Rutgers 27 ISU 13
Instead of doing the game recap I usually do by going through each phase of the game like I usually do, I have decided that I would give you 8 reasons why the Cyclones came up short in this game.
If I was going to sum up this game in three words, it would be Lack of Execution. The Cyclones inability to execute its game plan and their ability to stop Rutgers from executing their game plan just killed us in the game. Despite a season full of great moments and overachieving in many respects, we ended the year with a losing season at 6-7. Here were the reasons I felt we came up short against Rutgers.
Inability to run the ball.
ISU actually came out of the chute running the ball very well. On their first offensive drive, they had runs of 23, 8, and 10 yards. Also, when Steele Jantz entered the game, he immediately responded with 2 runs for 40 yards. Jeff Woody had a very nice TD run in the 4th quarter. Other than that, the running game was pretty non-existent. In games that we have played well in this season, it was games that we ran the ball effectively. That opens up our passing game and it also give our QBs more time to read the defense because the defense is less likely to blitz. Clearly, this was not the case in this game. I felt that in the second half, our offensive got away from trying to run the ball as much as we should have and that really hurt us as an offense. We ended up rushing the ball for only 91 yards. White rushed 9 times for 42 yards. Jantz rushed the ball 6 times for 36 yards. Woody rushed the ball 4 times for 21 yards. As a team we only had 29 rushing attempts for the game to 39 passing attempts.
Jared Barnett started the game very tentatively. On the first series on offense, we moved the ball down the filed and on 3rd and 5 Barnett threw a pass behind a wide open Josh Lenz. If Barnett had thrown the pass to Lenz in stride, he would have surely scored. Instead, we had to settle for a FG. On the 3rd series on offense, Barnett fumbled the ball on a sack play and Scott Vallone the DT from Rutgers scooped up the ball deep in our own territory. At this point, Barnett left the game being 2 for 7 passing the ball for 23 yds and no TDs. Barnett appeared to hurt his ankle on the fumble play, but I’m sure Barnett’s lack of playmaking ability led to him staying on the sidelines the rest of the afternoon.
Steele Jantz came in the game and immediately made two big plays running the ball for himself for 40 yds. He started great, but in the end he was mostly ineffective. Jantz ended the game going 15 for 31 throwing for 197 yds with 0 TDs and 2 INTs. The biggest reason Jantz has not been on the field is because of the high number of INTs he has thrown this season. Jantz did not do much to change this stigma on this day.
I understand that this is a team game, but the QB is the most important position on the field and the offense goes as the QB does. Neither QB was able to lead the team in a fashion that would spell success for the Cyclones on this day.
Going into the spring, the QB battle will be wide open in every sense of the word. Both Jantz and Barnett showed times of brilliance and both showed times of inability to execute. Both QBs need to make big improvements in their game in the off-season if the Cyclones have any hopes of returning to a bowl game next season.
For the game we had 3 turnovers. 1 fumble by Jared Barnett and 2 INTs thrown by Jantz. Our defense got zero turnovers in return. Having a -3 for turnovers makes it very hard to win any game. Turnovers have been a big factor in most of the losses we have had this season. If we could have eliminated a lot of the turnovers we had on offense, we could be looking at a 8 or 9 win season instead of the 6 win season we had. This definitely has to be a major area this team needs to focus on in the off-season.
No pressure on Rutgers QBs.
The Rutgers QBs had all day to make good decisions and not rush their passes. Chas Dodd took most of the snaps as the QB for Rutgers and he made the most of his opportunities going 10 for 17 passing for 176 yds, 1 TD and 0 INT. At times our defensive front has done a great job of pressuring the QB and causing them to make mistakes and not play to their capabilities. A prime example of this was in the Oklahoma St. game against QB Weeden. Unfortunately, this was not the case on this afternoon. As a defensive line, we need to really improve in this area moving forward. Pressure usually leads to mistakes and we need the opposing QBs to make more of them if we hope to move this program forward in a positive direction.
Failure to create short yardage situations.
Inability to get good positive yardage on 1st and 2nd downs led to long yardage 3rd down situations and we only converted on 2 of our 13 3rd downs for the afternoon. That is simply not going to get it done. If we can get more positive yardage on 1st and 2nd downs, we would be left with much shorter yardage to gain for the 1st down on 3rd down. Less yardage leads to a higher success rate of converting 3rd downs. It also increases the number of plays you can run on 3rd down. If the defense knows you are most likely going to run a pass play on 3rd down, they can key on that and being successful on the play becomes much tougher.
This has been a problem for this offense most of this season. It is definitely something that needs to be improved on for next season. Shorter pass plays and more running plays on 1st down will help a lot in my opinion.
Missed opportunities on special teams.
There were two glaring opportunities that we missed in this game. The first is the big kick return for a TD that Jarvis West had that got called back for holding. This was at a crucial time of the game. It would have been a huge momentum shift for us right when we needed it instead, it was another missed opportunity on the day.
The second was the blocked FG attempt from 44 yds away. The FG team needs to do a better job of blocking and not allowing their lineman to get their hands in the air and block the kick.
Overall, the special teams played very well this season. There were several games where the special teams kept us in the game and even helped us win the game. This was not the case on this afternoon. Continued improvement from the special teams will be necessary moving forward.
Inability to put the ball in the end zone.
This showed its ugly head right from the start of the game on the first offensive possession when we had to settle for a FG instead of a TD. You can make lots of great plays moving down the field, but if those don’t turn into getting the ball into the end zone, it was all for naught.
There have been countless times this season when we have not done a good job of getting the ball into the end zone. This is definitely an area that needs to be improved upon.
Inability to pick up Rutgers blitzes.
Rutgers had a great defensive game plan for this game. They knew that a key to stopping our offense was to pressure our inexperienced QBs and they did just that. They were sending blitzes from all over the field and our offensive line and back had a hard time neutralizing them. The only chance our QBs have to make good decisions is to have time back there and we did not allow them that luxury and the results were very evident. No doubt, our offensive line needs to continue to improve this off-season.
Overall, this game was very disappointing and did not really reflect this team and this season as a whole. In the history of Iowa State football, they have a 3-8 record in bowl games. Obviously, we need to do a better job of finishing the season on a high note. Positive momentum moving into the off-season is a big advantage. In this case, I think they will be strongly motivated because of the feeling of unfinished business from this game.
Make no mistake about it. The future of the program looks very bright. On offense we have a strong nucleus of players returning. Obviously, our offense has multiple areas to improve upon. Young players who gained some valuable playing experience this season will be very beneficial. On defense, we have Jake Knott and A. J. Kline returning. They are two of the best LBs our school has ever had and the sky is the limit as to what they are capable of. The defense showed great improvement this past season and continual improvement will be necessary.
To all the seniors, I want to say thanks. When you look at what was accomplished during this season, I think it was a season we can look back and be very proud of. Improvements were made in all phases of the game. A great foundation is being laid and if improvement continues to be made, we can look forward to many more bowl trips to come. Seniors, you may have worn the cardinal and gold for the last time, but your legacy will live on for years to come. Thanks for the memories. What a great ride it was.
The Golden Hurricanes ended their season at 8-5 following their Armed Forces Bowl loss to BYU. Their top returning player will be senior WR Willie Carter who ended the season with 83 catches for 1,184 yds and 12 TDs. They will be looking to replace their starting QB.