Offense, Defense, Special Teams.
While Iowa State won the first two category battles against Toledo on Saturday night in Ohio, they embarrassingly lost the special teams battle, and as consequence lost the game 30-23 in double overtime.
If you look at the numbers, you'd see ISU dominated this game statistically. They outgained Toledo 481-309 on offense, moved the chains for 27 total first downs, and held the ball for nearly 17 more minutes than the Rockets. Yet, they still lost.
This was one of the weirdest games I have ever witnessed. Bonehead penalties, unforced fumbles, and official reviews that made you wonder if the men in stripes got the calls right.
What wasn't weird was Iowa State missing a 32-yard field goal to win the game in regulation.
That missed kick could single-handedly cost coach Paul Rhoads his job. Speaking of Rhoads' job security, it will now be debated for a solid two weeks, as the rabid wolves of the media will feast upon a bloody 1-2 record.
What Went Well
Offense. There is a God. Iowa State ran the ball, this time with a new running back inserted into the starting lineup. Mike Warren found holes to run through and was able to make guys miss. He ended the evening with 126 rushing yards on an impressive 6.0 yards per carry.
Sam Richardson still looked indecisive in the pocket. He continued to hold onto the ball for long stretches, but was able to scramble and pick up big first downs with his nimble feet. Richardson ended the night 25 of 42, for 269 passing yards and one long TD to D'Vario Montgomery.
The Joel Lanning project made its debut, and the new package saw ISU's future QB run three times for 14 yards, and even catch a pass for a huge first down. Mangenius made it clear that he wanted to establish the run, and the big body of Lanning forced the defense to worry about two runners in the backfield instead of just one.
By the way, how good is Trever Ryen? The walk-on made a huge 3rd down catch in the 4th quarter, and sprinted to the pylon for a TD out of the backfield on a run play. He displays a special type of speed, and will continue to be an X-factor for this offense.
Another crazy good stat - ISU converted on 15 of 23 3rd downs. That's well above average, and a good sign for things to come.
Defense. The defense stepped up big in the second half. Other than two big runs made by Kareem Hunt, he was mostly bottled up by the front seven. The speed of the linebacking corps was evident, and gang tackling allowed very little room for Toledo to sustain long drives.
Demond Tucker played for about half of the defensive snaps, and Dale Pierson got pressure on the quarterback, but was unable to garner a sack. Cornerback Brian Peavy looked impressive in his first start, with a pick and three pass break ups. We also saw more of Jhaustin Thomas in the game, as he had four tackles, with two for loss.
After the Cyclones had given up a blocked punt and Toledo possession of the ball at the ISU 1 yard line, they impressively became a brick wall on three straight runs by the Rockets. That series was a huge stop by the Cyclone defense, and really allowed the team to stay in the game.
Special Teams. Nothing good here. Please refer to "What Went Wrong."
What Went Wrong
Offense. While Mike Warren ran the ball well, the offensive line still looked like an enigma. They had multiple drive-killing false start penalties, and Toledo was able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, as Sam was sacked four times.
Toledo ended the game with 13 tackles for loss. That is a direct correlation to the inability of the ISU offensive line.
The bubble screen worked all of ZERO times during the game. The wide receivers held none of their blocks, and ISU looked like a junior high team when they tried to run that play.
Sam needs to make quicker decisions. He was forced out of the pocket and was playing backyard football in the second half, making throws to receivers well after their original routes were broken. While it worked against a MAC opponent, it won't against Big 12 defenses.
Defense. No sacks by the Iowa State front four, and Toledo averaged 5.0 yards per carry, gaining 171 rushing yards total.
Darian Cotton looked horrible in pass coverage. He was beat on multiple occasions, and was lucky Toledo dropped as many passes as they did. Getting Qujuan Floyd back should be a significant upgrade at strong safety.
Special Teams - Cole Netten will go down in this game as the black sheep. He went 3-for-4 on field goals, but missed the most important one: a 32-yard potentially game-winning kick from the left hash as time expired.
P.S. - Why in the world didn't Rhoads and company place the ball in the middle of the field for the game winner? I am still shaking my head in angst at that one.
Toledo also blocked a punt in what looked like the easiest block in the history of football.
Offensive Grade: C+
The offensive line is still shaky and Sam is still playing football like a freshman. While we got the run game going a bit, it came against a MAC opponent. We'll need to see Sam make quicker reads and get the ball out of his hands under three seconds to see the offense improve more.
Defense Grade: A-
The secondary looked very strong, and linebackers were all over the field. We saw some flashes of talent by some up-and-coming players, which bodes well for the future of this unit.
Special Teams: F-
No return game, a blocked punt, and Netten missed an easy 32-yard chip shot. Not hard to pick a failing grade for this one.
Turnovers - ISU had two turnovers, one in the form of a fumble and other on a turnover on downs. Toledo had one on an interception.
Penalties - Iowa State had 14 for 113 yards. Huge breakdown mentally in this category... Multiple false starts and offsides came at costly times throughout the evening. I blame this solely on the coaching staff.
The Cyclones get this week off and take on Big 12 cellar dweller Kansas the week after.