clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2019 Game III: Iowa State vs. University of Louisiana-Monroe Football Preview

The perfect slump buster is on the horizon

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

2019 Game III: Iowa State (1-1, 0-0) vs. University of Louisiana-Monroe (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)

Date: Saturday, September 21, 2019

Time: 11:00 A.M. CST

Location: MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Capacity: 61,500

Line: ISU -18.5

Television: FS1

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

ULM Game Notes

SB Nation Website - They don’t have one – but the Sun Belt does!

Another CyHawk game, another Iowa win. From any outsider’s perspective, it appeared ISU was the better team, and on paper they were.

That’s right, ISU outgained their opponent (and for the 3rd straight game by 100+ yards), but failed to win in what Campbell preaches the most – details and discipline. Special teams struggled for the second straight game, and will be a thorn in our side as the year progresses.

After a 19-hour day of drinking, grilling, and running away from rain delays, I came home with a sick stomach, but also with the solace knowing that these mistakes made by the Cyclones are correctable. In my opinion, the game came down to one simple statistic – winning the turnover battle. Believe it or not, in Campbell’s tenure as ISU coach, his team has yet to force a single takeaway against Iowa. 4 games, 0 turnovers forced, 4 losses. Simple as that.

Look for ISU’s defense to become more aggressive in their game plan, as they HAVE to shift momentum by giving the offense shorter fields and creating turnovers.

When we last left off….

ESPN College GameDay was everything we wished it to be, AND more. The production was near perfect, the atmosphere was second to none, and how many fans do you see stick around after two rain delays and 6 hours of the game from start to finish?

I already went on my rant about the game. While ISU lost to in-state rival Iowa by a score of 18-17, they had so many damn opportunities to take advantage and the ball just didn’t bounce the Cyclones way. I feel confident, that as the season progresses, so this team will come into its own.

Losing to Iowa takes nothing away from this season folks. We still have a legitimate shot at the Big 12 Conference crown.

UL-M Tidbits

The Warhawks of University Louisiana-Monroe travel to Ames after a much-needed bye week, as they lost a heartbreaker on the road to Florida State in week two. After rewatching that game, I saw some good, and a lot of bad. They did storm back from a 21-point deficit to force OT, but ultimately missed an extra point to go into the second OT. I saw a lot of fundamental mistakes and undisciplined play.

First of all, Florida State just isn’t that good. ULM is led by veteran coach Matt Viator, who in his fourth year came from the FCS ranks after a successful stint at McNeese State. After back-to-back 4-win campaigns, ULM won four games in a row in ’18 to propel themselves to 6 wins. Viator is known for his offensive prowess, but it was the defense that made huge strides in 2018.

During last year’s 4-game win streak, the defense had 38 tackles-for-loss and 17 sacks, with a chance to win the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference with two games to spare. Watching tape, I can see a very athletic D that loves to blitz. They did force three turnovers, including a pick-six against FSU, but missed more tackles than a junior high girls team against the varsity squad. Senior quarterback Caleb Evans is a true dual-threat, and led a passing attack that was 2nd in the league in passing yards in 2018.

The Warhawks were picked by league coaches to finish 3rd out of 5 teams in their division, and even after the FSU loss, they still sit at 7th in the Sun Belt in SB Nation’s power rankings. They return 8 starters on defense, and 6 on offense, and are 1-1 on the year with a win versus Grambling State and the OT loss at FSU.

The Series

Believe it or not, these teams played clear back in 1980. The number one song on the Billboard’s that year was:

ISU won that game 42-7, and is 2-0 all-time against Sun Belt schools.

Iowa State Offense

The offensive line played one of their best (and most consistent) games last week versus a very tough Iowa front-four. Moving Colin Olson over to center and redshirt freshman Trevor Downing to guard paid dividends for the future, and gave Purdy time to throw the ball.

I can’t remember the last time Cyclone football averaged 4.8 yards per carry against the Hoks, let alone 7.7 yards per play. Everyone came away with glowing reviews about Brock Purdy (especially U of I fans), as the sophomore continued to look impressive on his downfield throws and was decisive in his decision making.

