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Iowa State Football Post-Mortem: Texas

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Woof.

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

Alright, so that wasn’t ideal. Many Cyclone fans pegged this game as one the Cyclones needed to win to get to a bowl game. That didn’t happen. Let’s examine why.

What Went Wrong

Offensive Playcalling

I honestly have no idea where this came from. For the previous 7 games, going back to least season, Tom Manning has largely had very good offensive gameplans. However, this one was a dud. Iowa State attempted just 15 rushes, it’s fewest total since the 1940s. In the post-game presser, Matt Campbell cited the the trailing score as a reasoning for the excessive emphasis on the passing game. David Montgomery is too talented have a carry total small enough for Nebraska fans to still count on the their fingers and toes. All in all, most people would have liked to see a greater dedication to establishing the run game. Protection schemes didn’t allow Park much of any time to throw, and Montgomery had to continue his badassery to get yardage on the few carries he did, due in part to some failed blocking schemes.

3rd and Long Defense

3rd and 17. The defense had absolutely snuffed out any offensive momentum the Longhorns had, but let up a long pass play for the first down conversion. To this point in the season, the defense has done a good job of forcing opponents into 3rd and long situations. Yet, this defense has a massive issue making the last stop they need to get off the field. I’m going to attribute about 80% of this to playing. Last night, we consistently brought only three pass rushers on third, electing to sit back in coverage and defend the pass.

The problem is, Shane Beuchele had absurd amounts of time to stand in the pocket. This allowed him to not only work through his progressions, but the receivers would then break off routes to get into open space. I don’t care how good your coverage is. If receivers have time to finish their routes and break off into new ones, you will get burned almost every time. Even if the coverage managed to hold for what seemed like hours, Beuchele was more than happy to tuck the ball in and run, allowing him to convert on more than one occasion.

Jacob Park

This section comes with a caveat. As expected the Texas defensive line was able to create disruption in the backfield and collapse the pocket fairly quickly. Their defensive front has multiple future high round NFL draft picks, and they played like it. Especially in the first half, Park was running for his life, often being forced to scramble out of the pocket and make a difficult throw on the run. In the second half, the coaching staff adjusted by calling roll-out pass plays to limit the hits on Jacob Park. However, the roll-out plays often eliminate the entire half of the field opposite the direction of the roll-out, and allowing the defense to cheat one side of the field, similar to a defensive shift in baseball.

A well constructed gameplan is absolutely vital to the success of your quarterback, no matter who it is. In the end, the quarterback’s job is to do the best he can with the play call. As we said before, the offensive gameplan was not good, and did not give Jacob Park a great chance to succeed.

That said, the junior quarterback clearly struggled.

First, the high throws continued. Both of Jacob Park’s interceptions actually came on good reads, but he simply overthrew the receiver. If either of those passes are six inches lower, they turn into long gains and the offense keeps momentum. This problem is likely somewhere in his otherwise good throwing mechanics, so it’s a fairly straight forward fix (though not necessarily a quick one).

The other element of last night’s struggles are in the mental side of things. On multiple multiple occasions, Jacob Park did not make the correct decision on roll-outs. Sometimes, he had a decent amount of running space, and could have picked up a few yards on first or second down instead of making a risky downfield pass or just throwing it away. Other times, he took a silly sack instead of throwing it away. Park needs to improve his decision making in these situations going forward.

Bonus Bad Stuff: Cyclone Twitter

Twitter is one of the best and worst things mankind has ever created. It’s brought humans closer together than we’ve ever been, but it’s also an avenue for trolls and reactionaries to spew their mindless drivel all over the internet. I find it difficult to describe how troubling and frustrating it is to see how quickly Cyclone fans melt down after a bad game. I saw “Get rid of Park” tweets as early as the second quarter, and “Fire Matt Campbell” tweets not long after.

Jacob Park is on pace to have the best passing season in the history of our program. He’s also probably the most talented quarterback we’ve ever had, and will probably be one of the statistical best in program history by the time he’s done. He had a rough game. No doubt about it. However, one bad game doesn’t make you a bad quarterback, especially when the offensive gameplan didn’t do him any favors. Winning and losing is a team effort. Period.

Same goes for Matt Campbell. He’s brought more hope to this program in a year and a half than any coach has even sniffed in their entire tenure, including Dan McCarney. He and this coaching staff are still young. They’re learning from every experience, just like the players. Rest assured, they’ll look at the tape of this game and take away as many lessons as possible. Last season showed plenty of evidence of the staff’s ability to adjust and learn. This season and this game are no different. Matt Campbell has given you absolutely no reason to believe that he wasn’t a spectacular hire, or that he isn’t capable of being successful here.

Frustration during a game like last night’s is understandable and inevitable. However, abandoning the players and coaches when times get rough is precisely the opposite of what the Cyclone fanbase is known for.

Tomorrow is another day. Next week is another game. Things will get better, both on the week-by-week timescale, and for the program as a whole. We’re recruiting better than we ever have, and we’re competitive with teams that, in the past, we would have never dreamed of being able to beat. I believe in this coaching staff and this team, and you should too.

What Went Right

Defensive Line

How impressive has this line been? Once again, the defensive line showed tremendous improvement and absolutely forced their will on the Texas running game. For the most part, the only success the ‘Horns had on the ground was on scrambles by Shane Beuchele, and scrambles are difficult to pin on the defensive line, especially when most of them involved the quarterback stepping up through the middle of the pocket against only three pass rushers. For the gameplan they were given, the defensive line did an outstanding job.

Texas committed a number of holding penalties, even in situations with only three rushers, partially due to the jump the Cyclone defensive line was getting off the ball. Hats off to Ray Lima, Vernell Trent, Matt Leo, Kamilo Tongamoa, Spencer Benton, JaQuan Bailey, J.D. Waggoner, and the rest of the defensive line.

Joel Lanning

The improvement the former quarterback has made over the course of these first four games has been nothing short of remarkable. In the UNI game, Lanning showed some flashes of being a capable middle linebacker, especially in middle run plays, but largely showed his unfamiliarity with the position. Lanning showed improvement in the Iowa game, essentially eliminating runs between the tackles due to disciplined gap play.

The Akron game featured Lanning’s first interception and continued improvement in both pass coverage and on wide, stretch-type running plays. Last night Lanning took a another step forward, racking up 20 total tackles, including 8 solo tackles. He was consistently a presence at the line of scrimmage on inside runs, utilized much improved pursuit angles on outside runs, and was disciplined in coverage. Lanning was the primary defender on one of Texas’ long passing touchdowns, but that can be mostly attributed to that play’s defensive scheme rather than Joel. Under no circumstances should any linebacker be covering a receiver one-on-one 30 yards downfield.

Collin Downing

Alongside the defense, the special teams was a definite bright spot for the Cyclones. Downing consistently put the Longhorns in deep field position usually no further forward than the 10 yard line. The field position he provided was one one of the many reasons Iowa State was able to be so successful on defense. Important note: Iowa State punted inside the opponents 40 yard line multiple times. This should infuriate you from an offensive perspective, but it does illustrate the confidence the coaching staff has in both Downing and the defense. Just as a 60 yard approach shot is on of the most difficult in golf due to the awkward distance for most players, a 25 yard punt inside the 10 yard line takes an enormous amount of skill and finesse. Downing was put in some tough situations, but was ultimately very good.

Grades

Offense: F+

Defense: B+

Special Teams: A

New Helmet Logo: B+ and rising

Weather: A++++

Refs: F - Jeremiah George clearly stripped the ball before progress was stopped.