Iowa State went down to Stillwater and played a very similar game to a week ago – playing like the 2007 New England Patriots for three quarters (okay, not really), only to fall apart in the fourth quarter and lose to the Oklahoma State Cowboys by a score of 38-31.
The Cyclones went into halftime up 17-14, and came storming out of the gates in the third quarter, putting up two touchdowns, and more impressively making significant stops against one of the Big 12’s best offenses.
But in the end, the Iowa State offense crumbled, and the fighting Mike Gundy mullets took advantage.
Here are the good (and bad) things that happened in Saturday’s game.
What Went Right
Tom Manning is coming into his own as a playcaller. This offense had little identity after week two, but ever since, he has put playmakers in the right spots, and even threw in a bit of trickery on Saturday. Wide receiver Deshaunte Jones had two plays where he went back to pass (though he didn’t end up throwing on either), and it seems that our passing game has turned the corner.
Combining lines from Joel Lanning and Jacob Park, we get a quarterback stat line of 25-for-44 with 284 yards passing and three touchdowns. That is good enough to win in this conference, and we have the receivers to do it.
Those main benefactors catching the ball were Trever Ryen, with six catches, 74 yards and a touchdown, and Allen Lazard, who hauled in another 6 for 55 and two scores. The third receiver is the most surprising, and he has turned into a major force for this offense lately – Carson Epps. The sophomore from Oklahoma has increased his catch total in each of the last three games, and grabbed five more on Saturday.
Along with passing success came sustained drives, multiple first downs, and winning the time of possession. ISU dominated the first half clock nearly two to one, which has become somewhat of a staple for success in the Campbell era. Also, when ISU got in the red zone, they didn’t settle for field goals – they got touchdowns. Iowa State has continued its efficiency inside the 20 this year, as they are still a perfect 100% in six games.
After 22 missed tackles a week ago against Baylor, this defensive unit came to play, and wrapped u ball carriers convincingly. There were multiple outside runs where the pressure of the defensive line slowed the play, and our linebackers and defensive backs were able to corral the runners at the point of attack. In fact, Cowboy runners were held to 3.3 yards per carry, nearly half of what Baylor did a week ago.
That my friends, was a beautiful sight to see.
What Went Wrong
Well, pretty much the entire fourth quarter. A lot has been hashed out and questioned about the play calling of our coaches and execution of the offense in the latter part of games, but I don’t know if it’s all quite the coaches fault. This team lacks depth up front (on both sides of the ball) and it shows late in games. Also, the talent isn’t really there — remember we are working with a lot of first- and second-year players on this roster.
Relax Cyclone fans, it will come. Our recruiting will pay off dividends down the road.
I have to knock on the coaches a little bit though. Preseason All Big-12 running back Mike Warren only had nine carries in the game, and only three the entire second half. Montgomery ran with a vengeance, but #2 has to get more touches.
While we are talking about playmakers, Allen Lazard had three drops, especially one critical muff on what would have been a third down conversion. All in all, the execution just wasn’t there in the fourth quarter, as ISU moved the ball only 34 yards in the final stanza, and that proved to be the difference.
On the defensive side, I can’t really complain about our secondary — there were guys in the right places at the right times, but the throws from Mason Rudolph were in the perfect spot. Granted, ISU gave them a short field after turnovers (the Cowboys scored 14 off of 3 ISU giveaways), but Okie State just made more situational plays in this one.
Special Teams weren’t so special in this one, as leading return man Trever Ryen had two punt returns for NEGATIVE nine yards. Netten did made his 13th consecutive field goal and Colin Downing didn’t fuck up, so we got that going for us.
All in all, I felt the Cyclones played better than what we expected on Saturday. They grabbed a lead early, but this young team (and coaching staff) hasn’t learned how to win the close games. That especially involves executing the little plays to take that next step forward.
Don’t worry — ISU is making gigantic strides forward and have the reeling Texas Longhorns next.
Special Teams: B-