Iowa State makes its first road trip of the season, as they travel to Toledo, Ohio for their third stanza of 2015. The Cyclones played one strong half against Iowa last week, but got out-coached and out-executed in the second half, as they fell to the Hawkeyes, 31-17.
2015 Game III: Iowa State (1-1, 0-0) vs. University of Toledo (1-0, 0-0)
Date: September 19, 2015
Time: 7:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Glass Bowl - Toledo, Ohio
Line: Toledo -7.5, O/U 59
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Toledo SB Nation Website: Hustle Belt
The Cyclones look to get the bad taste out of their mouths after losing a see-saw battle to in-state rival Iowa last week. The offense was only able to muster 66 yards of offense in the second half, and the defense struggled without their anchor up front, Demond Tucker, who left in the 2nd quarter with a sprained ankle.
For this week, Tucker should be healthy, while starting CB Sam E. Richardson will be out and backup DE Gabe Luna is also a scratch. The talk of this week has been the lack of a run game. Hopefully Rhoads and his crew have put together a different game plan for the foreseeable future.
When we last left off
ISU played one of its most impressive first halves last week against Iowa. Sam Richardson looked sharp, completing 12 of 15 passes for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. WR Jauan Wesley had an amazing one-handed grab to put the Cyclones in front 17-10 at the half. The second half was all Iowa, as the offense was shut down and the running game went nowhere. Iowa outscored ISU 21-0 to win the game 31-17.
There were some critical points in the game I wanted to mention.
1. Iowa State with 4th and 1 at midfield, and the momentum clearly in ISU’s favor. Rhoads decides to punt, and Iowa drives 94 yards down the field and scores 7.
2. Iowa with 3rd and 19 at their own 6 yard line, and ISU brings no pressure. The 3-man front allows Beathard all day to throw and he hits WR Matt Vandeberg for a 48 yard pass play.
3. Iowa fumbles the ball in the red zone to give the Cyclones their first turnover and break of the game. ISU only manages to gain 30 yards on the ensuing drive, and then is forced to punt.
In all of these situations, Rhoads and company did not capitalize on their opportunities. I’m not saying Paul needs to go back to his riverboat gambling days, but in order for this team to move forward and win close games, they HAVE to be the aggressor and step on the opponent's throat when the opportunity is available.
Toledo enters Saturday’s game with a 1-0 record. Their first game they played Stony Brook for 2 quarters, leading 16-7, only to see the game cancelled due to severe weather. The Rockets were picked by many media outlets to win the MAC in 2015, and return eight starters on defense, and five on offense.
Last week, Toledo made headlines by upsetting 18th ranked Arkansas by a score of 16-12. It was their first win against an SEC opponent, and first against ranked team since 2012. The Rockets played stingy defense, allowing only 103 yards on the ground, blocking a punt, and tallying eight pass breakups.
Their offense was so-so, with 81 yards rushing, and 237 passing. Arkansas was able to outgain Toledo by a wide margin, 515 yard to 318, as Arkansas attempted 53 passes and threw for 412 yards. In my opinion, Arkansas did not do themselves any favors and lost this game more than Toledo won it. The Razorbacks made multiple mental errors, had costly penalties and only converted 1 of 5 times in the redzone.
ISU leads the all-time series 2-1, winning last year’s game 37-30 in Ames.
Iowa State Offense
This Cyclone team can not run the football. Re-watching Saturday’s game, I noticed the O-line does a horrible job of getting any leverage or ability to drive their legs downfield. It looks as though they are pass-blocking by standing straight up. For the year, ISU averages a putrid 2.4 yards per carry.
Sam looked great in the pocket when he had protection, but when that broke down he really struggled. The second half was the Richardson to Lazard show, as the stud sophomore was targeted exclusively in the offense. Sam needs to get other players involved and utilize the height and athleticism we have on the outside, with Dondre Daley, Quenton Bundrage, and slot receiver Jauan Wesley.
First Key to Victory – Gain Yards on 1st and 2nd Down
What was alarming to me was that the average 3rd down and distance in the 2nd half against Iowa was 3rd and 10! Mangenius needs to sharpen the playbook by throwing out 1st down run plays and utilize the guys out of the backfield as receivers. In order for Sam to keep his jersey clean, the Clones have to mix in the bubble screens, passes to flats and short curl routes to get drives going early.
