Iowa State needs to get third down stops if they want to win on Saturday.
The Cyclones defense has been fantastic so far this season in nearly every facet of the game through three games this season. Jon Heacock’s defense has allowed just 4.4 yards per play, 3.2 rushing, and 5.6 passing. That’s a formula for success. Yet, it hasn’t been.
For some reason, the Iowa State defense has sprung a leak. There’s been some missed tackles, but that will happen no matter how elite a defense is. There’s something more.
The defense is putting opposing offenses in uncomfortable 3rd and long situations and doing their job. But once they get there, quarterbacks keep finding ways to pick up first downs on scrambles.
One problem has been a lack of containment on the end, allowing dual-threat quarterbacks to get loose and make first-downs that they have no business making. Iowa State’s defensive 3rd down conversion rate is 45.28% which ranks 107th out of 130 FBS Teams.
That’s bad. That’s not just just a beginning of season problem, that has the potential to be an Achilles’ heel.
There’s a lot of ways that this can improve. My hope is that this is just a fluke and something that is fixable over the course of season, but I have a feeling it’s more than that.
The containment on the ends need to be fixed and my guess is that a slight change in play calling can help with the defensive ends staying home.
The bigger issue in my opinion has been the spy. The spy is the player (mainly a linebacker,) who is tasked with keeping an eye on the quarterback and preventing him from making a play on his feet. This is no player in specific.
We’ve seen Mike Rose, O’Rien Vance, Jack Hummel, and others in the spy role, but that hasn’t seemed to work.
There isn’t a talent problem - those are three of the most talented linebackers in the Big 12 - but there has been a discipline problem. A lot of the times when Iowa State has had a spy, they’ve still lost the QB and allowed them to get loose.
I’m not blaming any one player because it’s happened at the hands of multiple players. But I’m going call out one player specifically, Mike Rose.
Mike Rose is one of the best players on the Iowa State defense, if not the best. I’m not saying he’s been bad this season because that would be a lie. In fact, he’s been very good.
Rose is third on the team in tackles with 24 while leading the team in tackles for loss with 3.5. He’s also added .5 sacks and 1 broken up pass. He’s been a beast in the stat sheet and while watching film.
That’s exactly why I’m calling him out, I expect him to be the best player on the field. I expect him to be at that level, because I’ve seen him at that level.
Baylor has been running an interesting offense this season, using a LanRam-type of package. Charlie Brewer has been the starting quarterback and has done a good job, as expected. He’s completed his passes at a clip of 71% while averaging 9 yards per completion. Brewer has also tallied seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
The junior quarterback is capable on his feet, but he’s only carried the ball 18 times through the first three games for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Matt Rhule has relied on Gerry Bohanon to be the running quarteback.Through three games, Bohanaon has ran the ball 13 times for 177 yards while also scoring a touchdown. He’s been lethal in the run game and is nearly the Bears leading rusher.
Iowa State used spies at points throughout these games, yet still got beat. When Mike Rose is a spy on Saturday, he needs to be smart and keep his eyes on Brewer or Bohanon, depending on which one is on the field.
If Iowa State allows the Baylor quarterbacks to extend drives on their feet, they will not win the game on Saturday. That all starts with Rose in my opinion.
And when Rose is not a spy, he still fuels the defense. He will make big tackles, play some solid coverage, and provide leadership in the linebacking core. I fully expect Mike Rose to come to play on Saturday, and play with a chip on his shoulder.