It all comes down to this. All the ups and downs that not only 2020 has brought, but that every season Iowa State has ever played.
Oregon and Iowa State. Brock Purdy and Tyler Shough. Matt Campbell and Mario Cristobal. All set and ready to take the field in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl from Phoenix, Arizona.
Iowa State found themselves in the Fiesta Bowl after dropping the Big 12 Conference Championship Game to Oklahoma and would meet the Pac-12 Champion Ducks in their first ever New Year’s Six Bowl Game. It was a tale of two halves and a tale of two different play styles, but who had the edge? Could the Cyclones really cap off their best season ever? In the year 2020? You bet your sweet cheeks they could.
What Went Wrong
Slow start defensively
It’s not necessarily that the Cyclones were all that bad to start the game on defense, but it certainly wasn’t a masterclass. Okay, maybe they were pretty bad to start. Oregon rolled right down the field on their opening possession to tie the game at 7, going 73 yards on just 7 plays in 3:10. They followed it up 2 possessions later, giving up a 98-yard drive on just 9 plays in a mere 3:21. That’s not exactly how you want to start a game as a defense. Also worth noting, Oregon got the ball back with just a minute and seventeen seconds to go in the half and was able to drive 48 yards in 1:14 to make it an 11 point game at halftime. It could’ve been just a 7 point game had Will McDonald not drawn his weekly hold on an Oregon touchdown with 38 seconds to go.
Is there going to be a week we don’t commit some number of pre-snap, procedural, silly penalties? Short answer: Maybe. Long answer: God, I hope so. To make a long story short, Iowa State committed 4 penalties for 20 yards during the game, which honestly, isn’t all that bad. Until you dive deeper into the penalties and discover that all 4 of them were false starts. Yup. Every single one. 3 of which were on the same drive. I don’t know what to say anymore. Thankfully Brock worked his magic on that drive, but I mean pleeeeaaaaasssee. Please stop moving before the ball is snapped.
What Went Right
Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay. Maybe all Iowa State’s special teams needed was for 2020 to be done. Now hear me out. I know that’s some voodoo stuff, and you probably think I’m crazy (you wouldn’t be alone), but just hang with me here. Not only did Connor Assalley make ALL SIX of his kicks (yeah, I know, 4 of them were extra points, just give me this one), but our kickoffs/punts were amazing!
Okay, maybe just one of each of them was, but they were SOOOOO AMAZING. Rory Walling, fresh off a new scholarship, recovers quite possibly the greatest chip shot kickoff I’ve ever seen (give yourself a hand, Drake Nettles) to steal a possession for the Cyclone offense, and they’re able to capitalize and make it a 2-score game before Oregon can get the second-half kickoff.
It was truly extraordinary. And who could forget to mention the botched punt return that Iowa State fans are just thankful happened to someone else. Wait, what, I mean, I’d never seen anything like that before in my life (nervous laughter.) It was hilarious how the blocker got in the returner's way, resulting in a turnover. Haha. Right guys? Okay. But seriously. Hats off to the Special Teams unit. You guys finally earned an A+ for the Weekly Grades section.
Iowa State forced 4 (5 if you count the “onside” kick) YES, FOUR, turnovers of the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. Isheem Young (funny what happens when he plays) and Greg Eisworth(?) both forced fumbles (both recovered by O’rien Vance), Mike Rose added his 5th interception of the season (you watching, @ButkusAward?), and Gerry Vaughn recovered the botched punt. What a way to close out the season for this group of guys.
Busted their butts all season to get to this point and to put out the showing that they did. Simply marvelous. This team forced 12 turnovers through 11 games coming into their finale, and to attack the ball every possession as they did was awesome to see. Hopefully, they’re able to keep that energy next year.
2nd Half Defense
Is there anything left to say about Jon Heacock? Man is an absolute wizard when it comes to halftime adjustments. Get this, over the last 6 games of the season, Iowa State allowed just 26 total points in the 2nd halves combined. That’s an average of just over 2 points allowed per quarter! The last team to score a point in both the 3rd and 4th quarters against Iowa State was Baylor back on November 7th of 2020. It’s been 2 months since a team scored in both quarters of the 2nd half against Iowa State. Oklahoma didn’t do it, Oregon didn’t do it, Texas didn’t do it. What wizardry from the defensive coordinator. Matt Campbell is priority numero uno, but Jon Heacock should be right there with him on the sideline for all of eternity.
Quick Tidbits (If I didn’t just shorten these, this article might take 30 minutes to read... soooo, I decided to just add up what all else I wanted to include)
- 3rd Downs: Iowa State was 11/19, Oregon was 0/6
- Time of Possession: Iowa State- 42:48 Oregon- 17:12
- Game MVPs: Brock Purdy and O’Rien Vance
Offense: A- (have to convert turnovers to points... can’t get stuffed at the 1..)
Defense: A (A- for the first half, A+ for the second half)
Special Teams: A+ (Job well done, fellas. Job. Well. Done.)
QB1: Purdy good back at home
Ducks: Roasted (and delicious, I might add)
2020: Oh so bittersweet
Thank you guys so much for tuning into the Post-Mortem every week! I’ve had a blast doing this for the 3rd straight year, and I look forward to continuing it for a long time to come. Hope you guys had as fun of a time as I did this season. See you guys (hopefully at Jack Trice) next fall!