The Matt Campbell hype train is back on the tracks! Iowa State dominated San Jose State in a 44-10 shellacking for the ages. Here are three things we learned from the game.
1. The Two QB System Can Work
Both Joel Lanning and Jacob Park played very well. The two quarterbacks combined for five touchdowns -- three from Park, two from Lanning -- and each made some big plays. Lanning hit true freshman WR Deshaunte Jones in perfect stride for a 49-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Park made a beautiful throw to Dondre Daley for a 23-yard TD and added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Quick aside: the offensive line played much better yesterday than they had all year. Mike Warren had big holes on most of his runs and the quarterbacks were able to sit in the pocket for five or six seconds most of the time. Also, penalties were non-existent for the first time all season. The challenge now is to do that against Big 12 competition.
Anyway, back to the quarterbacks. While I’m generally not a fan of using two quarterbacks, this is a scenario where I think it can work. Park has a quick release and his accuracy is great. He’s great at short and intermediate passes, which can lead to more holes over the top of the defense. He also showed the ability to run, although I wouldn’t say it’s his strong suit.
Lanning’s running ability may come in handy against teams like Baylor and Texas Tech that rely on up-tempo offenses. Long drives with lots of running give the Iowa State defense more time to catch their breath.
For now, I like the two quarterback system. Park is probably the better pure QB, but Lanning has earned a role as well.
2. We Have Plenty of Weapons
Six different Cyclones recorded three or more receptions, but none of them caught more than four. While I would like to see Allen Lazard targeted more, it was clear that Iowa State simply didn’t need to throw to him all the time; everyone was getting open.
The highlight of the receiving corps was Deshaunte Jones, who had three catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Jones, as I said above, is a true freshman. He played QB in high school and logic would say he is still transitioning to wide receiver. This is a guy who can play a prominent role in the offense for the next three and a half years. In November 2018 (or, hey, maybe January 2019) we could see a Jacob Park to Deshaunte Jones touchdown, just like we did yesterday. That is exciting news for Iowa State fans. Campbell’s highly touted recruits are already making big plays, and that’s going to continue as the season progresses.
Also, the running game got going, thanks in large part to Mike Warren’s strong running and some great play from the offensive line. Warren eclipsed 100 yards and was able to score a touchdown, both firsts for the season. His yards per carry has gone up every game which is a testament to both his ability as a running back and the improvement of the offensive line. Hopefully that’s also a sign of things to come.
3. The Defense Is, At Least, Competent
Iowa State FINALLY forced some turnovers. They had forced one turnover in the first three games of the season; they forced four more yesterday. Jomal Wiltz, who has been a bright spot in the secondary the last two weeks, picked off Josh Love with 3:00 remaining in the first quarter. Jay Jones, Brian Peavy, and Kamari Cotton-Moya also added interceptions for the Cyclones. Cotton-Moya’s interception was largely due to some great defense by Nigel Tribune, who tipped the ball in the air towards Cotton-Moya.
This is what Iowa State’s defense needs to do. San Jose State gained 332 yards and had more first downs than Iowa State, but that doesn’t help if every drive ends in a turnover. The Cyclones were able to capitalize on turnovers and big punt returns from Trever Ryen to help the offense. The goal line stand in the first quarter was a great momentum changer. Instead of tying the game at seven apiece, San Jose State was held to a field goal. They wouldn’t score again for the rest of the half.
I don’t expect Iowa State to match yesterday’s total of four interceptions any other time this season. However, getting occasional turnovers and goal line stands is crucial. One or two dropped interceptions or missed tackles at the goal line can make all the difference between a three point game and a 14-point game. For the first time all year, Iowa State’s defense capitalized on mistakes. That was huge and should hopefully be a pattern we see throughout the rest of the season.
All in all, it was a very good performance by a team that needed a win. Hopefully next week against Baylor will be win number two.