Well. Last week wasn’t all that great, but at least we picked up the dub. It is well known that Iowa State doesn't get off to the fastest of starts: UNI (2021), ULL (2020), UNI (2019) were all pretty tumultuous starts despite good overall seasons. Surely, Campbell and Co. will have the team ready for College Ames Day 2.0...right?
What Went Wrong
It’s no secret that turnovers have been the tale of the tape in the Cy-Hawk rivalry the last five years. Surprise surprise, they take the headline again in 2021. Brock Purdy threw three interceptions (I’ll be one of the few to defend him on two of them) and Breece Hall put one on the ground that ended up being returned a whole five yards for a Hawkeye touchdown. Unfortunately you can’t turn the ball over four times against that opportunistic defense and walk away with a win.
Okay, to Brock’s INTs. One of them was a fourty-something yard bomb to Xavier Hutchinson which was a 50/50 ball at best. X couldn’t snag it or break it up and Matt Hankins came away with the football. Not a great or even good decision by Brock, especially considering the ball was pretty terribly underthrown (it was also late, Hutch had a step right off the snap.) Now to the other two.
The second INT came with 4:30 to go in the third quarter at our own thirty-yard line. Brock checks the ball down to Hutchinson and the ball goes right through his hands. The ball was helmet high, but an extraordinarily catchable ball for Hutch. It went right through his hands and into the arms of Seth Benson.
The third and final INT of the day was a ball deflected at the line of scrimmage. The only thing I’ll fault on Brock is that if he’d have waited half a second longer, rather than going to Hutch, he had Charlie Kolar coming open on a corner route. I can’t blame Brock for a great play by a defensive lineman getting his hand up there.
Clearly turning the ball over four times is going to land us in the “what went wrong” category again. For the second week in a row, Iowa State was lethargic and completely unenergetic on offense. The OL got bullied again, receivers couldn’t get separation, backs had no room to run, and the QBs weren’t great (I’ll get to Dekkers later). Basically, no one looked good again.
Whether the issue is play-calling or communication is unclear, but there’s no denying that something doesn’t look right. The Clones will have a chance to fix it in Vegas next week against a UNLV team that has given up thirty-five points in the last two games and has given up at least 460 yards in each game. Iowa State opens as a thirty point favorite and considering the offense hasn’t put up a combined thirty points in two games, it should be interesting to see if Tom Manning can get the guys headed in the right direction.
Hunter Dekkers came in the game and the offense seemed to get rolling. I struggle with that decision as mentioned earlier because I find it hard to blame Purdy for two of the INTs. While I know Dekkers is capable of excellence, it seemed odd to me that a team that’s shown amazing comeback ability simply slammed the door on Purdy. Yes, the offense looked better with Dekkers, but it seemed like a quick trigger from Campbell.
We knew it was too good to be true. Kickoffs to the end zone are nice, but punting/punt returning is still an incredible issue. Milton let a punt go by him that ended up being downed some twenty yards further downfield, Iowa had a few solid punt returns against our coverage as well. Andrew Mevis hooked a forty-five yarder at the end of the game that would’ve cut the lead to seven, setting up a second onside kick attempt.
Can we take a minute to talk about the onside kicks, though? Even the most beautiful onside kick I have ever seen was put to waste at the hands of a team who couldn’t handle it. I mean, really? It was such a gorgeous onside kick and we STILL couldn’t get it to go our way - I just don’t know what to say at this point.
Not to mention the fact that opponents kicking 50-yard bombs at Jack Trice is still basically asking them to make an extra point, it’s unreal how poor our special teams can be for so damn long. Iowa had the field position the whole game thanks to their punter downing us inside the ten on almost every punt. It was definitely a game to forget for the special teams unit (aside from whichever kicker attempted the onside kick, because that was wondrous).
What Went Right
Frankly, it wasn’t hard to find what went right in this game, mostly because the good stuff was scarce. What was the good stuff? The defense, which has arguably been the case of the last few years. When the offense has an off day, the defense is there to save the day. Try as they might, the defense just wasn’t able to fill the gaps on Saturday. Four extra possessions for Iowa was just too much. Had you told me before the game that Sam LaPorta would only have 1 catch, Petras would only throw for 106 yards (11 of 21), and Tyler Goodson would only manage fifty-five yards on twenty-one carries (2.6 ypc), I genuinely would’ve thought that Iowa State would win the game by double digits.
It’s really hard to imagine a time where Iowa State holds a top-ten (now top-five) opponent to under 200 yards of total offense and still manages to lose the game by ten, but that’s what happens when your offense can’t do anything either... Just sucks, man. This defense has bust its you know what for weeks on end just for the offense to not be able to find the points or plays to really solidify wins (with a few exceptions.) This really is a weird time where clearly the defense works. We get into these slugfests that look really ugly. We’re not all that used to it, honestly, or at least I’m not. Just once I want a complete game... and It’s not the defense I need to worry about...
So I mentioned earlier I didn’t think pulling Purdy was the answer. Even still, it’s hard to deny that Dekkers just flat outplayed him. Dekkers had eleven completions (2 shy of Purdy’s 13) in just the fourth quarter and found Tarique Milton for the first passing touchdown of the Cyclone’s season. He seemed very composed in the pocket and did a really nice job making his way through his reads and finding the right guy. It’s probably not a good sign when your backup QB is one of the few things that went right... but it is a really nice sense of security knowing that Iowa State is in good hands should Purdy stumble or slip, or eventually when he moves on to the NFL.