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2010 Game 6: Iowa State vs Utah Preview

Date: October 9, 2010

Time: 6:00 PM

Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

What a great feeling last week with the win over Texas Tech. A lot of people have said they have not felt that much energy in Jack Trice Stadium since 2005 and while I would love to agree I have no basis for it. Unfortunately this guy missed the entire 2005 season while doing an internship down in Texas. My closest comparison for the excitement we experienced last Saturday would be the Texas Tech game from 2002.

While there have been some very satisfying games I have witnessed in Jack Trice since that game none of them had that same feel of a team completely ready to play then this one. What a satisfying win and hopefully we can look back on this as a win that helped this Iowa State team turn the corner in 2010.

A History: Iowa State vs Utah

There is not much history to report in this matchup. Iowa State is 4-0 all-time against Utah with all four wins coming in a series of games from the 1970s.

Last 5…4? Games

1976: Iowa State 44, Utah 14

1975: Iowa State 31, Utah 3

1972: Iowa State 44, Utah 22

1971: Iowa State 16, Utah 13

Back it Up: Week 5 Review

As mentioned previously, Iowa State defeated Big XII opponent Texas Tech by a score of 52-38. Austen Arnaud threw for a career high four touchdowns and Alexander Robinson and Shontrelle Johnson both provided over 100 yards on the ground with just 12 carries each. Jeremy Reeves capped the scoring with an improbable onside kick return for a touchdown for only the second kickoff return for a touchdown in Jack Trice Stadium history and Iowa State’s first since Troy Davis returned one against Colorado in 1994.

Utah, like Texas Tech, had a bye last week. They come in to the game with a 4-0 record and having outscored their opponents 177-51. Their biggest test was in their opening game at home against then ranked Pittsburgh where they won 27-24 in overtime.

Iowa State Offense vs Utah Defense

Games like last week have illustrated why you must go week to week when previewing teams. Coming in to this game many people thought Iowa State had no chance to beat Utah simply because of their lack of consistency on offense. Against Texas Tech you saw an Iowa State team that was prepared, focused, and with the exception of a few penalties, executed almost flawlessly. What happens now is anyone’s guess and this offense could very well be Jekyll and Hyde all year. However, now that the offense knows what it takes to put together a complete game you have to expect consistency will be the standard the rest of the year.

Utah’s defense has forced at least one turnover in three of their first four games but the most important thing for them is their yards allowed. Utah ranks 7th in the NCAA in yards allowed per game at a paltry 247. To put this in perspective Iowa is ranked #4 at 242 yards per game, Texas #9 at 254 yards per game, and Nebraska at #11 at 265 yards per game. Suffice to say, Utah is stout. A lot of this has to do with their front four which can see anywhere up to 12 different players throughout the course of a game. Think of this like hockey for a second; that would be the equivalent of three lines that Utah feels comfortable playing throughout the whole game and will liberally substitute them as the need arises.

Utah’s defense keeps it simple: Stop the run, all else follows. Due to their recent BCS crashing they have accumulated the talent that allows for that to happen. Iowa State is going to have to play lights out again on offense and provide a good mix of the run and the pass in order to move the ball. Utah will likely be in man coverage on typical run downs so look for Iowa State to exploit that with quick passes to the outside to Collin Franklin and screens to Josh Lenz and Jake Williams. The deep ball will have to come over time and will only be available if the running game starts to have success. Paul Rhaods mentioned after the Texas Tech game that the passing game opened up the necessary space to run later in the game and the same will have to happen in order to have success against the Utes.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Iowa State receivers vs Utah Secondary

Advantage: Utah

Reason: Utah is stout on defense and their pass rush could provide enough of a problem that anything else we do will be a moot point. However, if Iowa State gets in to a rhythm early and gets in to their Jet tempo look for Utah to begin to wear down in the 2nd half. If this happens, and Utah remains in man coverage to stop the run, look for the receivers to start breaking big plays. Perfect execution is a must as Utah will have no trouble putting their experienced secondary out on an island to stop a receiving corps that has not impressed until last week.

Iowa State Defense vs Utah Offense

Anyone that reads the Forde Yard Dash on ESPN knows that Utah’s Terrance Cain is part of Pat Forde’s Last Interception Pool. He currently has five touchdowns with no interceptions while splitting time with Jordan Wynn. Despite this impressive effort the Utes have been prone to turn the ball over with three against Pittsburgh and New Mexico, and one against UNLV. Utah presents a relatively balanced offense with 176 rushing yards per game and 223 passing yards. This ranks them 44th and 60th in the country, respectively.

Along with their quarterback by committee rotation the Utes utilize a running back by committee approach and have split the bulk of the carries between Eddie Wide (40 for 210 and three touchdowns) and Matt Asiata (44 for 187 and two touchdowns). Utah has had 12 different receivers catch balls this year with Jereme Brooks leading all with 20 catches for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Utah is no slouch on the offensive line with three starters over 300 pounds and two pushing the 290 range. All have significant experience with the youngest being Sophomore Right Guard Tevita Stevens.

