Saturday, Iowa State was playing for a shot at making the Big 12 Championship game in Dallas. Unfortunately, a few tough breaks ultimately spelled out the Cyclones’ demise. Let’s take a look at the game a little closer.
What Went Wrong
Stopping Runs After the Catch
In the last month and a half, the defense has largely done a very good job at stopping the deep ball. Even on some of the long completions Oklahoma State was able to get on Saturday, the coverage was still very good, but Mason Rudolph and Marcell Ateman made a couple absolutely indefensible throws and catches. In a battle of perfect defense and perfect offense, perfect offense wins every time.
However, on the intermediate throws Rudolph was able to complete, the secondary had difficulty wrapping up the receiver after the catch, resulting in a few big plays that were largely built on yardage after the catch. When teams play a zone coverage scheme like Iowa State’s, a missed zone assignment or any lack of discipline can leave a hole in the zone for a smart receiver to sit in. That misread, often by linebacker, can lead to a few extra feet of space for the receiver to gain a step, making it significantly more difficult to wrap him up.
The Final Two Plays
You knew I was going here. However, I’m not going to criticize the two play calls. The first play, a fade to Lazard, was a great play call that should have been a pass interference. Nine times out of ten, Lazard comes down with that ball. The second play call, the fateful fade to Marchie Murdock, was not as good, but I don’t have a problem with it. Would I have liked to see David Montgomery get the ball? Sure, but Iowa State had no timeouts, so a run on third down after two pass attempts made the most sense. If the second fade pattern had ended up incomplete, I would have bet my first-born child that Montgomery would have gotten the ball.
Before we get into this, we need to understand that Oklahoma State’s playmakers are exceptionally good, especially Marcell Ateman, James Washington, and Justice Hill. In particular, Hill runs very hard and is difficult to get a solid shot on. Oddly enough, open-field tackling continued to be a strength on Saturday, but, for whatever reason, the defense had difficulty wrapping up ball carriers on the line of scrimmage, allowing Justice Hill to turn 1 yard carries into 10 yards fairly quickly. The defense will have a good opportunity to make a big jump in this department this coming weekend against Baylor, before heading down to Manhattan to face a Kansas State team that always runs the ball well.
What Went Right
Let’s give credit where credit is due. After Kyle Kempt was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, the redshirt freshman quarterback stepped in and largely played pretty well. On multiple occasions, Noland showcased his big arm and “gunslinger” mentality, repeatedly pushing the ball downfield, even when the checkdown was available. Noland’s quarterbacking philosophy runs in stark contrast to Kempt’s game managing style, providing the offense with a spark that had been missing the last couple games. Going forward, I’d like to see him get more opportunities on downfield passes in a more aggressive scheme. In Noland, we have a young kid with a Big 12 body, a big time arm, and an aggressive mindset. Let’s turn him loose on a terrible Baylor defense and see what the kid can do.
This is the first time Lazard has made his way into the Post-Mortem. Maybe it’s because he’s so good it’s almost boring. Maybe it’s because he’s got so much talent around him. Either way, Lazard’s performance last Saturday deserves mention, especially this incredible touchdown catch.
Lazard’s role in the turnaround of Iowa State football cannot be understated, as his leadership has been instrumental in guiding both new and experienced players through Matt Campbell’s “Process.” As a local kid posturing himself not only as probably the greatest receiver in Iowa State history, but one of the best and most popular Cyclones of all time, he deserves to be the face of the program this season, and as a shining example of leadership, character, and loyalty going forward. Most Cyclones will never have the opportunity to see Allen Lazard play football in-person again, but every single one will remember him for a long, long time.
From the bottom of the hearts of every single Cyclone across the country and around the world, thank you Allen Lazard. Thank you for everything you have been, are, and will continue to be for the program, university, and state.
Mr. Do-It-All did it once again on his Senior Day, finishing his final game at Jack Trice Stadium with a 22 yard touchdown pass, a rushing touchdown, 5 tackles, and half a sack. Joel, like Lazard, has been a key piece in ushering in the new era of Cyclone football. We’ve all heard his story about a thousand times already (not that it will ever get old), but his contributions to this team can’t be undersold, and he absolutely deserves that invitation to the Heisman ceremony in New York.
Every week I find myself more and more amazed at this guy. He creates plays seemingly out of thin air, and is as reliable of a back as Iowa State has had since Alexander Robinson. Just take a look at these runs.
David Montgomery was dead to rights, then somehow turned it into a 22 yard touchdown run. Unbelievable.
Can’t. Be. Stopped.
Excellent vision, excellent cut, excellent touchdown.
A gutsy decision by Noland to throw an 8 yard pass on 4th and 10 turns out not to be all that gutsy when you realize David Montgomery is making the reception. The best part? We get this guy for at least one more season, probably two.