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Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa: Another Nut Kick

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That didn’t go as planned.

Northern Iowa v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

I attended a formerly potential Big 12 expansion member game and was unable to watch the Cyclone game, and due to lack of coverage in Texas, do not have a DVR replay to watch. So, you are welcome to discount everything said in this article and click back to some of the more entertaining pieces here at WRNL. But, if you continue on, you will find my lament for a team that just cannot get past “Iowa Stating” an opening game against an inferior opponent.

The story of a game can be revealed in the play-by-play script if you can identify with the situations and opportunities presented. I’ve reviewed the full play-by-play and have drawn several conclusions therefrom. The first of which is why in the hell does Jamie Pollard schedule UNI? It does not benefit us, and we know UNI is better than many non-Power 5 schools. How about Tulane, Florida International, New Mexico, Texas State, ULALA...wait, they would probably kick our ass too.

At the outset, let me state that I was supremely disappointed in the result and in the game script. New coach, freshmen in the two deeps, and a new system led me to great optimism for this season. A new Iowa State is what I wanted to see. Instead, we saw the same thing we always see.

Iowa State is Iowa State.

I know how the players feel and what a difficult hole they have put themselves in. It will take an extraordinary coaching effort to move forward and build from here. The margin for error here is slim and we slipped to the downside of that margin.

The Bad

UNI scored 10 legitimate points against our defense. That will appear in the good as well. The offense handed UNI 15 points. The ISU offense scored 7 legitimate points. The ISU defense handed them 13 additional points.

Strange, huh? Follow me on this.

UNI’s first score was on a drive that began after a fumble by ISU. The defense was put in a short field position with negative momentum and UNI capitalized on the fart and fall down. UNI’s second score was an inexcusable safety — from the 11 yard line!!!!!!! 2 more points on the offense.

UNI’s last score was a TD after an interception late in the game. Not just an interception, but one that resulted in a 26 yard return that gave UNI the opportunity to score. A failed 2 point conversion left the offensive ineptitude scores at 15 points. I would put the end of the half touchdown in this category too because of how emotionally deflating a safety is to a defense, but UNI put together a good drive and scored, so I will mercifully keep that out.

In each of these situations, the offense put our defense in a can’t-win situation. Even Alabama would be hard pressed to overcome short field, high momentum situations such as this. I hope KnowDan puts together a statistical analysis of these situations that shows how often teams score off of turnovers and short field, high momentum situations. There is a reason coaches make this a priority...yes, I am talking to you CMC.

The Good

Defense. Enough said. Outside of the momentum plays above, the defense stoned UNI. As they should. ISU gave up 4 long drives in this game. They resulted in 2 missed field goals, thanks to the defense stiffening, a made field goal, and one touchdown. 10 total points. That is good enough to win any game and good enough to blow out an FCS opponent.

9 times the defense sent UNI packing in 3 to 8 plays. They produced a turnover, two missed field goals, and a dominant 3 and out late in the game to give the offense a chance to win the game. Over and over again, they did their job in excellent fashion. An infusion of talent and excellent development of our defensive players resulted in a winning defensive effort. 25 points for UNI is deceiving.

Do we want a defense that can be put in bad positions and rise up to stone the opposition? YES. But, I offer that the defense performed extremely well given the fact that their backs were against the wall most of the game. They performed better than I expected.

Where We Lost the Game

Duh....two key turnovers at the end of the game...hello Okie State and Kansas State.

No, we actually lost the game in the first and second quarter. Against an FCS opponent, or Kansas which is the FBS equivalent, a team has to capitalize on opportunities to drive a stake in the confidence of the opponent.

UNI punts on their opening drive after just 6 plays. Faced with a 3rd and 8, the defense got off the field. UNI's second drive results in a punt and ISU gets an explosive punt return. ISU has the ball inside the 50 and must score from this field position. A well-thrown ball leads to a 7-0 lead. Great start.

Now, UNI mounts a decent drive as they adjust to the defense, but they miss a field goal. The defense has handed the offense an opportunity to distance the gap and capitalize on the momentum. This is the spot to let UNI know that they will not be hanging with ISU on this night. What is the result? A 3 and out, which is the equivalent of a turnover.

Again, the defense holds in a bad spot. The defense is dominating this game at this point. Like they should. ISU gets the ball back, and what occurs? A fumble. UNI scores and ties the game. Deflating for the defense and these points are squarely the responsibility of the offense.

Now, ISU has to answer the challenge. They hit a 21 yard run by Warren. Finally. But, a penalty calls it back and ISU cannot recover from the yardage deficit.

Again, the defense rises to the occasion and puts the offense on its back. They force a fumble. ISU has to score here. They do. Thank you defense. Thank you Allen Lazard.

Bam!!!! Another 3 and out. Defense is kicking nuts and yanking scrotes. What? A safety? From the 11?

The defense could not do any more than it did in the first half. That was championship-caliber defense in the first half. Unfortunately, it was high school level offense and no defense can overcome that level of incompetence. ISU missed 4 opportunities to separate themselves from UNI and establish themselves as the dominant team. This team cannot do this and yet, we saw it early and often.

The script for the second half was written because the lesser opponent had no fear of the allegedly superior offense and knew that opportunity would present itself if they were able to stay close.

2 Things That Bother Me

In the first half, on a crucial drive, Montgomery accounted for 30 yards on a drive that ended in a short field punt (UGGGHHH). Then, we only briefly see him again.

I know Mike Warren ran for a lot of yards last year, but that was last year. If we have a player providing a spark, why do you not ride the horse that is breaking from the pack? Iowa State is not in a position to honor tenure. Iowa State has to take advantage of every deficiency they find during the course of a game. If a freshman gets the job done, then play the freshman!

It is a football axiom to defer to the guy that has done it before, but if there is a hot hand, a team that is trying to shed the shackles of futility HAS to exploit that heater for all it is worth. I don’t care if we end up playing all freshman, winning performance wins the day and this team must have an unselfish mindset that allows for new faces to be allowed to impact games.

The last interception thrown by Lanning was a prime example of what I hoped we would not see from him. He panicked and bailed on the play a half a second too early. Lazard was open at 15 yards if he would have stood in the pocket and delivered the throw. There was no pressure when he decided to run. He ran and took his eyes off of the receivers and tried to make a playground play that resulted, as it always does, in a turnover. That is an immature play and a play that will get us beat over and over. We have seen it before from Lanning and we will see it again.

Hope

There is hope. First, the defense has improved to a level beyond expectations. They will give the offense opportunities to put points on the board. I expect the defense to continue to improve and to be problematic for our opponents. A slight improvement on offense (cutting down turnovers or penalties) can enhance the defensive performance.

Second, the offense can improve. Will it? I don’t know. I think personnel changes are in order and warranted. Warren needs to earn trust with regard to securing the ball. Lanning needs to improve his decision making. The offensive line is better at pass blocking than run blocking and the passing game needs to lead the running game.

But, if the offense matures, there is a chance to win some games that we won’t be expected to win because of the defensive tenacity. This week could be the start of something new. I hope so, because this loss about killed me.