It’s the best week of the year – Hate Week, as we like to call it at the WRNL headquarters. The only time of year where you get to talk as much smack as you want to your opponent. Where every fan is conceited, self-righteous and damn right convinced that THEIR team will win on Saturday.
2015 Game II: Iowa State (1-0, 0-0) vs. University of Iowa (1-0, 0-0)
Date: September 12, 2015
Time: 3:45 p.m. CDT
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
Line: Iowa -3.5, O/U 52
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Iowa SBN Site: Black Heart Gold Pants
Iowa State hastily welcomes their foes from the east to town for the annual Cy-Hawk game, and the right to another 365 days of bragging rights. In recent years past, the road team has come out on top, winning the last three matchups. ISU came home with the Cy-Hawk trophy last year, triumphing in Iowa City after a magnificent timeout called by Captain Kirk, giving Cole "Swoll" Netten a second field goal try, and a 20-17 victory for the Cyclones.
Coming into this game, I could see anything happening. Both coaches generally stay conservative and keep their play calling cards close to the vest. Special teams could be the name of the game, and it has come to down to that in years' past (ala Shaggy kicking five field goals in 2005). Iowa lost their top returning quarterback, running back and receiver from a year ago, but still have good depth, while ISU has a lot of new faces on defense coming from the JUCO ranks.
When we last left off….
Iowa State started out slow against in-state rival UNI last week, but pulled away in the second half, winning by a score of 31-7. The defense looked stout, as defensive end Dale Pierson recorded the most sacks in a game (3), since the Jason Berryman days of 2005. The offense looked subpar, with only 310 yards of total offense against an FCS opponent. Sam Richardson led the way with 233 passing yards and two touchdowns, and was just a few yards away from having 4 pass TDs. The running attack was shut down, as ISU mustered only 77 yards on the ground. Special teams was a bright spot, where Allen Lazard and Trever Ryen combined for a school-record 193 punt return yards.
Iowa welcomed back 14 starters for their first game of 2015 in a win against Illinois State, winning by a score of 31-14. Quarterback C.J. Beathard made his second career start and passed for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Iowa ran the ball for 210 yards on the ground, with new starting running back LeShun Daniels totaling 123 himself.
The Hawks lose their starting QB, RB, and top WR from a year ago, as well as their two top offensive tackles and two leading tacklers in safety John Lowdermilk and Quinton Alston. Their defense looked very impressive, led by preseason All-Big Ten defensive end Drew Ott, who had two sacks.
Iowa leads the all-time series 40-22, with the Cyclones winning 10 of the last 17, including three of the last four. The road team has won three in a row.
Iowa State Offense
Sam Richardson looked a bit hesitant in the first game and was caught staring down his receivers at times. Offensive coordinator Mark Mangino did not call a single read option or designed running play for the QB. I expect that to change against Iowa. The wide receivers looked terrific, and we have four good ones on the field that will be a mismatch problem with their height and explosiveness.
The big unknown coming into the season opener was the play of the offensive line. Against UNI, the front five got little push, and the only two big runs ISU had were when they caught UNI blitzing. Running back Tyler Brown totaled 68 yards on the ground, and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Mangenius said in the press conference this week that he was banged up after his first few carries, but should be good to go this week.
As I rewatched the game, I noticed that ISU kept it very simple. There were no runs to the outside, and Sam was never used as a decoy in any running situations. Receivers did a good job of running after the catch, and continued to display some of the explosiveness that Rhoads has been looking for. The 2.4 yards per carry stat need to be addressed, however.
First Key to Victory – Get Playmakers Lots of Touches
Iowa State has one of the best receiving corps in college football. They need to take advantage of mismatches and should focus on spreading Iowa out, as the Hawks like to keep their base 4-3, even in passing downs. Exploit the middle of the field with crossing routes, and run screens to get the playmakers the ball. They will take care of the rest.
Iowa runs your typical 4-3 defense, and likes to get pressure from their front four. Their linebackers eat up space and are above average in stopping the run. The Hawks were led in tackles last week by linebackers Cole Fisher and Greg Mabin. Their two defensive ends are above average in stopping the run and rushing the passer, with Drew Ott and Nate Meier.
Iowa returns a good safety and corner from last year, in Jordan Lomax and Desmond King, respectively. They won’t dial up too many blitzes, other than on obvious 3rd down passing situations. Iowa plays a fundamentally sound defense, and it all starts up front with their front four. They were ranked 7th in passing defense a year ago, and return three players in the secondary.
The Hawkeyes made Illinois State’s quarterback Tre Roberson run for his life last week, and shut down Illinois State’s passing attack. They allowed only 35 rushing yards to the Redbirds, who came away with a paltry 1.2 yards per carry.
Look for ISU to take advantage of the lack of linebacker speed from Iowa. I foresee a lot of throws to the running backs on wheel routes and passes in the flats. Also look for Iowa State to exploit mismatches on the outside with their height at receiver.
The offensive line needs to get a push on the front four for Iowa, especially if Daniel Burton is able to come back and play. Iowa State can’t afford to be one dimensional. They will more than likely pass to set up the run, but need to be competent in the run game to win.
