2017 Game III: Iowa State (1-1, 0-0) vs. Akron (1-1, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, September 16th
Time: 11:00 AM CDT
Location: Infocision Stadium – Summa Field
Line: Iowa State -10
Television: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Akron SB Nation Website – Hustle Belt (MAC)
Iowa State makes their first trip outside Jack Trice for what seems to be (on paper) a favorable matchup for the good guys. A bowl berth is still within reach, and we have a LOOOOOOONG way to go before the season comes to a close.
PS – did we really think Baylor would be this bad? Karma is a ….
When we last left off….
As sad as it makes me write those words, last Saturday’s effort did not go unnoticed. Hawks fans relished as victors, yet knew deep down know they were lucky. What surprised me the most was that this team stared adversity in the face and said “bring it on.”
Down 21-10, any naysayer would have said this game was over. But ISU was having none of it. Led by the DM Train David Montgomery and Jacob Park’s howitzer for an arm, the Cyclones scratched and clawed their way to their own 10-point advantage.
And then lost the lead.
The team of old would have cratered – sunk down in a deep black hole and wilted away. But this team is different – they responded without fear – and Jack Trice was the loudest I had heard it in a long time.
Albeit for a few missed tackles and a costly interception, this team responded to the challenge, and showed “mental toughness.” That will go a long way this season.
Iowa State and Akron have never played, so they’ve each won the same amount of games as Baylor has this season.
Terry Bowden and Matt Campbell are 1-1 head to head, as each team won on their home fields when Campbell coached at Toledo.
The Zips are led by Terry Bowden, son to legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, and a habitual NCAA recruiting offender while at Auburn in the early 1990s.
They have won at least five games in each of the last four years, but were picked to place fourth in the MAC East this year.
So far their season has been a tale of two opposites, like a winter in North Dakota to a beach in Mexico. They lost to Penn State in their opener by a score of 52-0, and came back to beat cupcake FCS opponent Arkansas Pine-Bluff the next week 52-3.
Iowa State Offense
The Cyclones are off to one of their best starts in school history, as they can become the first team since 1976 to score 40 or more points in three consecutive efforts. That will certainly be eclipsed on Saturday.
Jacob Park is averaging 309 passing yards per game, and is good for 9th in the country with six touchdown passes. The beast, David Montgomery, is third in the Big 12 with 97 rushing yards per game.
I don’t see it stopping in this one folks. Akron’s defense will open like Moses through the Red Sea, and Park will be throwing against an inexperienced secondary.
The offensive line has been another bright spot, only giving up one sack, and creating time for Park to make throws downfield. Redshirt freshman Sean Foster saw more action last week, spelling right tackle Bryce Meeker for 50+ snaps, and creates more depth up front.
David Montgomery turned some heads last week with some ferocious runs, earning a spot on the Pro Football Focus National Team of the Week, which grades out players at each position based upon their performance.
PFF Week 2 - National Team of the Week - Offense pic.twitter.com/0Yw7HiAhYz— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 12, 2017
He will keep it going this week, as he makes the trek back to his home state, along with eight players and THIRTEEN of coaching staff that also hail from the
Baker Mayfield Buckeye State.
First Key to Victory – Take Care of The Ball
This will be ISU’s first game away from home, so with that comes nerves and uncomfortable surroundings. Teams that play on the road tend to make more mistakes, and if ISU wants to take care of business, they will need to play up to their potential and not give the ball away.
Too many times in the past we have seen botched snaps (aka Toledo in 2007), and balls not bounce our way. This is the perfect time to kill those demons and keep that in the rear view mirror.
The Zips are led by MAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Ulysees Gilbert at linebacker. The junior from Florida is all over the field, as he led the team in tackles, tackles-for-loss, sacks and quarterback hurries a year ago. He also had a pick-six a week ago against Arkansas Pine-Fluff.
Akron runs a standard 4-3 defense, and likes to blitz, creating as much havoc as they can on the quarterback. That should favor ISU with a quality pass-blocking line, and give Park open receivers downfield.
The defensive calls are made by legendary coach Chuck Amato, who was in his eighth year coaching when Campbell graced us with his presence on Earth. With 45 years under his belt, Amato is widely known for his days as an assistant at Florida State and head coach for seven seasons.
And this wonderful photo.
The defensive line is led by Jamal Davis II at rush end, who is one of many former Power-5 transfers on the roster. Akron picked up dirty laundry from the likes of Pittsburgh, Miami, Rutgers, and West Virginia, to name a few.
Their secondary only brings back one starter from a year ago, in senior safety Zach Guiser. They will have their hands full with a talented group of receivers from Iowa State, and may have to switch to a nickel or dime approach if they want to put any speed on the field in the back end.
The Verdict – ISU by a Wide Margin
Sit back and enjoy this one folks. Iowa State has one of its best offenses in a long time, and can do it with a balanced attack. It would be nice to see Mike Warren get back on track, and also my main man Deshaunte Jones, who has been in a funk lately, fighting for snaps against his counterparts.
We all know Park can sling it, but I would like to see a big game out of the offensive line in the running game. They have proven to me they can pass-block, but need to gain better push up front (especially up the middle) to pave holes for the DM Train.
I couldn’t help but think of this video after that play.
Iowa State Defense
While last week the defense gave up 44 points to a quality Iowa opponent, they took away the inside running game. That all starts up front with Vernell Trent and Ray Lima, who have been pleasant surprises this year. The edge has been sucked in too many times on outside running plays, and it would be nice to see us gain some pressure from the front four.
I see more fresh bodies on the field – with the likes of Enyi Uwazurike, Matt Leo, and Kamilo Tongomoa gaining quality reps that will benefit the defense with depth down the road.
