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Iowa State Cyclones vs. San Jose State Spartans Preview

Hey guys, we might actually win this one!

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

Dan McCarney comes back to Ames for his induction into the Hall of Fame, and watches Matt Campbell and his cronies vie for their first ever win at Iowa State. Guess what — it might actually happen!

2016 Game IV: Iowa State (0-3, 0-1) vs. San Jose State University (1-2, 0-0)

Time: 11 a.m. CDT

Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa

Capacity: 61,500

Line: ISU -6.5

Television: Fox Sports Net

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

San Jose State Game Notes

When We Last Left Off

The Cyclones traveled down to Fort Worth and got their asses kicked. While the Clones did not win on the scoreboard, there were some positives — namely running back Mike Warren getting back on track, rushing for 95 yards, and a competent Joel Lanning, leading the offense to TWO touchdown drives! The defense held the Horned Frogs to 130 yards below their season average, and the offense managed to go the entire 60 minutes without a turnover!

Iowa State’s new head coach has owned his record thus far, bluntly exclaiming to “Trust In The Process.” He preaches doing things the right way with fundamentals, i.e. blocking and tackling. So far this team has been god-awful at both of those (especially the blocking part), but it takes time folks.

We are still dripping blood from a heated competition at quarterback (not really, last week didn’t show us much), and so far Mr. Joel Lanning holds onto his role for at least one more week. Park will continue to get snaps, and it appears Campbell and offensive coordinator Tom Manning will ride the hot hand.

The Series

ISU leads the all-time series 3-0, with the last meeting in 1980. The top single that year was Blondie’s “Call Me.”

Gotta love the 80s.

San Jose Spartan Tidbits

San Jose State makes the long trek from California to Ames, and is coming off a gritty performance in a 34-17 loss to Utah a week ago. The Spartans actually hung right with the Utes, clinging to a 10-point deficit until late in the 3rd quarter.

San Jose State’s offensive line was absolutely dominated, allowing 10 sacks and only garnering 1.8 yards per rush. The Spartans are coached by Ron Caragher, in his fourth year with the school, coming over from the University of San Diego.

Caragher’s team was one of the 5-win bowl eligible teams last year (just plain ridiculous), and took advantage of it, winning against Georgia State in the AutoNation Cure Bowl (what in da fuq).

Their other two affairs this season were a 45-10 loss to Tulsa (similar talent to ISU), and a 66-35 thrashing of FCS opponent Portland State. San Jose State was picked by most media outlets to be in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West Conference in 2016.

ISU Offense

Tom Manning really emphasized getting Mike Warren the ball last week. HashtagChris touched this week on why ISU needs to feed the beast. Instead of running the quarterback read (never fakes anyone out, not even the cameraman), he went to the straight-ahead power attack, with lead blockers and two-running back sets, primarily with Mitchell Harger.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

What was embarrassing was a drive in the fourth quarter where Iowa State had to attempt FOUR freaking times at the ONE yard line to get it in. All three first plays were handoffs to #2, and all three resulted in tackles for loss or stuffs at the line of scrimmage.

I noticed that Lanning was given the opportunity to run more in the red zone, and he capitalized. He will get the start for the Cyclones, and as long as he plays mistake-free football and moves the sticks, he will continue to be the man. Again, some of his throws were lasers (give it some touch my man) and were the source of multiple missed opportunities. He needs to slow down, set his feet and take what the defense gives him, which in this game will be like a kid in a candy store.

First Key to Victory — Take What the Defense Gives You

In my first preview of the year I mentioned a key to success for the whole season is accurate throws from Joel Lanning. He has struggled so far (as said above) and needs to take what the defense allows. So far the scheme this staff has come up has worked, yet our execution has not. Most of that falls on the shoulders of inaccurate passes and drops by the receivers.

Speaking of receivers — Allen Lazard was held to just one catch against TCU. I was very disappointed that our offense could not take advantage, seeing that TCU was clearly shadowing Lazard with a safety over the top AND a linebacker in the flat. If the opponent is going to, in effect, triple team one of your targets then we need to take full advantage by throwing to other receivers, a la Trever Ryen, Deshaunte Jones, and Dondre Daley.

It’s been reported that Lazard is ailing with an injured foot, but should be good to go in this one.

Second Key to Victory — Gain Yards on 1st and 2nd Down

With or without suspended left tackle Jaypee Philbert — honestly does it matter? — I want to see sustained drives from this offensive line and better decision-making from our quarterback. That will come with a heavy dose of rushes by Mike Warren; and throw in a little David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu while you are at it. The Cyclones are dreadful on 3rd down conversions this year (29%), and most of that is inability to gain yards on 1st and 2nd down. Look for Manning to put the team on Warren’s back and make 3rd downs much more manageable.

San Jose State Defense

While the Spartan defense has been gashed for big plays, giving up 236 yards on the ground and 38 points per game, they have still been quite opportunistic, forcing EIGHT turnovers in three games. San Jose State has also been able to get pressure from their defensive line, creating havoc in the backfield with eight sacks and 19 tackles-for-loss.

Leading the defensive attack is linebacker Frank Ginda and his team-leading 32 tackles. The 6-foot, 241-pound sophomore also leads the team in tackles-for-loss and sacks, and ranks in top-20 in the nation in stops per game. The Spartans have another wildcard with linebacker Christian Tago. The senior captain has yet to see the field this season (with a knee injury), and is questionable to go on Saturday. Tago is ranked fourth nationally among all defensive players in tackles per game, and would add a spark to this defense.

