This season, I want to continue with a blog following each ISU football game. This is because Iowa State football is something I am very passionate about. I have loved it as a fan, as a player, and then as a fan again. I mark a lot of the different seasons of my life with the various seasons of the team. This fall I will be changing the format of the blog a little. Last season, I thought that the blogs got a little lengthy and that I spent too much time trying to recap statistics and the game overall. I feel that if you are a Cyclone fan, you will have either watched the game or at the very least read about the statistics in whatever magazine you read. You do not need me to recap those for you. What I am offering through this blog is simply some thoughts, both good and bad, that I observed through the game. Since I played for this team for 5 years, and have followed it so closely since then, I do feel I am in a good position to offer some good valid insight that others might not be able to offer. That is what I want to offer you through these blogs this season. That being said, I am still just a fan now. I rarely have any inside, special knowledge. I do offer what I know about college football and in general, Iowa State football. As always, your input is welcomed. I hope you enjoy!
ISU 38 Tulsa 23
What a glorious day for a home opener. The weather was just beautiful. It was a little warm, but there was also a little bit of a breeze which was just wonderful. The parking lots were full of Cyclones ready to get the season started and I was reminded of why it is so great to be a Cyclone! 54,931 people filled Jack Trice Stadium for the opener. That was the largest opening game crowd in the history of ISU football. It was also the fifth largest Cyclone crowd ever. That is amazing. It just shows the belief fans have for Coach Rhoads and this team. I can remember sitting in my seats in the south end zone in section EE and looking to the north. As my eyes scanned from the stadium seats to the grass seats on the north side of the stadium, I could not tell where one started and the other ended. I can only remember seeing that twice before. On time during an Iowa game and the other during a Nebraska game. It just shows that we are pushing to levels we have never seen before.
I thought that Steele Jantz played his most complete game as a Cyclone yet. He ended the game 35 for 45, throwing for 281 yards with 2 TDs and 0 Ints. The best statistic of that line is no interceptions. When you don’t turn the ball over you are always giving yourself a chance. Interceptions is something that has plagued Steele in the past and it was great to not see any in this game. I thought that Steele is doing better with his pre-snap reads and on passing plays, he is staying in the pocket longer and allowing receivers to get open rather than get happy feet and trying to run the ball for whatever gain he can find. It has been mentioned that Jantz is making a point to try to be more relaxed and it really showed. Steele did an excellent job of not forcing things and just taking what the defense would allow. In this case, Tulsa was playing their corners very tight on our receivers so this opened up short, WR screen plays which we ran in abundance all afternoon long. So much of being a successful QB is the mental aspect of the game and Steele was certainly great in that respect. In my opinion, I am calling Steele Jantz my co-MVP of this game.
My other co-MVP for this game goes to RB Shontrelle Johnson. I can remember Shontrelle being carted off the field against Texas last season with a neck injury. He sat out the rest of last season. People questioned whether he would ever be able to return to the game of football and even if he could, would he ever be the same as he was before. Well, on Saturday, Shontrelle answered an emphatic YES to both of those questions. Johnson carried the ball 18 times for 120 yards. That is a 6.7 yard per carry average. That is fantastic. He also scored ISU’s last points on a 5 yd TD run with only 2 minutes left in the game that sealed the win for the Clones. It was just an amazing effort. Shontrelle brings more than just yards gained on the ground. He brings a positive energy to the huddle. By Shontrelle showing everyone that he did not give up on his dream of returning to the field that anything is possible. Others players see this and they are inspired to push themselves to heights they did not know they could achieve. It is just so great to have him back.
I thought one of the greatest plusses of this game was the discipline and composure that ISU demonstrated throughout the game. Last season, ISU committed way too many penalties. We had the fourth most penalties in the Big 12 conference. In the game against Tulsa, ISU was only penalized 4 times for 23 yards. That kind of discipline starts at the top. It has been emphasized and the players are really following through with this. I felt that ISU showed great composure in this game. ISU was down 16 to 7 after the first quarter, but this team never lost their composure. They just kept fighting and following the game plan. After this early deficit, they only allowed Tulsa to score one more time during the game, while ISU scored 31 points. This type of composure will be crucial during this season because we play one of the toughest schedules in one of the toughest conferences in the country. We are bound to be down again on more than one occasion. How we respond as a team to those situations will define the success of this year’s team. We passed the first test.
