64 points. The difference between Baylor's 71 points and Iowa State's 7 points. The worst loss in school history by a single point. Nebraska beat Iowa State 77-14 in 1997 and Oklahoma beat Iowa State in 1946 by a score of 63-0.
For those of you that think this weekend's loss is rock bottom just look back to the series against Oklahoma from 1953-1958. In that time Oklahoma outscored Iowa State 284-14, which included six shutouts over seven games.
The only difference between now and then is the media coverage.
Was Saturday rock bottom for the Rhoads Era? Possibly. Was it rock bottom for this season? Hopefully. All things considered it's far from rock bottom for the program as a whole. Just a short decade ago this team was 2-10 and losing by an average of 30 points per game. In the Rhoads Era Iowa State has only lost a game by 30 or more points five times, or an average of once per season. So aside from the historical ass whooping put on by Baylor Saturday this is nothing new in the Rhoads Era.
Hell, one could argue that given the youth on this team that an ass kicking like this was bound to happen (and it was).
What Worked on Saturday?
Kirby Van Der Kamp. That's it. 10 punts on Saturday with a 43.1 yard average, three inside the 20, one touchback, and a long of 57 yards. Not bad for a day's work. Or, if you're Baylor's punter, a half season's work.
What Didn't Work on Saturday?
Everything else. Literally.
After an early stop by the defense and a great punt return by Jarvis West the offense started the three and out campaign from the Baylor 44. Just when you think the offense can't come up with new ways to hurt you they do it. Say what you will about the play calling here but Messingham didn't drop the pass from Sam Richardson to Tad Ecby, Messingham didn't false start, and Messingham wasn't blocking on Baylor's rush on 3rd down.
That said, on 3rd and 7 in Baylor territory there has to be some thought given to getting most of the yards and not all, and going for it on 4th down. This game was about ball control and Iowa State never had it beginning with the first series.
Following that first drive the offense ran 11 plays to Baylor's 20 and found themselves down 17-0 before they could even get out of the first quarter. A fumble by Aaron Wimberly on the second drive all but sealed Iowa State's fate as it took Baylor two plays from the 29 yard line to score and go up 14-0. Wimberly's fumble was terrible timing but it happened inches off the ground and is only the second fumble lost all year by the Cyclones.
The meltdown was on after the first quarter and suddenly the defense that slowed Baylor down to start was getting tired, missing tackles, and failing to stay with receivers. The offense was even worse. They did not cross midfield on their own accord until late in the fourth quarter when Grant Rohach finally found DeVondrick Nealy to get the Cyclones on the board with both men's first touchdowns of their career.
Of course the ensuing kickoff was returned for a touchdown and thus sealing the deal of the worst defeat in Iowa State history...
So Now What?
Great question. Some people have claimed that Rhoads isn't taking enough, or getting enough, blame for what is going on but I am not seeing that around here. It's easy to point the finger at Courtney Messingham as the offense is yet again failing to live up to expectations, but everyone knows that Rhoads is the captain of the ship and he will go down with it should it sink.
Do you fire Messingham midseason? It's getting to the point now where you can't because it won't deliver much good. Iowa State is virtually out of bowl contention and promoting either Todd Sturdy or Chris Klenakis is pretty much a guarantee they'll see the door this off season because a promotion from within will not be sold to the fan base or Jamie Pollard again. Believe it or not, for the long term betterment of the program I believe you have to keep Messingham the remainder of the year. It's easier to fire one guy to end the season rather than lose two or three because of a midseason boot.
The wild card here is Pollard. He didn't stand for mediocrity after Gene Chizik's first two years and forced him to demote both coordinators after the 2008 season. Similarly, Pollard forced Greg McDermott to bring in a capable assistant in Nick Nurse after his final season in Ames to help McDermott manage the team. The common theme here: both head coaches left during that off season.
I'm not saying that Rhoads will do the same (his desirability by a bigger program has to be suffering), but rather Pollard won't stand to see the fan base he's helped cultivate suffer because of mediocre play on the field.
As for Wally Burnham: He's earned his keep, and anyone asking for his head should remove their own head from their asses.
Offensive Line Woes
Chris Klenakis has a reputation for being an ass kicker, and having met the man myself, I feel he is the right guy to coach the offensive line. But this line is young, inexperienced, and very banged up. Some people have mentioned the line is worked too hard because of Rhoads' desire to go up tempo and the need for linemen that can handle the pace and still run downfield. Based on how this line seems to be getting lankier and lankier I'd tend to agree.
There's a lot of merit to having big ass kickers on the inside and Chizik recruits like Kelechi Osemele, Scott Haughton, and Hayworth Hicks are perfect examples of this. Rhoads doesn't want that body type but since moving away from it to his own recruits the stats have suffered. This year, the first with Rhoads only recruits on the line, the team is averaging 3.38 yards per rush, which is a full .4 yards shorter than the previous low watermark of 3.78 in 2010.
Similarly, the line ranks 119th in the country with sacks allowed at 3.8 per game and 23 on the season. 2010 was again the low watermark here when the team allowed 32 sacks and 2.7 per game. At this rate this offense will pass that number sometime against TCU on November 9th.
At this point in time it's simple to see that something is not working for the big guys up front. It's not all youth. There are systemic problems that reared their heads last season with an experienced line and have only been made worse by the inexperience this season.
Rhoads commented on Saturday night that a loss like the one to Baylor is an organizational one and not just the players. I could not agree more. There are some clear talent issues on the line, but it's hard to argue with the results we have been seeing from Richardson, Wimberly, the tight ends, and a chunk of the receiving corps.
Ultimately I think this organizational problem goes all the way to the top and the tone that Rhoads sets. He wanted to be an up tempo, spread team when he took over in 2009 and it was right at the time when the en vogue thing to do was go up tempo and spread the field. Yet the greatest success in Ames has occurred when the Cyclones have lined up and ran downhill at teams.
I'm not saying Rhoads missed an opportunity to go counter culture (see: Snyder, Bill) but you counter speed with power and possession. Both of which the Big XII is lacking and is great for a team that will always be athletically outgunned when playing in a conference with four teams south of the Red River.
It might be too late in Rhoads' tenure to move to this style, but you were supposed to see snippets of it with the Pistol offense employed by Klenakis. Problem is, if you want to run downhill like that you better have the bodies up front to do it, and Iowa State currently doesn't.
Can This Team
Make a Bowl Game Win Another Game?
Sure, but I'd like to see an argument about when and where. It's true Iowa State has faced well above average competition so far and no one does a better job breaking it down than Gookin did. Suffice to say Kansas is still terrible all around and TCU has almost as bad of an offense as Iowa State does, but with a quarterback healthy enough to escape trouble.
Both games are at home and both are very winnable. It's just hard to believe that the offense can hold up their end of the deal and even score 20 points at this point.
Prior to the Baylor blowout I was leaning to predicting an upset over Oklahoma State this weekend. They're currently 46th in offensive F/+ but a strong 8th in defensive F/+. My whole argument would have been that the defense can keep Iowa State in this game, and they very well might, but after seeing Iowa State succumb mightily to the 22nd ranked defensive F/+ squad Baylor I have a hard time believing the game on Saturday will turn into the total team effort needed to win.
Why We Miss Jake Knott
Paul Rhoads' Record with Jake Knott as a Starter: 16-17
Paul Rhoads' Record without Jake Knott as a Starter: 2-9