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3 Things We Learned from the Baylor Game

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Moral victories suck. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Normally I’m not one for moral victories because, well, what kind of victory is it if you didn’t actually win? But today I’m in a good mood. I’m in a good mood because Iowa State played (mostly) very well against a very good team. The team we saw yesterday against Baylor would’ve beat UNI by 30. They would’ve kept it close with Iowa and TCU, too.

So while the loss is frustrating, I’m still feeling good about this team and what it can do. We learned a lot of things about Matt Campbell and his team yesterday. Here are a few of them.

1. This Offense Can Score

Baylor isn’t going to win the national championship this year, but they’re a good team. Their defense ain’t so bad, either. In their first four games this year, Baylor gave up a total of 54 points. That’s an average of 13.5 points per game, and the most they had allowed in a single game was last week against Oklahoma State when they gave up 24. So Iowa State not only scored six touchdowns against a Big 12 team, they did it against a very good defensive team that has shown the ability to shut down offenses.

This is exciting! We have a capable offense! Jacob Park didn’t make an appearance, yet the offense was still able to move the ball through the air. Joel Lanning played the best game of his career today and that’s encouraging. If he plays like this for the rest of the season Iowa State can win another three or four games.

It’s the defense’s turn to step up.

2. The Coaches Know Who Their Playmakers Are

Through the first three games, I had a lot of complaints about how many touches Mike Warren and Allen Lazard were getting. It seemed like the offense could only get one of them the ball. If Warren was on, the passing game would struggle and if Lazard was making plays, it was the running game’s turn to suffer.

That changed for me over these past two weeks. Yesterday, Mike Warren had 30 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns, a great game. Lazard only had three catches for 33 yards but Deshaunte Jones, Trever Ryen and Carson Epps picked him up. Lazard also drew a pass interference flag near the goalline. So even if he’s not catching eight passes, Lazard still plays a prominent role within the offense, simply because he takes away the best cover corner from the opposing team and usually requires help over the top.

The offensive line gave Lanning time and gave Warren and Lanning some holes to run through. The running backs did a good job finding the endzone and not fumbling. The receivers did their part by catching Lanning’s throws and blocking on the outside. It was a great performance all around by the offense up until the fourth quarter, but in general 42 points should be enough to win. I thought Tom Manning did well today, setting up a gameplan that would chew the clock and play to the strengths of Lanning and Warren.

3. The Defense Cannot Stop The Run

Pass coverage has, for the most part, looked pretty good this season. It looked very good today too, as Seth Russell finished 12/22 with only one touchdown.

That came at a great expense, however. Baylor ran all over Iowa State. Shock Linwood busted the defense to the tune of 237 yards on 9.5 yards per carry. Baylor ran into the endzone five times yesterday. That’s a killer. What’s even worse is that he hardly had half of Baylor’s yardage total. The Bears gained a grand total of 439 yards on the ground yesterday and that is unacceptable for any defense.

Now, to be fair, this isn’t really new information. TCU ran for 229 yards two weeks ago and Iowa totaled 198. However, neither of those teams dominated with absolute authority like Baylor did. The problem has been the big plays Iowa State has allowed on runs that could’ve been ended at the line of scrimmage.

Iowa State’s defensive line doesn’t have much depth. Demond Tucker and Jhaustin Thomas are good players. Mitchell Meyers has made plays, as have Pierre Aka and JD Waggoner. There just isn’t enough consistency up front. Campbell needs to hit on a lot of his D-Line targets in the next few classes if Iowa State wants to have a competitive defense.

All things considered, this was a good performance. There has been noticeable improvement and in year one of a new coaching regime that’s all anyone can ask for.