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North Dakota State Postmortem Report

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An examination of the Week 1 matchup with North Dakota State to determine the cause of the 34-14 romp in favor of the Bison.

Coincidentally, this isn't far off from the Heisman pose.
Coincidentally, this isn't far off from the Heisman pose.
David Purdy

Editor's note: Due to the Labor Day holiday, this week's Postmortem Report is being posted on Tuesday. You can expect future Postmortems to be posted on Mondays for the remainder of the season. News also broke of Quenton Bundrage's season-ending ACL injury after the completion of this post. On behalf of Cyclone Nation, our hearts go out to you, Quenton. Get well soon, buddy.

For the first time in six years on Saturday, I departed Jack Trice Stadium before the clock hit triple zeros (hauling ass at halftime of last year's Kansas game doesn't count, as my testicles were basically inside of me at that point).

Even today, that shameful trudge out of what is supposed to be my home-away-from-home six times this fall leaves an awful taste in my mouth. On August 30th, you're supposed to cut your college football team a little slack, right? A Week 1 loss defines not an entire season, right?

With six fresh-faced coaches, an inexperienced defense and a QB back in the saddle as a starter for the first time since Nov. 2, you chalk this one up to poor preparation by a youthful squad and look ahead toward better things to come... right?

Right?

Well, I left. Chase Morlock crossed the south goal line with 5:20 to go in the game, and I left. I left because, miraculously, nothing has changed, just as we were all starting to believe everything had.

Say what you will about North Dakota State. It's not anything we haven't beaten to death already over the last several weeks. The Bison are a dynasty. Twelve starters and a head coach gone from last year's championship squad, yada yada yada.

Still the best FCS team in the country and it isn't close.

NDSU tallied 34 points (unanswered, lest we forget!), and it could've easily been 41 or more. The most frightening part is the thought that they could probably do it to just about any lower-tier FBS team that believes it's dealing with anything short of a juggernaut who hasn't lost in its last 25 tries.

But this really isn't about what North Dakota State is, it's about what this Cyclone football team isn't. But first, my attempt at identifying the faintest of silver linings.

What Went Well

I'll say this: it appears this football team could have the opposite problem Fred Hoiberg's basketball teams have had in the past.

Quick starts.

Despite the early injury that sidelined Quenton Bundrage, almost nothing went wrong for Iowa State for the first 16 minutes of the season. Even the first look at punter Colin Downing wasn't until 13:55 had ticked off the clock. Sam Richardson's game-opening 16-yard carry and early completions to Dondre Daley were intriguing but effective nevertheless. Aaron Wimberly was running with incredible awareness and logged an early score which capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive in a mere three and a half minutes.

The Courtney Messingham era had never seemed so far away. Like, placed in a titanium box and launched toward Neptune far.

The exciting, new-look offense ignited a raucous crowd early (probably out of sheer surprise more than anything), forcing QB Carson Wentz to call a timeout three plays into the Bison's opening drive. Nigel Tribune laid out John Crockett on the far sideline. Wentz got slapped with a delay of game. Robby Garcia and Cory Morrisey teamed up for an impressive sack. NDSU punted after needing 13 plays to advance the ball just 34 yards.

Fifty-five thousand strong had no reason to believe they were witnessing anything but their football program finally turning a hard corner.

And about as quickly as Allen Lazard and Wimberly helped engineer a two-play scoring drive to put the Cyclones ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter, it stopped. Like water being cut to a freely flowing faucet.

But to that point, this looked like an inspired bunch of guys that could get just about anything they wanted on both sides of the ball. Speed, energy, even the play calling -- it was all superb. But is it something this Iowa State team is capable of carrying out over the course of a 60-minute game? I sure don't have a reason to believe so right now.

What Went (Horribly, Horribly) Wrong

After 15+ minutes of dreaming about the possibilities with this new offense, the gameplan was courtesy flushed down the crapper and then flushed again.

As KnowDan warned in his preview post, none of us knew exactly what kind of surprises Mangino's box of plays contained. But what we quickly came to find out, beyond a couple successful tunnel screens to Daley and the nice over-the-top toss to Lazard, is that it may not be a very deep or exciting box... of plays.

And maybe that's a little unfair to deduct at this point as Tom Farniok, yet again in a season opener, went down with an MCL injury (he's going to be fine, by the way). It changed the entire dynamic of the offensive line against Northern Iowa last season, and it did so again on Saturday.

But, Farniok on the field or Farniok on the trainer's table, the play calling was troubling. I didn't believe it until I went back and counted for myself, but Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy combined for just three second half carries. Three.

Merely a one-score game for the first 13 minutes of the third quarter and it was evident Mangino abandoned a running game that had produced 32 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns in the first half -- quality rushes, despite the relatively low yardage. So, if that was the gameplan coming out of the tunnel in the second half, despite having to account for the loss of Farniok in run blocking schemes, I'm dumbfounded.

The idea was that North Dakota State was going to stack the box early, and they did. But all things considered, the Cyclones were relatively productive in yards per carry. As I mentioned, the 32-yard first half total is low but a little skewed as well, with the Bison manhandling time of possession over the first 30 minutes.

As far a ground production goes, I'm intentionally not accounting for Richardson because I sincerely do not recall witnessing him scamper for any yardage that wasn't born out of a broken pass play in the second half.

And maybe that's the rub here. If your quarterback can't buy time to find a man downfield, there's no need to drop linebackers further back into coverage. And if the LBs are crowding the box then instead, what good would it do for Mangino to call run plays?

It was a vicious cycle that favored the Bison So, 151 yards on 31 pass attempts later and not a semblance of a ground game to be seen, North Dakota State's gameplan came to fruition.

Even still, the offensive decision-making must change. E.J. Bibbs caught one pass eight plays into the game and never got his hands on the football again. I don't recall him ever being blanketed by white jerseys either. Your All-Big 12 tight end must be a factor.

Further, Richardson accounted for roughly 60 percent of both Iowa State's rushing attempts and yardage, the majority of which followed broken pass plays. You can either allow yourself to be stifled by an opposing team's gameplan, or you can take what they give you and adjust accordingly. Quite frankly, I expected more from the so-called "Mangenius."

Defensively for Iowa State, what do you say here? Gashed in every sense of the word.

Carson Wentz had time to meet his parents for brunch in the pocket and got the ball downfield at will. He was everything Richardson wasn't.

This allowed Crockett ("The Rocket," as a drunk Bison fan warned me Friday afternoon at the bar) to hit the second level, turn on the burners and absolutely embarrass the Cyclone defense. I didn't realize it until I saw Sam Richardson (the cornerback) attempting to catch Crockett down the sideline, but this defense, perhaps short of Tribune, is going to be consistently overmatched speed-wise. It's a recipe for disaster in the Big 12, and unless the front four starts to impose its will on the line of scrimmage, allowing 34 points to an FCS school is going to be the least of "Bend Don't Break" Burnham's concerns.

(They broke, by the way.)

The Good Stat

Colin Downing: 6 punts, 274 yards (45.7 average), 56-yard long. #PunterU lives.

The Bad Stat

Sam B. Richardson: 2 interceptions

The Ugly Stat

E.J. Bibbs: 1 reception, 8 yards