Iowa will make their main focus stopping the run. If ISU can’t get any run game, their receivers need to make sure they get off the press man coverage and find holes in the defense for Sam to throw to.
Advantage – Dead Even. The Hawks have a great front four, and ISU carries a bevy of talent at receiver and QB. This matchup will be the best one of the day.
Iowa State Defense
This defensive line could be the best one in Rhoads’s tenure. Led by Dale Pierson and Demond Tucker, the Cyclones were a force in the UNI game. They get Trent Taylor back, who is slated to start at DE, and will more than likely go away from the 3-4, and into more 4-3. Look for Pierson and Taylor to play on the outside, with Gabe Luna as backup. Pierre Aka should start alongside Tucker, as Iowa likes to get the run game going. The only time I see a 3-4 is on 3rd and longs. ISU needs to make their main focus to stop the ball carrier before he gets to the next level. Iowa likes to run their typical zone read, so LB’s have to stay sound in their gaps and not get out of position.
Look for more of a standard 3-linebacker set, with Jordan Harris, Kane Seeley and Levi Peters as the run stoppers. ISU can afford to take their nickels off the field, because no matter what time of the game, Iowa will always focus on the run.
Second Key to Victory – Take Advantage of Turnovers
This game is going to be bloody, and at times slow. Momentum can change in an instant, and when ISU gets turnovers, they have to turn them into points on the board. 7s, not 3s.
Led by CJ Beathard at QB, Iowa brings a different type of passer we haven’t seen before in a Hawkeye uniform. Beathard likes to take chances, while typically Iowa offenses are very conservative. Look for Beathard to try some throws downfield, especially to tight end Henry Krieger Coble on the play action. Beathard can also run on occasion, and has the chance to make a difference outside the pocket.
I can’t stress this enough... Iowa’s number one goal is to run the football. They will pound it up front until it works, even if they get three yards and a cloud of dust. Look for both LeShun Daniels and Jordan Canzeri to get a ton of carries. Keep in mind, Iowa also has two brand new bookend tackles who have not played in a hostile environment, and that could play a role in passing situations.
Iowa's top receivers are Matt VandeBerg, Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer. Hillyer stands 6’4" and can be a deep threat. VandeBerg led the hawks with 6 catches and 59 yards last week, and will be their top receiving target along with Smith.
Verdict - Neither. It is still too early to tell on both sides. Iowa has a lot of fresh new faces on the offensive side of the ball. They have a veteran center in Austin Blythe, and a QB with some experience, but he has never played in Jack Trice. ISU’s defense carries nine JUCO’s in their two-deep, and Wally Burnham and company will put the right players in the right packages to counter Iowa’s attack.
Cole Netten went 1 for 3 last week on kicks. Coach Rhoads said the first one was jitters and the second was mechanics. He has been accurate thus far in his career, and will likely be called upon for multiple tries in this game. Look for Trever Ryen and Allen Lazard to make their presence felt on punt returns, as they go against a unit that ranked 123rd in all of college football a year ago in punt return defense.
Iowa brings back senior kicker Marshall Koehn, who made 71% of his kicks a year ago. He brings a strong leg with him to Ames, and so does the kicking return defense. Iowa led the nation last year, with an average of allowing 14.8 yards per opponent return.
Advantage – Iowa State. Based on their performance in the punt return game last week.
KnowDan's Beer Pick of the Week
It's September, it's going to be nice out, and you need an all day beer to drink that doesn't have "Light" in the title. Plus it's Hate Week, which means it's written somewhere that I have to pick a beer made in Iowa. No problem intrepid drinker, I have just the beer to tickle your taste buds as you watch drunk Hawk fans marvel at our great tailgating scene.
Exile Brewing's Beatnik Sour is a great introduction to sour beers and easy enough to drink for anyone who's expanding their horizons past your basic domestic. Light and lemony with not too strong of a sour finish this beer will get you through the entire day.
This one will be worth the price of admission. Both teams match up well against one another, and I see a close one in Jack Trice. There will be lulls in the game, and ISU will have to capitalize by taking the ball away and making key 3rd down stops on defense. It doesn’t matter whether it is the 1st quarter or 4th quarter, momentum can change in an instant.
One thing I noticed last week is this Cyclone team is resilient. Immediately after both of Iowa State’s lost fumbles against UNI, the defense came back with an INT and a sack. The defense will have to pick up the offense at times against Iowa, and vice versa.
Iowa State brings one thing to the table in this one – the crowd. With a new bowled-in south end zone, I see an advantage with the noise, especially with new faces on the offensive side of the ball for Iowa.
Final Key to Victory – Make Field Goals
We have seen it year in and year out. A lot of these CyHawk games come down to the end, and with both defenses able to stuff it in the red zone, I see the kicking game serving as the key for victory. Cole Netten, it’s your time to shine again.
Look for Iowa State to get the ball to Quenton Bundrage and Allen Lazard as many times as they can, with a small dosage of Montgomery and Daley. Once the defense plays back, we will see a capable running attack.
Iowa State 23, Iowa 20
Don’t forget to stop by the WRNL tailgate in G7 at the intramural fields!
And, now for the discussion. Let’s hear YOUR comments, predictions, etc. It's Hateweek!