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3 Things We Learned from the TCU Game

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Hey, at least we covered the spread!

Another week, another loss. That’s alright though. Most of us knew this year wasn’t going to be a championship season (that’s next year, of course) so while an 0-3 start is disappointing, it’s not the end of the world.

1. The QB Controversy Isn’t Over

As expected, Joel Lanning and Jacob Park split time at QB against TCU and neither stood out too much over the other. Lanning scored both of Iowa State’s touchdowns, but both were on the ground. Neither Park nor Lanning was exceptional in the passing game.

The good news? Neither of them turned the ball over. The play from the wide receivers was less than stellar and, once again, some of the bigger gains Iowa State had were called back due to penalties. Lanning and Park weren’t the reason Iowa State lost, but since neither of them stood out, it’s hard to imagine Matt Campbell choosing one over the other to play the whole game next week against San Jose State.

2. The Offense Still Needs A Lot Of Work

I’ve been a big advocate for getting the ball to Mike Warren and Allen Lazard as much as possible. Through two games, Tom Manning did that for Allen Lazard but not Mike Warren. The opposite happened yesterday as Warren got 26 touches for 119 all-purpose yards. Lazard was held to only one catch for eight yards and no touchdowns.

Here’s a list of ISU players who had more receptions yesterday than Allen Lazard: Trever Ryen (fine), Dondre Daley (also fine), Warren (interesting), Deshaunte Jones (unexpected, but not necessarily bad), Justin Chandler (lol wait what), and Mitchell Harger (LOL WAIT WHAT???)

I’m fine with sharing the ball among several receivers and I like seeing guys like Harger and Chandler get targets. However, of the Cyclones’ usual biggest targets (Ryen, Lazard, Daley, and Warren) none of them gained over 10 yards per catch. Those four combined for 12 catches and 106 yards. You’re not going to beat many teams if your four biggest receiving threats are only getting 100 yards and can’t find the endzone.

Deshaunte Jones made a very nice play on a screen. Justin Chandler made a great one-handed grab in the flat. Darius Lee-Campbell made a nice play to get open and make a catch for a 34-yard gain. Those are positives for a team that has struggled to find playmakers outside of Allen Lazard, but right now Iowa State isn’t getting all parts moving at the same time. To be a dangerous offense, the Cyclones need to find a way to get Lanning’s on-and-off accuracy to just be on. They need to find a way to get players like Jones, Chandler and Lee-Campbell to make plays. And they need to find a way to get Lazard the ball. If Iowa State gets all three of those things working together, this passing offense could become solid. Having only one or two of those phases working at a time is a recipe for failure.

3. This Team IS Getting Better

Like I said above, this year isn’t Iowa State’s year to make a run for a championship. This year is about establishing a team identity and setting up for the future. One of the biggest things I’ve complained about so far is the tendency this team has had to shoot itself in the foot. Through just three games, this team has started to figure it out.


Week 1 - UNI

Week 2 - Iowa

Week 3 - TCU

Penalties - Yards

9 - 89

10 - 73

7 - 44

Turnovers

4

1

0

Time of Possession

24:04

27:52

32:52

Week one was brutal. Sloppy play all around. The offense was killed by penalties, turnovers, and no sustained drives.

Week two was slightly better. Penalties were still a problem but turnovers weren’t killing the offense anymore.

Week three felt like real progress. An acceptable amount of penalties and penalty yards; not a single turnover; and for the first time all season, they won time of possession. It’s pretty simple: if you have the ball more than your opponent, you don’t turn it over and you don’t commit penalties, it’s much harder for your opponent to beat you. When Iowa State knocked off Oklahoma State in 2011, guess what? They won all three of those categories. When Iowa State lost at Toledo last year, guess what? They had double the penalty yardage of Toledo (113 for Iowa State, 57 for Toledo) and the turnover battle was even.

Yesterday was an example of a team that was just more talented than Iowa State. The offense still needs to improve a lot, as does the defense. This week felt like progress, though. If Iowa State had played like this in week one against UNI, Iowa State would’ve won by two touchdowns. That’s a sign of improvement and it’s what this coaching staff needs to continue to do with this team. If they can consistently limit penalties and turnovers while winning the time of possession battle, they’ll force opponents to actually go out and beat them.

There’s a huge difference between losing and getting beat. Yesterday, Iowa State got beat, and that’s fine. They didn’t lose the game with self-inflicted mistakes and boneheaded errors. They got beat by a more talented team and there’s no shame in that, at least not in year one with a new coaching staff and three freshmen playing on the offensive line.

San Jose State isn’t nearly as talented as Iowa or TCU. UNI is probably better than San Jose State, in fact. If the Cyclones go out next week against San Jose State and play like they did against TCU, they’ll win. It’s as simple as that. This team is improving and it’s time to turn that improvement into results.