ISU 9 Iowa 6
Oh my goodness! What a game it was! The 70,585 fans who packed Kinnick Stadium last Saturday and the thousands of others who watched on TV were treated to an amazing game filled with both highs and lows no matter who you were cheering for. Iowa State came out on top in a thriller that was a good sequel to last year’s offensive explosion, only in this sequel, it was the defenses that took the center stage. It just goes to show that you never know what to expect in this game.
This is a game that the Cyclones could have won by a much larger margin. Four turnovers and 3 turnovers inside the red zone really hurt the Cyclones throughout the game and made this game much closer than it ever should have been. The defense rose up to the challenge though and bailed the out the offense’s lack of execution. In my opinion, this was the best overall effort the defense has had in the Paul Rhoads era. There was a lot of highs and lows in this game for Iowa State, but the Cyclone’s ability to stay steady and not get down when bad things happened allowed them to come through in the end and win in Kinnick for the first time since 2002. This does not happen by accident. This comes from the philosophy that Coach Rhoads puts into his players to play through adversity for the full game. It has been coached to them daily since the very first practice after Rhoads arrived and we could not have seen it played out better than it was on Saturday.
Let’s get right to the heart of the matter; the play of the game possibly the play of the season. After Jantz had thrown an interception into the end zone, Iowa was finally moving the ball down the field. Vandenberg completed 3 passes and they were coming down to either tie the game with a FG and send it into OT or score the winning TD. It looked like the turnovers made on offense were going to catch up with ISU and cost us a win in Iowa City. Prior to the snap, Klein and Knott talked. They decided that Klein would cover Bullock out of the backfield and Knott would cover Iowa’s TE Fiedorowicz. The ball was snapped and Fiedorowicz came across the filed in a medium crossing pattern. Vandenberg saw it was a tight window, but did not hesitate in letting the ball go to his 6’7″ TE. Knott read the pass and despite legs full of a full day of battle, Knott jumped high into the air and tipped the ball into the air and then caught the bounce, cradled it into his arms and fell to the Kinnick turf in the fetal position to secure the win for Iowa State. The interception occurred at the 32 yard like with 1:11 left to play in the game and caused the Iowa State fans around the country to erupt in cheering and then sigh a breath of relief. One more year of not having to be the little brother. Once again we proved this is a Cyclone state. Big players make big plays and Jake Knott made probably the biggest play in the history of the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry. No question that Jake Knott was the MVP of this game. Knott played so well, he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
In addition to the great play of Knott, I thought that there were two other Cyclones who had outstanding games worth mentioning. Jacques Washington had 6 tackles in the game. He had an interception right before halftime that he returned 26 yards. He had a 3rd down pass breakup in the 3rd quarter and he was the one who caused Keenan Davis to step out-of-bounds on Iowa’s play that was called a TD on the field and then overturned. If he had not had hustled and made that play, Iowa scores a TD and the Hawkeyes take the lead.
I thought that Aaron Horne had his best game as a Cyclone in this game. Aaron had 6 catches for 73 yards in the game including a 40 yd catch. He scored the only TD in the game off a 3rd down catch from Steele Jantz on the opening drive of the game. There were also a couple of times he beat his defender and was open deep, unfortunately Jantz overthrew him both times.
There is no doubt that the performance the defense put in won this game for the Cyclones. The Cyclones choose to key in on Bullock knowing that stopping the Iowa run would be crucial to containing the Iowa offense. That is exactly what they did. They limited Iowa to 68 yards rushing on 28 attempts for only 2.4 yards per carry. That is an amazing job of taking away Iowa’s strength and forcing them to find other ways to move the ball. The defense did not allow any real sustained drives by the Hawkeyes all afternoon, which definitely took them out of their comfort zone. The ISU defense limited Iowa to 5-17 3rd down conversions for the game and only 2-10 3rd down conversions in the second half. That is doing an excellent job of not allowing the Iowa offense to get any real rhythm going. What really impressed me the most with our defense was the goaline stances we had. The one that stands out is after the TD was called back for Iowa. Iowa was taking the momentum away from us and the defense stood their ground and did not allow Iowa to score and made them kick a field goal which preserved the ISU lead and would end up being the final margin of victory. Just an outstanding job of goaline defense displayed.
The offense really was the tale of two offenses. I thought we started the game great on offense. On the opening drive, ISU drove the ball 75 yards on 10 plays into the wind. On 3rd and goal, Jantz made a great pass to Aaron Horne in the end zone for the TD. Jantz was 5 for 5 passing on that first drive and would start the game 10 for 10. The offensive line did a great job of giving Jantz plenty of time to throw the ball and we were getting sustained drives and really moving the ball on offense.
Then the other side of the offense started to show. We started turning the ball over. First Shontrelle Johnson fumbled the ball inside the 10 yard line while we were going into score. Then Jantz threw an interception to Tom Donatell in the second quarter. Then Jantz’s indecision on a zone read play near the end zone caused him to fumble the ball as we were again moving into score. Finally, Jantz threw an interception into the end zone to Morris on a really bad throw and ended our chance to put the game away. 4 turnovers in all and 3 inside the red zone. ISU only came away with points 2 of the 5 times they were in the end zone on Saturday. That simply can’t happen. Normally, if you do what we did on offense, you get blown out. Fortunately, our defense bailed us out every time. We simply have to contain our turnovers and finish drives if we hope to get to another bowl game this season.
While we had 232 yds of offense in the first half, we could only muster 110 yds of offense in the second half. During the second half, we were not moving the ball at all with any regularity and it really put a huge strain on our defense. The defense came through this time, but we can’t count on them to do that every game this season.
I thought our WRs had an outstanding game. Players were getting open and running great routes and I thought the improved greatly in their run blocking from game 1. In addition to the game that Aaron Horne had, I thought that Jerome Tiller, Jevon West, Albert Gary, and Josh Lentz all had really solid games. The development and improvement of our WRs is crucial to our success this season and it is great to see the improvements made so far.
Unfortunately, I thought our special teams really hurt us again this week. I am particularly referring to our kicking game. I thought that Arceo struggled a bit in his second game as a Cyclone. He missed the extra point on our opening drive TD scored, which would end up being the only TD scored in the game. I understand he was nervous. I know what it is like to play in Kinnick for the first time, but there is no excuse for missing extra points and that miss was huge in this game. We can’t continue to miss extra points. I did think he had a solid 22 yd FG and even though he missed the 57 yd attempt he made just before half, I thought Arceo demonstrated the kind of leg he really had which is amazing. He missed the kick to the left, but if he hit it straight on, he could have made it from 67 yds. We need our special teams to be a strength of this team, not a liability.
Special Teams B-
Jack Trice Stadium, 7 pm
Iowa State has never played Western Illinois in football before. Entering this season, Western Illinois had only won 11 games in the past 3 seasons combined. They are however 2-0 on the season so far. In their 23-15 win against Butler in the opening week, the Leathernecks had 240 yards rushing including over 100 yards each from both Nikko Watson and Caulton Ray. Last Saturday, Western Illinois beat Indianapolis 27-17.
Don’t get me wrong, this is the easiest game ISU has on the schedule this year by far. We could play an average game and still win this game handily. I think we have to focus on improving this game, not for just the sake of the win, but for our continued improvement for the rest of the season. After last week, we have plenty of things to improve upon and we really need to play a much better game on offense and special teams on Saturday. I am looking forward to the challenge.