Winning feels good. It always feels good. Whether the game itself is boring or not it always feels good to win. Seeing fans stick around in Jack Trice Stadium this past Saturday to cheer for the shutout against Texas was something to behold. The stadium wasn't sold out, and it wasn't as full as it was earlier in the game, but the fans were engaged because this program finally gave them something to be engaged about.
It's nice to feel that again.
Consistency & Sawin' Wood
Before I go too much further I want to make note of Mark Mangino's departure last week. He needed to go. The rumors that have circulated about his tenuous relationship with Paul Rhoads are true and football has passed him by. He might have success elsewhere down the line, but he needs to change his approach to play calling for it to happen. There were too many times this season where his approach to play calling all but passed us out of a game. So that's why when this happens I can chuckle:
Paul Rhoads: "Excellent first half by the D. Our guys kept sawing wood, got a key stop and got off the field."— Chris Williams (@ChrisMWilliams) November 1, 2015
Should Rhoads have said this? Probably not. Is it funnier because he made note specifically about his defense sawin' wood? Absolutely. Mangino's mantra of "Keep Sawin' Wood" is fine and a simple way to say keep working and let the rest fall in to place. Except he never lived it. Not in his approach to gameplanning, not in his approach with people, and most certainly not in his approach on the sidelines.
Rhoads was justifiably upset this week. He spent the better part of his tenure in the ears of his offensive coordinators; right, wrong, or otherwise. When Mangino was brought on board before the 2014 season it was noted he had "locked Paul out of the room" and it was true. Yet at the end of the day Rhoads steers the ship and didn't like the holes the offense was digging early in games. He wanted to make a change and Mangino walked out. And as a result...
Iowa State Had a Consistent Game on Saturday
Defensively there's nothing shocking here. Rhoads and his defense did what they normally do to underequipped offenses: beat them handily. However, this is the first time they really dominated an offense since the 2013 game against Kansas, and that was aided by cold conditions and a rock hard field.
Last weekend saw something else aid this defense: the offense. This dominating stat highlights just how much the offense pulled their weight:
Once again @CycloneFB asserts its dominance in the middle: 39 rushes, 186 yards, 4.8 YPC. 72% of rush attempts and 78% of rush yards.— Dan Becker (@WRNLKnowDan) November 1, 2015
Timing is important though and the clear attempt at establishing the run early and often was apparent on Saturday. From CFB Analytics here is a chart of Iowa State's rushing attack on Saturday by quarter with sacks included (we'll get to that in a second):
13 non-sack attempts in the 1st quarter, 9 in the 2nd, 14 in the 3rd, and 12 in the 4th. It might not have seemed like it at the time, but Iowa State's success came early as they averaged 5.7 yards per carry (YPC) in the 1st quarter and 8.3 YPC in the 2nd. A still solid 4.1 YPC occurred in the 2nd half. Removing Joel Lanning's 41 scramble yards on 3rd and 5 or greater we still come out to 4.8 YPC for the entire game.
These are fantastic numbers and illustrate why Rhoads wanted Mangino to change the offense: establishing the run early will help shorten games and keep over matched teams in games.
Lanning was sacked six times on Saturday, but for only a -3 yard average. These aren't sacks where he's hit in the middle of his drop back, or on a lengthy scramble, but a sack that occurs after he steps up in the pocket with his eyes downfield. That's a good problem to have with such a young quarterback.
Kudos to the Line
Daniel Burton went down on the fourth offensive play of the game on Saturday when Iowa State had accumulated just five yards on the ground. After that point they racked up another 250 yards behind the brute force of Wendell Taiese and Oni Omoile. Omoile slides to right guard without Burton playing and Taiese comes in at left guard. He paired up with Jaypee Philbert for most of the game until Philbert left in the 4th quarter. Those three with Jamison Lalk in the middle form a quartet capable of sealing and pushing around just about any line in the conference and the stats reflect that.
If it wasn't an impermissible benefit for me to pay for Mike Warren's eventual offensive line dinner at Texas Roadhouse I would, because these guys have earned every steak and buttered roll they can eat.
Lanning Still Has a Ways to Go
Things you cannot argue about Joel Lanning after Saturday: His conference record (1-0, as many wins as a start as Sam Richardson), his moxy, his arm when he isn't throwing off his back foot, his ability to bowl over safeties.
Things you can argue about Joel Lanning after Saturday: His propensity to throw off his back foot and trust his arm too much, his ability to read coverages, his accuracy on short throws.
The point is that Lanning had a very good game against an above average defense (42nd in CFA's AdjD Ratings). However, this performance is not all that dissimilar from Richardson's first start against West Virginia in 2012. Both men completed fewer than 50% of their passes and moved the chains with their feet. Fortunately for Lanning he has been aided by the most consistent rushing attack since Rhoads' first year with Alexander Robinson.
Lanning is going to get better and will probably get better fairly quickly. He has an arm that can't be taught, an ability to be physical when he needs to be, and he moves his feet in the pocket with more confidence than any quarterback I can recall in an Iowa State uniform. He has to go through a tough Oklahoma defense on Saturday (9th in CFA's AdjD Ratings) and he's going to be forced to make throws from the pocket as Oklahoma plays contain with their defensive linemen.
It's possible he sinks back on Saturday, but that's part of maturing as a football player. It will then be on us to not immediately ask for another change.
A Final Word
I wrote this during the first quarter of the Baylor game
I really have no idea what we're trying to accomplish on offense. It feels like a grab bag of play calling and philosophies.— Dan Becker (@WRNLKnowDan) October 24, 2015
And I never once felt that way against Texas. Let's hope the latter feeling sticks.