Linebacker Marcel Spears, Jr. dominated in last week’s performance, totaling 16 tackles, and with his quick and nimble feet, he will be all over the field for the Cyclones. The second line of defense will see lots of opportunities for tackles, as Akron loves to establish the run, and has more of a dual-threat at quarterback.
The one area where we didn’t think we would have many problems has been lackluster thus far. The secondary has given up 592 yards through the air in two contests, and needs to step up and attack. I see a lot of blitzing to force errant throws, and we need to make sure the middle of the field is sealed up with our safeties.
Kamari Cotton-Moya is day-to-day, and I don’t foresee the coaching staff playing him. KCM needs to stay healthy for conference play, so lets see if Lawrence White can improve upon last performance. Reggie Wilkerson didn’t play last week either due to injury, and it sounds like he is probable.
The Zips have had problems at quarterback, playing a wide receiver as their signal-caller last year due to injury. They are very lackluster in the passing game, and have little talent in the receiving corps. That former quarterback is now back catching balls, as Tra’Von Chapman leads the team in receptions.
He has all of eight grabs…
Needless to say, it all starts at ends with the running game for this team. They will play four-wide in a spread approach, mixing in an H-back for blocking. Running back Warren Ball was a highly-touted recruit who started his career at Ohio State, and is now in his sixth season in the backfield. He averaged over seven yards per carry last week, hitting pay-dirt three times.
Second Key to Victory – Slow Down Warren Ball
This running back has shown flashes of talent, averaging over seven yards per rush, even in his short-lived Ohio State career. He has tremendous vision, and is a load to handle at 225 pounds.
If there is one weakness to the defense – it is containing the outside. That all comes down to sound gap position from the defensive ends and wrapping up from the linebackers. I want to see a bounce-back game from Joel Lanning, as he was unfairly portrayed as the goat against Iowa.
Quarterback Thomas Woodson is known as a dual-threat quarterback who can run it. His passing, on the other hand, is a different story. Woodson has started games in all of the last three years, but has struggled at accuracy, only completing 60% of his passes a year ago.
His receiving corps is below average in talent and size. They have four players in their two-deep under 5-foot-10, and will struggle at gaining space off the ball. Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne should have no problem covering these guys.
Verdict – Iowa State
Make it two for two. Iowa State has improved tremendously on this side of the ball, adding depth with more speed, and a good push from the front four.
They will have to stay at home, playing good fundamental defense and wrap up.
Our friend Kirk Haaland chimed in with this fantastic tweet this week – giving high praise to the defense for forcing their opponents into unfavorable third-and-longs.
Kirk Haaland (@khaal53)
9/10/17, 10:15 PM
The average 3rd down distance to go for ISU's offense is 5.86 yards (12th lowest) and for the defense it is 8.85 yards (9th highest).
Whomever is the kick returner for Iowa State this week will have no problem taking the ball out of the end zone. Kickoff specialist Tom O’Leary does not have the strongest of legs, with only six touchbacks in 2016.
Mike Warren struggled in the kick return game versus Iowa, and I foresee a change being made. Enter 5-foot-9 stud Johnnie Lang. We have yet to see much from this speedster, and I think Saturday is the perfect time to call his name.
Akron’s punter is also below average, only punting for an average of 38 yards. This bodes well not only for field position, but a chance to see Trever Ryen or Allen Lazard dazzle.
Cyclone kicker Garrett Owens has yet to miss any kicks, and punter Colin Downing has had a tremendous start to the year. The four-year starter is second in the Big 12 with a 46.3 yard average, and leads all punters with four 50+ boots.
Verdict – Iowa State
Unanimous victory here for the Clones. It will be interesting to see who returns kicks, but I am excited to see what Lang can do back there. He is lightning in a bottle, and can change the momentum of the game in an instant.
Third Key to Victory – TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS
Before writing this preview, my brain scrambled for a couple of analogies I could use for this week’s game. One came to mind - “The Mighty Ducks.”
The movie starts out with a couple of kids in disarray – falling all over the ice, teammates screaming at each other, and no leadership in sight.
This is very similar to ISU road games in the past. During the Rhoads era (and even back to McCarney days), fans never knew what team was going to show up in away games. We saw miscommunication on the field, mistakes throughout, and quite honestly a team that wasn’t prepared emotionally.
In walks Gordon Bombay, aka Matt Campbell. With his ferocious approach to teaching fundamentals, doing things the right way, and “Trusting in the Process.”
One quote stuck out to me this week, when listening to Cyclone Fanatic’s one-on-one podcast with our coach.
“We’ve got kids that care now.”
Gone are the days of making excuses and players leaving the program. Now we see leadership, not just from the staff, but from veterans AND young players.
Just the same with coach Bombay and his Ducks squad. He mentored a holdover in Charlie Conway (played by Joel Lanning), and went out and brought in a kid off the street in the knuckle puck-ler Fulton Reed (played by Jacob Park).
For once in my 30 years on this earth, I don’t see the fragility of an Iowa State team on the road. I see a well-prepared, focused unit that has the “mental toughness” to break down barriers and compete against the elite.
And now ladies and gentlemen, the Flying V.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
For this week, if we were to compare a 1 to O.J. Simpson being innocent and a 10 to how good the ESPN documentary was (if you haven’t seen it, you need to), I give ISU’s chances of winning at a 9.9.
And if any of you degenerates have balls, go into your bank tomorrow and put down all of your assets on the spread.
I see a lot of points on the board in this one. If ISU gets out to an early lead, it will cause some problems for Akron, as they don’t have the horses in the passing game.
It is time to put on the hard hats and take care of business.
Iowa State 48
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s this week’s hype tape, this time put together by Levi Stevenson. Be sure to turn the volume WAY UP.