Elasticity. In physics, it's the ability of certain materials to return to their original form after an outside force or stress has been applied. For Iowa State, it means the ability of the offense to return to their non-conference form after the extreme stress of Texas Tech's defense was applied.
Because the offense last week against Texas Tech was completely putrid. The offensive effort displayed by Iowa State in non-conference games wasn't amazing, but it was decent enough. Iowa State averaged 254 passing yards and 175 rushing yards against Tulsa, Iowa and Western Illinois. Decent. And with the defense being played by Iowa State right now, the Cyclones just need that kind of decent offense to win games.
Iowa State's offense didn't even provide decent last Saturday night. Most fans know the grim statistics by heart, but let's run through them again (for masochistic reasons, or something). Against Texas Tech, Iowa State completed 10-20 passes for 73 yards. James White and Shontrelle Johnson combined for 101 rushes on 18 carries (not bad!). Unfortunately, Steele Jantz ran 19 times for just 14 yards. That includes a 21 yard run. Take that run out of the stats, and Jantz rushed for -.39 yards per carry (that's very bad).
And the Cyclones have been in this position before. In 2011, Iowa State was riding high after starting the season 3-0. Feeling good about their prospects in the Big 12. With a bye week before the first conference game at home against Texas (a team the Cyclones demolished the year before), ISU maybe got a little complacent. Didn't prepare as much as they should have. After the Longhorns raced out to a 34-0 halftime lead, Iowa State knew it needed to change its preparation methods.
This is almost exactly the same situation Iowa State found itself in before the Texas Tech game. Undefeated in non-conference, facing a team at home they defeated handily the year before. While the game was quite a bit closer than last year's struggle against Texas, the outcome was the same.
So it appears that Paul Rhoads' Cyclones still haven't learned how to win games when expectations are high. Paul Rhoads is great at pulling off upsets when people least expect it. The win at Nebraska in 2009 was achieved without a starting QB and RB, the win at Texas in 2010 came after Iowa State had been outscored 120-27 the previous two weeks and the win at Texas Tech in 2011 snapped a four game losing streak. But when eyes are on the Cyclones? When people are expecting great thing? Rhoads and the Cyclones haven't shown that can win these games yet.
And Iowa State needs to start winning these games. Paul Rhoads preaches constant improvement, and a big theme this year has been winning more than three Big 12 games. To do that, Iowa State is going to have to start winning conference games when expectations are high.
This is TCU's first Big 12 home game. The Horned Frogs are missing their starting running back due to injury and their starting quarterback due to aggravated jackassery. TCU is starting 15 true freshmen. Yet the Horned Frogs are still unbeaten and ranked in the top-15 in the country. This upset is almost gift-wrapped for the Cyclones. All they need to do is get downstairs to their birthday party without falling down the stairs, blow out the candles on the birthday cake without setting the room on fire and open this present without slicing open an artery with a particularly nasty paper cut. Can Iowa State (metaphorically) do all that on Saturday? Maybe.
What does it all mean? Experience. Learning from mistakes. To reach the next level as a football program, the Cyclones need to stop tripping over their own dicks. Iowa State needs to become the type of program that can overcome adversity, because they're going to face a lot of it in the Big 12 each year. If Iowa State wins on Saturday, they're back on schedule for a bowl game. They'll show they can win a Big 12 game when expectations are high. If they lose, they've just dug a deeper hole to get out of.