Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
After an ugly game against Texas Tech questions have started to abound about the capabilities of quarterback Steele Jantz and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.
First things first, there are hardly any quibbles from this author about the defensive performance on Saturday night. The only discernible takeaways from that game for me were that Jansen Watson and Deon Broomfield need to work on their man coverage abilities. Watson gets a bit of a pass since he played an otherwise great game until giving up the touchdown pass to Eric Ward from 19 yards out.
Broomfield, however, was a constant choice to pick on for Seth Doege on 3rd downs. Multiple times Texas Tech shifted their back out wide to draw Jansen Watson with them and leave Broomfield one on one in the slot. Multiple times that receiver ran to the sticks, hitched, and came up with a reception for the first down. The good news is this is all teachable and Broomfield is still rather young experience wise.
But the offense, oh lord the offense. As CanAzn wrote Saturday night, there were so many read options. Well here's news for you Courtney Messingham: college football is figuring out the read option! Especially with this offense.
Right now the offensive line is battling to just stay afloat and looks nothing like the unit that people expected coming into the season. Simply bringing an extra man on a blitz blows up our read option and negates the benefit from the quarterback be the extra runner. I thought perhaps the offense was ready to turn a corner when in the 3rd quarter Jeff Woody came in on 3rd and short and the QB Iso we ran so well with Jantz in 2011 looked to be on the table. Instead we ran a read option designed to the outside... with Jeff Woody... and managed the first down on a questionable spot.
Here's another news flash for Mr. Messingham: Iowa State doesn't have enough speed to constantly beat teams on the edge! I understand trying to stress the defense using the width of the field but the one area where we have been successful with this, wide receiver screens, didn't even appear to be part of the game plan on Saturday. Instead we believed we could beat Tech on the outside using James White and Shontrelle Johnson. The good news here is they averaged around 5.0 yards per carry, the bad news is they rushed 18 times between the two of them. Counting sacks/scrambles Jantz ran 19 times for 14 yards. See a problem? Because I certainly do. Even when we set Jantz up with a designed draw he still fucked it up by dancing around and obvious hole and taking a loss on the play.
Before I continue too much further down the rabbit hole I do want to give credit to Tech's defense. They were aggressive, they never allowed receivers much space, and their defensive line played nothing like they did the previous two years. Congratulations Tech, you and Rutgers are the two defenses that designed the blueprint on how to stop this offense.
But back to the matter at hand. What's the real problem here? Is it game planning? I don't think so. What we did early had openings, but we didn't execute. Is it talent? Kind of. We have shown we can win with these players, but it's about setting them up to do so, which then gets us to our answer.
Play calling and adjustments. Aside from the 3rd quarter touchdown drive, play calling was atrocious. Too many zone reads and passing plays that took forever to develop. Not enough screens and quick hitters to slow down Tech's pass rush. Not enough utilization of Aaron Horne and Jarvis West in space. 18 carries combined for White and Johnson and four catches for White (for 30 yards, by the way).
In the end this boils down to the simple issue that this offense lacks an identity. They don't appear to be the group that wants to line up and blow you off the ball. If they were we'd see more chances to get downhill with the ball through either the Pistol formation or occasional under center, single back sets. There are times we look like a team that wants to wear you down and eat up small chunks at a time then set up for the 20 or 30 yard dagger (see: Tulsa, 1st half Iowa, most of Western Illinois). At other times we look like a team that wants to throw it down field and only down field.
Whatever the case may be this team needs to figure out who it wants to be and do it fast. The Big XII has eight teams ranked or receiving votes and the Cyclones still must face six of them. Without an identity on offense this team will end up proving the prognosticators right.