Utah is going to execute. There is no doubt about that. Kyle Whittingham is a great football coach and Utah has "been there before" with an 11-4 record against BCS schools since Whittingham took over.

Iowa State did not have a great performance on the scoreboard last week by allowing 38 points to Texas Tech but forced three turnovers, two of which were forced by the defense. The mantra of not giving up big plays held for most of the 1st half before Tech struck twice in the final three minutes to make the game 24-14 at half. However, the Iowa State defense responded big in the 3rd quarter by forcing a fumble that setup the next scoring outburst (28 points in the 4th quarter). This game, more than any so far this season, will present a world of problems for Iowa State’s defense. Texas Tech is not a strong running team but managed to gain 131 yards on the ground while playing from behind most of the game. Most of those calls were predictable runs on 2nd and short out of a hurry up but one has to think if Utah is given the same leeway that they will rip off the yards just as easily as Tech did.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Iowa State defensive line vs Utah offensive line

Advantage: Utah

Reason: While Iowa State has made some strides the last few weeks in getting pressure on the quarterback it has not materialized on the stat sheet in the form of sacks. Iowa State’s interceptions have benefited from increased pressure from the front four and that will have to happen again for the Cyclones to remain competitive in this game. The key this game will be like every other game. Stop the run, play in to a 3rd and long situation, and stop the conversion. If Iowa State solves their big play issues we could see a game that goes the distance.

Iowa State Special Teams vs Utah Special Teams

Iowa State’s special teams performed almost perfect last week against Texas Tech. Grant Mahoney kicked a field goal early to give Iowa State the lead after Kirby Van Der Kamp pulled the ball in on a fake punt and rumbled 17 yards for a first down. David Sims almost returned a kick for a touchdown at the end of the first half before the one lowlight, a bad snap by Dakota Zimmerman that hit Ben Lamaak in the arm, on the special teams unit.

Of course no one can forget the most energizing special teams play of the night, which was Jeremy Reeves’ 42 yard onside kick return for a touchdown.

Utah has been no slouch on special teams either. Three bad punting issues with UNLV all lead to touchdowns for Utah, a game winner in overtime against Pittsburgh came from the foot of Utah kicker Joe Phillips, and pressure against San Jose State left the Trojans with only a 27 yard net punting average.

Like most games, the special teams could spell success or disaster for either team. Iowa State executed well as a whole last week but a mistimed turnover off a bad snap (but a good safe play by Van Der Kamp to fall on the ball) allowed Texas Tech to close the gap to 10 points immediately before halftime. Utah has been susceptible to longer kicker returns this year so expect Iowa State to have something dialed up if Utah kicks to the sidelines like most teams have been doing this year against the Cyclones.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Iowa State’s punt units vs Utah’s punt units

Advantage: Iowa State

Reason: While Kirby Van Der Kamp still struggles to kick in Jack Trice he has had the benefit of good blocking and good coverage when unleashing his kicks. Utah has capitalized already this year on punting mistakes by their opponents so look for them to do the same here. Iowa State needs to keep returns to a minimum to force Utah’s offense to drive the length of the field and at the same time be mindful of Utah’s aggressive special teams tactics.

Final Analysis

This game has been tough to predict. Utah is a top 10 team in nearly every statistical category and in both relevant polls. However, aside from beating a 2-2 Pittsburgh team they have played no one worth their mettle. Their opponents are a combined 4-15 and Utah has run through them in nearly every way possible.

On the flip side Iowa State had its best offensive performance of the season last week with 441 yards and this included a banged up Arnaud (shoulder) and Robinson (ankle). What we should make no mistake about is that Texas Tech has failed to adapt quickly to Tommy Tuberville’s 3-4 scheme and missed assignments lead to long runs for the Cyclones. However, one can hope that the explosion of offense last week gave the same type of confidence to the offense that the defense gained after shutting out UNI the week before playing Tech.

Utah is coming off a bye week but is 5-0 under Whittingham when coming off the bye. Paul Rhaods is 7-0 in night games. Something has to give here. Wally Burnham and company were hired specifically to stop teams like Utah so his scheme will be key to discovering how far Iowa State will go in this game. Look for Iowa State to bring blitzes on a-typical downs to fill the gaps and snuff the run and play a bend but don’t break style on passing downs. Iowa State will let Utah eat up yards all day while trying to minimize the big play and forcing Utah to score on a shortened field.

Look for the offense to go up tempo to keep Utah from rotating their front four and exploit their man coverage with screens and quick passes to the outside. If Iowa State has success early, and holds on to the ball, look for the run to click before half and take off in the 3rd quarter.

Similar to last week, the first team to blink and make a mistake in their own zone, will be digging themselves out of a hole all game.

Final Score

Utah 41

Iowa State 30