yds and Josh Lentz came off his injury for 1 reception for 11 yds.
I thought that at times, the defense just played outstanding. There were other times in the game when we let the KSU offense move down the field and score, which really cost us in this game.
I will start with the bad. After we scored on the flea-flicker TD pass to go up in the game, we let KSU off the hook immediately by letting them score on a 68 yd TD pass from Klein to Thompson to get right back in the game. As the underdog, when we get a chance to get ahead and put the pressure on KSU, it is important that we don’t give up a big play to let them get momentum back. We did this on this play and we need to stop those types of big plays. Our defense also let up a bit right at the end of the half by letting KSU go on two long scoring drives to get the lead going into halftime. We clearly had the momentum up to this point and really let them off the hook by allowing KSU to go into halftime with the lead. Also, right at the end of the game, when our offense fought hard and tied the score on the FG, our defense allowed KSU to come back and score on a 26 yd TD run with 3:29 left in the game which ended up being the winning TD. As a defense, we need to make it harder for their offense to score. We need to not allow big plays and this play was as big as they come for KSU. The defense really let the team down on this one.
Now for the good. The defense came out ready to play and in the first quarter we almost completely took KSU out of the game. They were not able to do anything on offense and that was huge. In the beginning of the 4th quarter, we had a great goaline stand. We stopped the KSU offense on 3 consecutive plays when they had the ball at the 2 yd line. We held them to a FG and this was huge at this point of the game. It really kept our team in it and didn’t allow KSU to pull to a comfortable lead. We had 4 sacks on one of the better QBs in the conference and that pressure was huge in limiting him. Klein had 158 yds passing on the day, but you take away the 68 yd TD pass we allowed, we really limited his throwing capabilities. Another big focus going into the game for the defense was limiting Klein from running all over the filed on us and I would say that for the most part, we did a very good job of that. Klein did rush the ball 23 times, but for only 86 yds, which is not too bad considering what he has done to some of the other teams in the conference.
I thought our DL played one of their better games of the season. They were fighting hard to plug up the KSU running lanes and they got some serious pressure on Klein with their pass rush throughout the game. Ruempolhamer had 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL. I think overall, he played his best game as a Cyclone. Patrick Neal had 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL and played an outstanding game. Jake Lattimer had 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL and was a force on the outside rush. Jake McDonough had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL and just played outstanding. I can’t remember a game where all of the QB sacks (4 sacks) were from only defensive lineman. It just shows the level of improvement this group has shown this season.
I thought the LBs played solid as usual. AJ Klein and Jake Knott played very solid games, but did not have near as many tackles as they usually do, but I think that is due to the fact that our DL was playing very well and making a bunch of tackles. It was kind of nice to not have to rely on these two LBs to make all the tackles. I thought that Tau’fo’ou played one of the better games he has played. Matt had 7 tackles and 1.5 TFLs. He really stepped up and played well.
I thought the DBs had another outstanding game. Washington had 8 tackles and really stepped up and played well. Reeves had two spectacular one on one break ups on two consecutive long pass plays that probably would have been TD catches if he had not stepped up and swatted the ball away. Just two fantastic plays. He stood up and made the plays he had to when they needed to be made. Leonard Johnson again stepped up and played really tough cover defense. He is just outstanding at doing that. At times we had some broken assignments that allowed KSU to have some big passing plays. We need to continue to correct those so they don’t happen and it does not cost us.
Special Teams A-
I thought that the special teams stepped up big time in a game that we really needed them to make a difference. VanDerKamp had a career day. He had 3 punts for a 44.3 yd average on a day when the wind and weather was definitely a big factor. The field position he gave us was huge. In one of the biggest plays of the day, Coach Rhoads decided to run a fake punt on 4th and 8. Kirby got the ball and made an amazing, gutsy, 9 yd run to get the first down. It was huge. I felt that he was the other MVP for the day.
Our KO and punt cover teams did another great job of covering and didn’t allow any big KSU returns in this game. Both of these teams have been outstanding all season and I think that a lot of times they don’t get the credit they deserve. Not allowing opposing teams to get great starting position through big returns is huge and it has not been an issue all season. That kind of steady outstanding performance has taken a lot of heat off our defense this season.
Zach Guyer was great. He was 2 for 3 on extra points and to be honest, I did not think that the blocked extra point was his fault. The clutch 43 yd FG he made in the 4th quarter was huge. One of the biggest kicks of his career. Despite his struggles at different points this season, he stepped up big on this day. You may not have realized this, but Zach is now 4-4 on FG of longer than 40 yds in his career.
Aaron Horne did an excellent job returning kicks. He had 7 KO returns for 174 yds and a 24.9 yd average. The highlight was a 41 yd return in the first quarter. Aaron had a big part in the game by giving us really good field position in this game.
This was one of the more entertaining games I have seen this season. We played hard, played with great heart, and stepped up and made big plays when we needed to. Despite all that, it just was not enough on this day. Understand that KSU is one of the better teams in the country and we don’t need to hold our heads to anyone. One thing we have learned this season is that we can play with anyone in the country if we make plays and don’t make mistakes. This team has improved sooooo much this season. Even though we ended the regular season at 6-6 (3-6 Big 12), I think this is the best team we have had in the past decade. There really is not a game on the schedule anymore that you can say we don’t have a shot at winning. It has been a very long time since we have been able to say that. I am so excited that we have the opportunity to go to a bowl game and am really excited about the future of this program. I am also very excited that I get to see this team play one more time. This is a very special team that will be remembered for decades to come in ISU football history and I feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to see them every step of the way. As always, it is great to be a Cyclone!
Yankee Stadium New York, NY
12/30/11 2:30 pm (CST) ESPN
To be honest, I have not really had a chance to look at Rutgers at all this season. ISU has never played Rutgers before in football. I am planning on taking a better look at the team and having a future blog that previews Rutgers and what we need to do to be successful. Please stay tuned for that.