ISU 37 Western Illinois 3
55,783 fans decked out in their cardinal shirts, the 4th largest crowd in the history of Jack Trice Stadium, showed up for a perfect night for a football game to watch the Cyclones beat up on the Leathernecks from Western Illinois. I was a little surprised at how large the crowd was, but I shouldn’t have been. Not now. Not with all the pleasant surprises ISU has shown us this season. Coach Rhoads now has a winning record at ISU at 21-20. ISU is now 3-0 on the season for the second straight year and only the 6th time in the past 3 decades. I think that really shows the improvement we have made as a program. It was a great win. We were supposed to win easily and we did. Did we make some mistakes, sure we did. Do we still have a lot of areas to improve upon, of course we do. Through it all, we did what we had to do and it was a great night to be a Cyclone!
I thought the offense started the game great. We were moving the ball and we scored 2 TD’s on our first two drives of the game. James White had a 56 yd TD run on the 6th play of the game. That creates great momentum to start the game and that will be crucial to do as we enter conference play. I thought overall the offense was really balanced as we rushed for 264 yds and passed for 240 yds on the night. Some of our backup running backs got to see some significant minutes. DeVondrick Nealy rushed the ball 9 times for 70 yds. Rob Standard ran the ball 7 times for 30 yds. Getting young backups playing time is always a good thing. What I did not like was the fact that after we scored our first two TDs, the offense went into hibernation again. We could not move the ball with any regularity and that troubles me. This was not exactly the steel curtain defense we were playing against. We did this way too much in the Iowa game and it is a trend that needs to stop if we hope to be successful in Big 12 conference play. We have a great defense, but we need to keep them off the field as much as possible.
I thought that Chris Young had an outstanding game at WR. He had 7 catches for 86 yds and 2 TDs. He also had a key downfield block on James White’s 56 yd TD run. It is always good to see the WRs making good blocks down the field. I thought that Young was the offensive MVP of this game.
The defense had another outstanding game. They limited WIU to 178 yds of offense. 103 yds rushing and 75 yds passing. This was the first time since 2004 vs. Northern Iowa that an ISU defense held an opponent to under 200 total yds offense. The defense did not allow a TD to be scored against them for the second straight game. The last TD scored against our defense was in the 4th quarter of the Tulsa game. Our defense is only giving up 10.7 points per game this season. The defense is only giving up 4.5 points per game the last two games. I think our defense is doing an outstanding job of limiting big plays by opponents, tackling well, and playing good team defense. When you play defense like we have to this point, you are giving your team a great chance to win the game and that is exactly what has happened up to this point in the season. The only area I think we need to really work on improving with our defense right now is getting more forced turnovers in the games.
I thought that Jeremiah George, LB, had one of his best games as a Cyclone. He had 9 tackles in the game, which led the team. He was all over the field, reading the defense and making big plays when they needed to be made. I thought he was the defensive MVP of this game.
I thought that the special teams played pretty well this game. The one dark spot was the punt return we had for a TD that got called back because of a holding penalty by our return unit. Those kind of calls hurt the momentum of your team so much. One of the reasons our special teams has done well is because of the amazing season our punter, Kirby VanDerKamp is having. Kirby may be the MVP of our team so far in this young season. VanDerKamp has punted the ball 19 times through 3 games and there has been zero, ZERO, return yards on his punts so far. Of those 19 punts, 10 of them have been inside the opponents 20 yd line. On Saturday, Kirby had 4 punts for 189 yds, which is a 47.2 yd average per punt. He had a 47 yd punt that was downed at the 8 yd line. He had a 37 yd punt that was downed at the 1 yd line, and he had a 59 yd punt that was downed at the 16 yd line. Kirby’s punts have put the opponents in back filed position all season long and that has been a great help to our dominant defense and helped greatly in our success so far.
Our biggest weakness on our season so far in my opinion is the number of turnovers we have had on offense. It was a huge factor in keeping us from blowing Iowa out. We had 3 turnovers agin in the WIU game. Jantz threw another TD on a pass that was tipped. Jantz also fumbled the ball on a zone read play in the red zone. These turnovers have got to get corrected. We can’t continue to turn the ball over like this and hope to have any chance of winning in the conference. Our ability to improve in this area will have a huge effect on how the rest of our season goes.
A couple other area I think we need to improve in is our number of penalties and our time of possession. We had 7 penalties Saturday for 75 yds. this is simply too many. We have to show more discipline. We did well in this area in our first two games, but were a little careless in this game. We lost the time of possession battle in this game 28:32 to 31:28. While this was pretty even, against a team like WIU, we should have won the time of possession and had the ball a lot longer than we did. It is vital that the offense find a way to sustain more drives so our defense has to be on the field less. Defense is our strength this year and we need to do a better job of playing to that strength.
Special Teams: B+
Last season we beat Texas Tech in Lubbock 41-7. It was a dominant performance by the Cyclones. Coach Rhoads owns a 2-0 record against the Red Raiders. Both teams are 3-0 at this point in the season. Texas Tech has shown a very explosive offense this year with a very impressive win over New Mexico this past Saturday. A big reason for that is QB Seth Doege. He is throwing the ball great and making great decisions. Slowing him down will definitely be a key to our success and hopeful victory over the Red Raiders. See you in two weeks!