Rush end Nick Oreglia has started 16 consecutive games for Sparty, and is a force from the outside. Their defensive format is similar to that of a 4-3 base with a nickel mixed in. They are also full of inexperience, starting six freshmen and sophomores.

In the back end, the Spartans are led by cornerback Andre Chachere and his two interceptions on the year. Also look out for veteran safety Maurice McKnight, who does a fantastic job of playing run support for this defense.

Verdict — ISU

Put it on the board: ISU gets their first win in this department!

Mainly due in large part to the inability of San Jose State to stop the run, and the front-four for SJSU averaging 273 pounds, quite an advantage for the hungry Cyclones. Looking at the games against Utah and Tulsa (similar talent to ISU), they gave up 5.3 yards per rush, and I could see Mike Warren capitalizing in a big way.

Look for Lazard to get back on track, and for Ryen and Jones to take advantage of a slower unit with screens and crossing patterns. I see both Lanning and Park alternating snaps, and whoever can make the easy throws and keep the sticks moving will be our starter against Baylor.

ISU Defense

The strength of this defensive is the secondary, and it shows by only allowing 208 yards per game through the air. Many times ISU defenders were in the right spot against TCU, they just couldn’t make a play for the ball. That is teachable, and a good thing moving forward against upcoming pass-happy offenses in conference play. Brian Peavy has continued his stellar sophomore season, and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is about as good as they come.

Third Key to Victory — Give Me Some Takeaways

I want to see more aggressiveness and ability to force turnovers, and this might be the game to do it. SJSU is last in the country in sacks allowed, and Jon Heacock and company need to add fuel to that fire. Mitchell Meyers, Demond Tucker, and Jhaustin Thomas all have the ability to get to the quarterback and will need to do that on Saturday. Thomas’s light has finally turned on, and he could be a spark for this defense. Look for Heacock to throw a few wrinkles in the game plan, with more blitzing and disguises up front.

The linebacker play has continued to be the weakest link, and needs to do a better job at containing the outside. For the first time all year, they don’t have to worry too much about a running quarterback. Whew

San Jose State Offense

The Spartans don’t have much of an identity thus far on offense. So far, the talk has been about how bad their offensive line is, and it shows by giving up 16 sacks and an inefficient running game. Their only good output was a 66-point outburst against an FCS team, and the majority of those points were scored on a short field after forcing turnovers.

Watching tape against Utah, quarterback Kenny Potter held the ball way too long, allowing pressure to eat him up for 7 of Utah’s 10 sacks. Due to his inability to move the ball, the Spartans brought in backup Josh Love, who did quite well, passing for 184 yards and a touchdown in cleanup duty. Coach Caragher said this week though that Potter remains the signal-caller. He’s nothing special, completing 60% of his passes for only 177 yards per game.

NCAA Football: Utah at San Jose State Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Spartans vie for a balanced attack and are led in the run game by Deontae Cooper and his 214 yards on the season. Against Portland State, both Cooper and backup Zamore Zigler both went over the 100-yard mark.

On the outside, the Spartans have two deep threats, led by Justin Holmes and Tre Hartley. Both have 45-plus-yard catches on the year and average over 20 yards per reception. The problem is getting enough time to throw them the ball. Their sample sizes are small, but if ISU can’t get pressure up front, watch out for those two for game-breaking plays.

Verdict – ISU by a nose

This will be an ugly matchup, with both teams struggling in the trenches. I have to give the nod to ISU with the incompetent SJSU offensive line, and ability by Tucker and Thomas to be disruptors in the backfield. ISU’s secondary is good enough to cover, but it’s the linebackers I’m worried about. I want to see Willie Harvey back at 100%, and for Reggan Northrup to continue his production.

Special Teams

Cole Netten has quietly kicked his way into the record books. The senior from Ankeny has now connected on 11 straight field goals (school record), and owns the best Field-Goal percentage in school history (so far, that is). Welp, we have that going for us…

True freshman Kene Nwangwu spun some heads last week with his kick-return ability, returning one for 44 yards, and is raved about by this staff as the fastest player on the team.

SJSU has the nation’s worst punt return average this year, at negative 2 yards per return. That is not a typo. Woof

Their kicker is a solid three-for-three on field goals for the year, and the Spartans have an average punter. ISU on the other hand added to its famed #PunterU prestige last week with Colin Downing’s tremendous performance. Adding the rugby punt into his repertoire, Downing only allowed one return and held Kavontae Turpin in check.

Kickers and punters unite!

Verdict - ISU

Final Analysis

It’s finally time for Matt Campbell to get his first win at Iowa State. There will be open holes for Warren to run through, Lanning will look like the guy we all dreamed of, and this defensive line should have a heyday.

The spread is only at 6.5, and rightly so. San Jose State hung with Utah last week, and ISU has shown us very little to be excited about.

This one may be a bit ugly, but there are just too many deficiencies and inexperience for San Jose State. Look for ISU to get on the board early, and start to wear the defense down with a potent rushing attack. I like the Cyclones in this one. Finally.

Final Score

ISU 38, San Jose State 30