If there is anything to take away from Toledo’s game last week, it’s that they gave up 412 passing yards and 30 first downs. That should bode well for Sam and company. The Rockets play a 4-2-5 nickel defense, similar to ISU’s past defensive scheme. They return 8 starters, including two veteran cornerbacks, and a strong defensive front led by defensive end Trent Voss.
The Toledo defense’s focus is stopping the run. They led the MAC in rush defense a year ago, and if the Arkansas game is any good example, bottling up an SEC front like the Razorbacks' (whose strength is running) should tell us something.
Toledo has depth back in the secondary and on defensive line, and will play up in box to stop the run. So far, the pass defense is a big question mark.
In last year’s game, Richardson had a heyday, completing 37 passes for 351 yards and 3 TDs. Toledo’s strength is the run defense, and ISU’s weakness is the run offense. I see slinging Sammy B coming out ready to rock and roll and throw the ball often.
Advantage - Iowa State. The Cyclones' passing offense should be tough to contain for the Rockets.
Iowa State Defense
This defensive line is for real. Leading the nation in sacks is Dale Pierson, who has turned into a playmaker. Getting Demond Tucker back will be one of the biggest storylines of this game, as Toledo loves to run the ball between the tackles.
Jay Jones has come into his own and has been all over the field. The linebackers have been average thus far, and really got run down by fatigue in the second half against Iowa. Look for CB Brian Peavy to make his first start, with Jomal Wiltz as his backup. I have been impressed by both so far in their two games on the field.
At safety, I predict Kamari Cotton-Moya to have a big day in the stat sheet. He will have to cover up any problems made by the front seven, and will more than likely be playing up in the box to help stop the run.
Second Key to Victory – Stop the Run
Toledo brings back one of the game’s best at running back in junior Kareem Hunt. He averaged 8.0 yards per carry last year (that is not a typo) and has NFL-type speed. Demond Tucker playing healthy will go a long way if he can play for four quarters.
Kareem Hunt ranked third in the nation in rushing yards per game last year, at an astounding 163 per game. In the GoDaddy (Hehe) bowl game, he rushed for 271 yards. They will look to get him as many touches as possible. Look for backup RB Damion Jones-Moore to get carries as well, as he averaged 6.2 YPC last week. The Rockets' quarterback is Alabama transfer Phillip Ely. He missed last year due to knee injury, but has been efficient thus far in 2015, throwing for 237 yards against Arkansas, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Toledo lost all five starting linemen from a year ago, so they have little to no experience at that position. Florida State transfer Ruben Carter will handle the center spot, and junior left tackle Storm Norton is the only other Rocket with experience.
At wideout, Toledo brings back 3-time All-MAC WR Alonzo Russell. Russell has caught 166 passes in three seasons, and stands 6-foot-4. Corey Jones complements Russell’s size with speed, as he is a shifty 5-foot-8 slot receiver for the Rockets.
This should be the matchup of the day. We all know that Toledo loves to run the ball, and they have one of the nation’s best in the backfield in Kareem Hunt. Hunt returns from his two game suspension, and should be amped to see the field for the first time this year. The linebackers for ISU have to stay in sound gap position, and will be forced to wrap up at the point of attack. If they don’t, we might see a track meet.
Advantage - Toledo. The Rockets should field a dynamic rushing attack.
Cole Netten got back in the good graces column last week, with a 1/1 kicking performance. Punt returners Allen Lazard and Trever Ryen were held to zero return yards, but look for that to change this week.
Toledo brings in two new kickers, and an average return game. Kicker Jameson Vest had a 26-yard field goal blocked last week.
Advantage – Neither.
The Cyclones make their first road game appearance, and for many on the roster, it will be their first time away from the friendly confines of Jack Trice Stadium.
Final Key to Victory – Resiliency
Playing for the first time on the road, this team will suffer lapses in the form of mental errors. The defense has to be sound in their judgement and not let the big plays bother them, because Toledo will move the ball.
The offensive unit should be more adept to the atmosphere, and I see Sam coming out of his shell and putting on a performance. Mangino knows that he needs to run the ball, especially on the road, but he will have to get yards in other ways and the short to intermediate passes (where Sam thrives) will be the recipe for success.
Look for the offense to move the ball through the air, but the defense will have their work cut out for them. Toledo is a legitimate Division I program, and have built a strong unit with their coach in his fourth year at the helm. I see Hunt having a big day on the ground.
Toledo 31, Iowa State 28