First Key to Victory – Protect the QB

We will see a multitude of blitz packages on Saturday, as ULM loves to send the house. I am sure Manning and company are ready for it, and have check downs (and audibles) for Purdy to find the open man. Not only will it be important for the line to hold their blocks, but for the receivers to create separation off the ball.

Tight end Charlie Kolar showed me why he deserves to be considered amongst the Big 12 elite, hauling in 5 more catches and 53 yards against the Hoks. Purdy just barely missed him in the end zone on a high throw. I see a big day out of Deshaunte Jones running across the middle, and look for Joe Scates to get on the board with a deep ball.

We will continue to see musical chairs at running back, though I was surprised Sheldon Croney didn’t get any carries. Nwangwu was a matchup nightmare for Iowa, and proved it, averaging 9 yards per carry. Look for Breece Hall to slowly get more reps, especially in this non-conference affair.

Second Key to Victory – Get Aggressive, Especially on 4th Down

Nothing grinds my gears more than when a team punts the ball inside the opponents 40-yard line, only to see the ball go in the end zone for a touchback. Now the false start didn’t help the ensuing 4th-and-8 for ISU, but with these margins for errors in these games razor thin, Campbell needs to pony up and trust his offense to make plays (and convert) on 4th downs.

ULM Defense

The Warhawks have 13 tackles-for-loss through two games, and get the majority of their pressure from the second level – linebackers and corner blitzes. While they do create turnovers, they were gashed by FSU in the running game, giving up 219 yards.

ULM runs a 4-2-5 defense with a stand-up end, and a nickelback as their pseudo third linebacker. Their defensive coordinator is a ULM alum, and is in his 9th year coaching the team. While they have athletes, they appear to be a bit lackadaisical at times.

Linebacker Chase Day leads the team with 20 tackles and 3 tackles-for-loss, and not far behind him is fellow senior LB Cortez Sisco. Both are fifth-year veterans, and lead a group of FIVE seniors on that side of the ball.

The defensive tackles are undersized (avg weight 275), but are scrappy, and rush end Donald Louis Jr. leads the team with two sacks. The secondary was the weak link in 2018, allowing the most passing yards in the entire conference, so look for that to be exploited.

They start a freshman at one cornerback spot, but the on the other side is Corey Straughter, who brought this one back to the house against FSU.

The Verdict – ISU

Matt Campbell walks circles around teams like this. I would compare Campbell to a drill sergeant in Basic Training, while ULM is the equivalent to your typical overweight substitute teacher who lets you watch movies all day.

I saw missed tackles all over the place in the first two games, and just a lack of hustle. ISU will have ample opportunities for yards after the catch, and our receivers will have a hey-day as big matchup problems.

Iowa State Defense

This Iowa State defense continues to impress, as they are second in the nation at only allowing one touchdown in regulation play. One of the most positive correlations to wins is rush defense, and the Cyclones rank 10th in the country, allowing only 73 yards per game.

It all starts up front with Ray Lima and the boys, and they have not disappointed. We could very well see the career sacks record broken on Saturday for Jaquan Bailey, as I expect Heacock to send pressure against their quarterback.

O’Rien Vance continues to shine, as he leads the Big 12 with three sacks on the year. I foresee him and Marcel Spears, Jr. to play SPY against ULM’s sneaky quarterback. Safety Greg Eisworth is 9th in the country in tackles, as he bolstered his stat sheet with 15 stops versus Iowa.

I see a bounce back game from Datrone Young, as the coaching staff will help him get past the punt return error, and allow him to improve. I was surprised to see some other names on the field, as linebacker Bobby McMillen fit the bill against the smashmouth U of I running attack. Amechie Walker and true freshman D.J. Miller and even saw time at corner, adding depth to the secondary.

Third Key to Victory – FORCE TURNOVERS

The Cyclone defense has been anemic thus far in creating turnovers, with nary a takeaway in the first two games. In fact, ISU has lost the turnover battle in SIX consecutive games, dating back to last season.