Another very important statistic to me in this game was the Time of Possession. ISU had the ball for 32:18 of this game. It is always a goal to possess the ball for 30 minutes or greater in a game and ISU rarely did that last year. Great to see that in this first game.
This game was good, but it definitely was not perfect. ISU had some weak areas too. One glaring one was our slow start to this game. On offense we had trouble sustaining our drives and keeping the defense off the field. On defense, we came out flat and didn’t really punch Tulsa in the mouth. The defense allowed 130 yards offense and 16 points in the first quarter alone. We were able to withstand this when the defense stepped up and shut Tulsa out for the next 2 1/2 quarters. The reality is that even though we were able to do this in this game, we can’t make a habit of starting slow. We play some really great teams this year, teams that will just bury us if we allow them this type of start. It just can’t continue to happen if we want to end the season in a bowl game.
I thought our tackling was really poor overall on defense. There were many occasions where our defenders were in the right position, but just did not wrap up. We need to be a sound tackling team if we hope to compete to become an upper half Big 12 team.
I think one of our biggest weaknesses on defense really showed in this game. That weakness is our defensive line. We showed absolutely no pressure up front. Cody Green had all day to throw the ball, especially in the first quarter, and that had a lot to do with our early deficit. We have guys who are a mixture of experience and inexperience on the DL and they need to continue to improve and develop. The reality is that if we do not make serious strides in getting pressure on opposing QBs from our front line in games, we will struggle all season long.
Another weakness for our team right now is our kickoff cover team. We allowed Tulsa 2 KO returns of 80 yards. By doing this, we are putting our defense in very poor position. We must be sound tacklers and stay in our lanes when we are running down the field so we can not allow these type of returns. It is so crucial that this team excel in special teams this season. We are at an athletic disadvantage to most of the teams we play this season, so outstanding special teams play is an area where we can close that deficit. We have to do better than we did Saturday.
Not all areas of our special teams were poor though. I thought that freshman kicker Edwin Arceo made a great debut as a Cyclone. He was 5 for 5 on extra point kicks and he was successful on a 30 yd FG to end the first half. It can be very hard when you kick for the first time in college football, especially a crowd like Saturday’s, and Edwin’s cool showed through and is very promising for the success he is capable of during his career.
The turning point in this game occurred int he beginning of the second quarter. Tulsa was up 16-7 and they driving the ball at midfield. Jake Knott, who is a senior leader, did what all great senior leaders do, he made a play. He forced a fumble that was recovered by Durell Givens. Big time players make big time plays, and that play was huge. That was the spark we needed, exactly when we needed it. At that point, the offense took over and Jantz sized control of the situation and led ISU on an 8 play, 51 yd TD drive that made the score 17-14 and put us right back into the game. Absolutely big time and so crucial to the win on Saturday.
I thought the balance ISU showed on offense was outstanding. When we talk about balance, we talk about running the ball and throwing the ball roughly the same amount. This shows balance and shows that we are not too predictable. Well, we were as balanced as an offense can be on Saturday. ISU’s offense ran the ball 45 times for 160 yards rushing and we passed the ball 45 times for 281 yards. You don’t get any more balanced than that. Keep in mind that this was Courtney Messingham’s first game as an offensive coordinator. I thought he did a great job! He has the potential to be a great coordinator.
Special Teams C+
9/8/12 2:30 pm
What a great game coming up this week. Last years 44-41 triple overtime win by ISU in Ames was probably the greatest single game in the history of the series. That will be a hard encore. Iowa won their first game against Northern Illinois 20-19 at soldier field. A win is a win, but Iowa did not look that impressive. ISU has not won a game at Kinnick Stadium in 10 years and this year might be the best chance they have had in quite a while.
In my mind, I think the best chance we have of beating them is to limit their running game. If we can force Iowa to have to throw the ball, I don’t think they are very comfortable doing that. We on the other hand need to run the ball well. Steele Jantz needs another composed game where he is making lots of good decision. I am so excited to watch the game this week. What a great week to be in the state of Iowa.