Last Saturday, the Cyclones whooped the Kansas Jayhawks after their second of the three (so far) consecutive 11 A.M. kickoffs. Starting Friday morning, Ames received near-constant rainfall until well after the game on Saturday. Rainy games can be a recipe for some weird stuff to happen, but the Cyclones came out on top following a very real chance at holding the Jayhawks to less than 100 yards of total offense, which KU finally reached on the second-to-last play of the game. Let’s take a look at what went right what needs some work going into next week’s game in Lubbock.
What Went Wrong
The Offensive Line
The important caveat here is that the offensive line didn’t actually play all that poorly, but the group didn’t dominate in the trenches like they probably should have, especially given the talent gap between them and the KU defensive line. In rainy games, offenses tend to run the ball more than usual, thus emphasizing the need for the line to gain leverage, and gain some push past the line of scrimmage.
The Cyclones possess a ton of weapons capable of making their own yards out of virtually nothing, but their talents could be even greater utilized by the offense if the line can start creating some real push from the line of scrimmage and get a blocker or two to the second level. David Montgomery and the entirety of the receiving corps are clearly capable of making people miss on their own, but removing a linebacker from the equation with a downfield block by a lineman creates one-on-one open field matchups with safeties and corners. Needless to say, Mr. Montgomery is going to win that matchup 98% of the time, even against multiple defensive backs.
What Can We Take Away From This Game?
As mentioned before, rainy conditions tend to force offenses to play outside of their normal game plan, and create new wrinkles in the game for each team to process. For instance, would the KU returner have fumbled the first punt on a normal day? Probably not. Would Iowa State have passed the ball more against a terrible KU secondary, or had as many bad snaps on a normal day? Yes and no, respectively. While the unique situations did create plenty of learning opportunities to take with them going forward, this game doesn’t really tell us much of anything about how good this team actually is.
Also, did I mention Kansas is really, really bad? The Jayhawks are so bad, they actually give us of an less insight into how well the team is playing than a team like UNI would. Frankly, UNI is a better football team. The offense didn’t blow anyone away, but that scoreboard still said 45 at the end of the game. Remove Trever Ryen’s punt return touchdown, and the Cyclones still put up 38 points for the fifth time in six games this season. That said, due to Kansas’ ineptitude and a dominant Iowa State defensive performance, the offense frequently had outstanding field position, illustrated by only posting 318 yards of total offense. What does this tell us about the offense? Not much.
What Went Right
The Defensive Line (again)
Every single week I mention the defensive line, because they impress me more and more by the game. Ray Lima is evolved into one of the best defensive lineman in the Big 12, and Jamahl Johnson, Jaquan Bailey, Matt Leo, Kamilo Tongamoa, JD Waggoner, and the rest of the defensive line continue to impress beyond anyone’s realistic expectations.
For Lima specifically, the SOPHOMORE (!!!) is being double teamed on virtually every play, but has now begun regularly splitting the double team and creating some serious havoc in the backfield. This is an extremely important development for Lima, as his ability to collapse the pocket against less-mobile quarterbacks like Texas Tech’s Nick Shimonek, West Virginia’s Will Grier, or Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph will force them to make quick decisions against a defense that regularly drops eight into coverage. Texas Tech’s collapse against WVU last Saturday showed how vulnerable the Red Raiders are when teams can shut down their passing game.
Hangover? Not a Chance
After the upset over Oklahoma, old Cyclone teams were probably more like to lay an egg the next week, even against a vastly inferior opponent like Kansas, than actually take care of business and win the next game. Last weekend showed how far this program has come in just a year and a half under Matt Campbell. This program has a brand of confidence that Cyclone fans haven’t seen in a very long time, if ever. Every single player in the cardinal and gold genuinely believes, down to their very core, that they can and will beat any team they step on the field with. That attitude is a more than welcome addition to this football team, this program, this university, and every single Cyclone fan. If you aren’t yet a believer in Matt Campbell and what he’s doing for this program, I’m not sure what else will convince you.
3 touchdowns on Saturday? Ho-hum.
This guy is going to be a finalist for some major awards sooner or later.