There's no cause of death in this week's postmortem, as Iowa State sealed its largest victory over a team not called the Jayhawks in nearly three years, 31-7. You can get the Overlord's recap right here.
What Went Well
Offense. It's funny, I think we may have set the bar for this passing game astronomically high, which is understandable when all you have to go on for game one are names on paper and training camp reports. But while Sam Richardson was productive by most measures, we all came crashing back down to earth a little bit.
If you were only keyed in on Richardson during most passing plays, you saw a lot of hesitation, indecisiveness and a willingness to take the sack. But if you glanced downfield, in many instances receivers just weren't getting open. While that's odd and frustrating as hell, hang your hat on one important thing: at least Richardson wasn't trying to throw to them. Sam completed 72% of his passes for 233 yards, two scores, and the all-important zero throws to the other team.
Tyler Brown's not going to get a game ball by any stretch, but I think we discovered who should be getting more touches going forward. Brown finished with 11 carries for 68 yards (half of them notched on one run) but had the vision, quickness and change-of-direction you expect from your RB1. If we were playing fantasy football, Josh Thomas had a more impressive day than Mike Warren, but expect Warren to settle in as RB2.
Defense. As the poll in the recap indicates, for the first time since God knows when, the guys lining up on the defensive side of the ball were your true heroes on Saturday. And Dale Pierson was Captain America on performance enhancing drugs. Pierson, accurately living up to his "Sack Mamba" Twitter handle, tallied three sacks and a late first half interception that set up Iowa State's first score of the game. At 250 pounds, Pierson displayed quick hands and even quicker feet, and lining up next to Demond Tucker is going to keep him free and give a lot of opposing offensive lines fits.
The secondary also played phenomenally well. A ticky tack defensive pass interference call aside, I was blown away by the downfield coverage just as much as the playmaking in the open field. We suspected Wally Burnham would rotate guys in and out to keep fresh legs on the field, and by the end of the game we saw guys like Brian Peavy, Darian Cotton and Jomal Wiltz making big-time plays.
Special Teams. Say what you will about Allen Lazard fielding punts, but shit, the experiment worked! Lazard has this funny way of being so large that it sometimes looks like he's running with cement in his shoes, but he's really blowing right by you. He has all the vision and handle you could ever ask for in a punt returner and accumulated 100 yards on four returns.
Not to be outdone, Trever Ryen then took over the returning duties later in the second half and housed an 81-yarder. It's impossible to overstate the importance of the field position that comes with this kind of success in the return game. It's going to be in games that Iowa State needs to match its opponent score-for-score that we hope to see it duplicated.
What Went Wrong
Offense. For all the excuses I made for Sam Richardson looking hesitant and squeezing the ball, he just can't take that many sacks. Every interception a quarterback throws, there always seems to be someone harping, "Either throw it away or take a sack!" The former would have been preferable Saturday night as Northern Iowa got a hold of Richardson four times.
Mark Mangino also appeared to have abandoned the run game after a stellar first drive. Understandably this is a team built to throw the ball, but getting Tyler Brown significant touches, especially once the game was put away in the second half, would have been nice to see.
Defense. Aaron Bailey did a number on Iowa State's linebackers to the tune of 85 rushing/scrambling yards (let's be honest, it was a little bit of both). The sideline-to-sideline speed is going to be an issue for this unit, and the only real way to soften the blow in that area is better route efficiency in the open field. There weren't a ton of missed tackles, just being out of position - which effectively neutered this team last year. I thought Jarnor Jones and Reggan Northrup had terrific nights at the SAM in spite of it all.
Special Teams. We at Wide Right & Natty Lite, rarely of sound mind and of mostly sound body, do not accept any responsibility for Iowa State University field goal kickers who kick a football in a general direction of the goal post that could be considered "wide right." This aptly named sports blog preceded Cole Netten and most of the men before him by several years and is in no way affiliated with any supernatural force behind a poorly kicked ball.