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Player to Watch at Iowa: Unleash The Beast!

Mike Warren is week two’s player to watch.

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

This is perhaps the most obvious statement of the year: Mike Warren needs to get the ball a lot more than he did against UNI. Iowa State’s most proven offensive weapon was held to five first half carries and just 12 total carries in Iowa State’s disappointing season opener.

Here is Warren’s final line from Saturday night: 12 carries, 30 yards. His 2.5 yards per carry is the second-worst of his career, following the abysmal Oklahoma game last season, where he averaged 2.4 yards per carry. For reference, Warren averaged 19 carries per game and 5.9 yards per carry last season.

Matt Campbell is known as a running guy, but for whatever reason, Warren never even got started against UNI.

“We tried to get Mike going early on,” Campbell said, according to The Des Moines Register. “They kind of did some things to take him away and some of the quarterback run/read situations.”

Check out Cyclone great Jeff Woody’s analysis of how UNI took Warren out of the game by keying on him during every read option. But that’s fine. That’s how the read option is supposed to work. If the defense takes away Warren, then Joel Lanning should have found success running the ball. He didn’t.

Obviously Iowa State is working with a very, very green offensive line. That’s by far the nicest way to put it. But if the rushing attack can’t get going against UNI, then the Cyclones are in some big trouble in the Big 12.

But as Uncle Randy wrote, it’s too early to hit the panic button on the offensive line, and on Iowa State’s rushing attack. Offensive linemen aren’t just big dudes who push each other. There is a lot of strategy and technique. In Iowa State’s case, this patchwork of an offensive line needs to mesh together, get on the same page, and that takes time.

The return of Julian Good-Jones should hopefully provide a little bit of a spark and Tom Manning has another week to coach his guys up. Plus, it’s rivalry week and anything can happen. So, my money is an improved offensive line, and an angry, frustrated, and aggressive Mike Warren.

The O-line really doesn’t even have to be that good. If the offensive line can get an inch, Mike Warren has the ability to take it a mile. And after last week, I would bet Matt Campbell goes to Mike Warren early and often against the Hawkeyes. Even if the offensive line isn’t getting much done up front, Warren still needs to be given a chance to make things happen. He’s the kind of talent that can make something out of nothing.

If the Clones want any chance of beating the Hawks, then Warren’s stat line is going to need to look more like 25 carries for 150+ than last week’s 12-for-30.