The "13-9" that graced the scoreboard as Iowa State shuffled those dreadful gold uniforms into the locker room at halftime Saturday afternoon could have unraveled in a lot of different ways in the 30 minutes that followed.
After all, these Cyclones had strung together a rather terrifyingly diverse mix of third and fourth quarters in the first five games of the season.
As far as second halves go: We'd seen them goose egg in their home opener against an FCS opponent. We'd seen them kick a game-winning field goal at Kinnick Stadium. We'd seen them outscore Baylor 21-14 (something that deserves a gigantic monetary reward after watching what they did to TCU). And hell, we'd seen them [redacted] against Oklahoma State.
The figure you're searching for, by the way, is 9.6. Iowa State averaged 9.6 second half points entering Saturday against Toledo.
But tell these Cyclones they need a win and evidently they'll go get it. Sam Richardson engineered four touchdown drives in the final 30 minutes, multiplying the offense's first half output by more than 300%. And there is absolutely no denying that the right arm of Richardson is largely responsible for...
What Went Really, Really Well
Sam Richardson (37/53, 351 yards, 3 TD) now leads the Big 12 in total plays. This is a real stat, the magnitude of which I don't think I quite understand yet.
Richardson (at 300 of them through six games!), is responsible for more plays from scrimmage than any other player in the conference — even more so than Texas Tech's Davis Webb — and was relatively efficient on most of them Saturday afternoon.
The 37 completions are a school record, as you've surely heard by now, and the 53 attempts have got to be damn close. The idea against Toledo was to attack the edges in the running game and the middle in the passing game; and while Richardson didn't necessarily avoid the middle of the field altogether, suffice it to say the bubble/tunnel game was alive and well.
It's one of those things that makes you blindingly angry when you're trailing in the first half with a single-digit scoring output, but as things started clicking, Richardson was able to really exploit a lot of the short- to mid-range deficiencies in Toledo's defense, much to the delight of a packed Jack Trice Stadium.
But Allen Lazard, if you haven't noticed, is beginning to steal the show. He's now on pace for 42 catches and 608 yards on the season, after being largely a third or fourth option when things started (for what it's worth: last year's leading receiver, Quenton Bundrage, finished the season with 48 for 676).
Lazard came down with eight grabs for 96 yards and a well-earned touchdown and is proving himself to be a (if not the) primary target in an offense that is missing the likes of Bundrage, Jarvis West and P.J. Harris. Don't look now, but if Lazard can average six or so catches over these final six regular season games, he'll be dialed in for the most receptions in a single season (58) since Lane Danielsen's 63 in 2002.
Also not to be overlooked in this one: the Fred Hoiberg-esque spreading of the field, and I swear to God I saw him walking up to the booth with a playbook at halftime.
D'Vario Montgomery finally rekindled the flame with Richardson to the tune of 90 yards on nine catches, Bibbs continued his rise with a 5-33-1 line, and Dondre Daley went for 6 & 65 while being a thorn in Toledo's side in the intermediate passing game.
Aaron Wimberly's ankle stiffened up prior to kickoff, which is literally the last scenario one of the most putrid rushing games in the country needed to be in, but DeVondrick Nealy filled in handsomely. Entering Saturday, Nealy was averaging 2.9 yards per carry but managed 4.4 on 16 touches against Toledo. He led Iowa State in carries, Sam Richardson didn't, and everything was OK.
Amazing what a mildly functional ground game can do for an offense, eh?
What Went Wrong
I've reserved this section for the defense, as we've all learned to do by now, because at the end of the day the Rockets came out and still rushed for 236 yards without the services of its starting running back.
But they hit Iowa State where it typically hurts most: directly up the gut.
Mitchell Meyers and Brandon Jensen got absolutely worked by a smaller but veteran offensive line for Toledo (they're all seniors, believe it or not), and RB Terry Swanson shouldered the load about as perfectly as you could ask a freshman to do. Swanson carried 17 times for 124 yards and 2 TD — a stat line I would literally murder another human being for at this point — and pint-sized sophomore Damion Jones-Moore added another seven carries for 29 yards.
Quarterback Logan Woodside, a mildly mobile threat, was also able to take what he wanted outside the pocket racking up 42 yards on nine carries. Through the air, Woodside found Corey Jones 12 times for 118 yards (I'll open this up to you guys because I honestly can't recall for sure, but I believe most of those grabs came against Sam E. Richardson).
We could sit here all day and vomit statistics, but what it came down to with this defense was its inability to frustrate any of Toledo's playmakers, save for Nigel Tribune having Alonzo Russell on lockdown most of the afternoon.
Toledo's starting QB and starting RB were both on the sideline for this game, and they still managed 425 yards from scrimmage, a 50% third down completion rate and extended drives when they had to. The Rockets essentially matched the Cyclones in time of possession despite running 10 fewer plays.
If the front seven continues to get worn down early, Sam Richardson cannot be counted on to duplicate record-setting numbers to make up the deficit every weekend — against Big 12 opponents.
The Good Stat
Allen Lazard + D'Vario Montgomery = 17 catches for 186 yards. These two plus Bundrage in this offense could be all kinds of trouble for Big 12 defenses down the road.
The Bad Stat
Two carries for Martinez Syria. Yeah, yeah, yeah — the touchdown. But if the justification for burning the redshirt against Baylor was to supplant Rob Standard and add depth, you certainly expect more than two carries when Wimberly is in street clothes.
The Ugly Stat
-2 punt return yards. Miss u Jarvis.