Campbell said it best in his weekly press conference. “Somebody said you get lucky in turnovers,” exclaimed coach. “I think it’s not luck. You’ve got to pound away at it, you’ve got to keep driving away at it. Those are things where we’ve been in position to make some of those plays, we just haven’t made them so far.”

Look for a lot of new faces, as ISU will take full advantage of the 4-game redshirt rule on Saturday.

ULM Offense

The Warhawks run a standard spread offense out of the shotgun, with three receivers and a solid tight end. In fact, Philadelphia Eagles coach and former ULM quarterback Doug Pederson’s son Josh is that outstanding young tight end. At 6-foot-5, he plays with grace and soft hands, and made a great play on this touchdown catch against FSU.

Pederson is second on the team in receptions and yards, while fifth-year senior Xavier Brown leads with 11 catches, 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. Markis McCray is more of an underneath option, and led the team with 6 grabs against FSU.

Quarterback Caleb Evans is playing in his 34th game on Saturday, and ranks in the top-10 in most school statistics. He helped the offensive produce the 2nd best passing attack in 2018, and has completed 66% of his balls for 212 yards per game thus far. While I would call him an average passer, he is more impressive outside the pocket and with the ball in his hands. In the red zone he has been called upon for multiple designed runs and produced two rushing touchdowns versus FSU.

The offensive line returns four starters from a year ago, and produce a solid rushing attack, good for a 6.2 yard per carry average. Leading the way out the backfield is former junior college standout Josh Johnson, who has 299 yards on the ground, three touchdowns, and has great breakaway speed.

Verdict – ISU

While this is the stronger of the two units for ULM, they go up against one of the best defenses in college football. Iowa State’s scheme is tailor-made to take away this ULM attack, and any time you have a below-average passing quarterback, it’s on like Donkey Kong for ISU.

I expect to see the Cyclones stuff the running game, forcing 3rd-and-longs, and most likely sending pressure on passing downs. Look for a big day in the tackles-for-loss and sacks department.

Special Teams

Buzz, your girlfriend, WOOF.

For the life of me, I don’t know who the Special Teams coach is for Iowa State. Joe Houston left in the offseason, and if you look it up in the directory, no one carries the title.

My guess is it probably falls on Campbell’s shoulders, and so far the Cyclones are lacking in that department. The kick return game was pitiful, the gaffe at the end of the game was embarrassing, and to be quite honest, the whole unit lost us the game versus Iowa.

Now that Nwangwu will not be the featured back, look for him to get back on kicks, and you better believe the punt returners (namely Deshaunte Jones) will be all about communication in practice.

ULM punter Jared Porter has had some booming punts, and with a 46-yard average should prove helpful for the opposition. I don’t know why ISU punter Joe Rivera can’t just punt the ball normal, as his rugby style punt out of the end zone allowed an Iowa return to the 25.

Warhawk kicker Jacob Meeks did miss a crucial extra point versus FSU, and is 2-for-3 on field goals, while Connor Assalley was perfect in his lone attempt last week.

Verdict – ULM

I’m in the prove me wrong camp. I’m not sure what to say here – other than ISU needs to pick up the slack, or they are going to continue to lose games because of the special teams.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

I compare this team very similarly to Akron that ISU played the last two years.

With that being said, on a scale from 1 to 10 with a 1 being one of the worst college football programs ever (Kansas), and 10 being Alabama, I give ISU a Clemson shot at winning this game.

Final Analysis

Don’t let that Florida State game fool ya. The Seminoles are on a struggle bus at the moment, and this ULM team is more flash than substance.

With that being said, this ISU team made leaps and bounds improvements from week 1 to 2, and we will continue to see development as the season progresses. History has shown that Campbell’s teams start games slow, but I hope we can see them shoot right out of the gate and take care of business.

I don’t see the defense giving up more than two touchdowns, and the offense should be able to throw it all over the field against a pedestrian defense.

Like Lee Corso said, give me the Cyclones!

Final Score

Iowa State 27

ULM 13

Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!