2021 Game III: #14 Iowa State (1-1, 0-0) vs. UNLV (0-2, 0-0 Mountain West)
Date: Saturday, September 18th, 2021
Time: 9:30PM CST
Location: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Line: ISU (-30)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website - Mountain West Connection
When we last left off....
Saturday was just one of those terrible, no good, very bad days. Especially when ESPN basically starts the day out by trolling the crap out of Iowa State with Ashton Kutcher as guest picker. Still a little salty about that one. I digress though.
Iowa State’s offense on the other hand? It basically stayed back at the team hotel and left the defense out to try and save the day. Iowa State turned the ball over four times, with one of those being a fumble returned for a touchdown. From there, they never really could get on track. Ultimately falling to Iowa 27-17.
“Please remember, UNLV (acronym on all references, please) is home to the REBEL football team — not the Runnin’ Rebels! Only the men’s basketball team at UNLV is nicknamed the Runnin’ Rebels” per the UNLV athletic website. Seems like that could be something fun to toss out in a chant on Saturday night.
The Rebels are already on their second starting quarterback and their second-year head coach, Marcus Arroyo has his hands full. The Rebels have not won a game since he became head coach following the 2019 season, and things have not gotten off to a great start in 2021.
UNLV fell to Eastern Washington to start the season at home in double overtime. Then traveled to Tempe, Arizona to take on Arizona State, only to see the Sun Devils score the final 23 points and pull away in the second half.
Iowa State leads 4-1 in a series that dates back to 1995. UNLV won the last matchup in 2008, 34-31 in overtime. Iowa State is the 10th highest-ranked team to take on UNLV in Las Vegas and the highest-ranked opponent to visit since 13th-ranked UCLA in 2015.
Iowa State Offense
The Cyclone offense has been on the struggle bus to start off the 2020 campaign. While the Cyclone offense has started off slow before, many thought this season would be different, but the feeling so far has felt all too familiar.
Through the first two games of the season, Iowa State has averaged 17 points per game, which is the 99th best mark in the NCAA. A season ago this group of Cyclones average over 32 points a game. The rushing attack is averaging 3.7 yards per rush which is 89th best in the country. Last season, Iowa State averaged fewer than four yards per rush in only two games and averaged fewer than 5.6 yards per play twice.
Against Iowa, the Cyclones ran the ball 27 times and for 87 yards, for an average of 3.2 yards per carry. When the game was over, Iowa State ran 70 plays for a total of 339 yards. Which sits near 90th ranked mark in the NCAA. Not good enough, and the Cyclones know it. How do the Cyclones break out of their offensive woes? Take charge and get aggressive.
First Key to Victory - Play With Aggression
Iowa State has knocked itself out of an offensive funk before. However, Iowa State’s lack of aggression on offense continues to be a big problem and will make breaking out of the funk more difficult unless playcalling makes a noticeable shift. It’s time to start hitting chunk plays early and often.
The longest play of the season is the 49-yard pass to Darren Wilson towards the end of the half against Iowa last weekend, which ultimately led to a score. That’s not a terrible number by itself, but the fact that it nearly stands alone (outside of a couple of catches by Xavier Hutchinson and Tarique Milton against UNI) is pretty disappointing. Against what is statistically one of the absolute worst teams in Division I college football
Let’s get it done.
Through two games this season the UNLV defense is allowing 36.0 PPG, which has them sitting 130th in the country. Since Marcus Arroyo took over the team last season, the Rebels have given up 38 points per game.
UNLV has allowed a total of 387 yards rushing (194 yards a game) and 4 touchdowns this season. Through the air, UNLV allows 274 yards a game which ranks 130th in the NCAA. They have also given up five passing touchdowns as well.
All this is in mind, UNLV just doesn’t get off the field defensively. They have been played 149 snaps defensively which is one the worst marks in the entire country. Something the Iowa State offense, when good likes to do to opposing defenses is keep them on the field for extended periods of time.
One intriguing player to keep an eye on for UNLV is Jacoby Windmon. The junior made the move from edge rusher to inside linebacker this season and is averaging 9 tackles so far to start the year and 1.5 total sacks to go along with it. Last season he recorded the most sacks by a UNLV player since 2013 with 5.
The Verdict - Iowa State
This is a perfect matchup for Iowa State to correct some of the offensive mistakes from the first two weeks. UNLV has some major holes on the defensive side of the ball and gives up too much defensively. Iowa State needs to take control and assert their will and put some points up and get some momentum on their side before Big 12 play.
Iowa State Defense
If anything is going right for the Cyclones right now it’s the defense. To start off the 2021 campaign Heacock and the boys have been lights out. Much like our writers after sips o’clock during mug night. Though the outcome of the game was not in favor of Iowa State on Saturday, if you have other areas that you need to figure out on your football team. The defense is always a good one to have in your back pocket as rock solid.
Through two games, Iowa State has allowed 2.7 yards per play which ranks second nationally. To pair with that, the Cyclones are only allowing 1.7 yards per rushing attempt. 23 yards total in the second half against Iowa. Just absolutely staggering numbers to start this season. Are they sustainable? Probably not but it shows us that this defense will be one of the best in the country all season long.
Will McDonald and the defensive line has been one of the many bright spots on this defense. To date McDonald has recorded 2.5 sacks, 20 on his career and only 5.5 sacks behind JaQuan Bailey for the all time sacks record at Iowa State. Zach Petersen is another player that has stood out on the defensive line. He won’t pick up that stat line that Will McDonald does, but he has generated some great pressure and has been playing with great technique to start the season. Keep an eye out on him as we progress through the year.
Second Key to Victory - Create Havoc
From what we can tell, this UNLV team doesn’t play well under normal circumstances. What will they do with an elite defense much like Iowa States? I want to see this defense make UNLV be as uncomfortable as possible and just create havoc all game long. I think that is more than doable on Saturday night.
Believe it or not, UNLV has scored more points than the Iowa State offense this season. No this is not an episode on Punk’d. Still slightly salty over the Ashton Kutcher guest picker appearance but we can get to that another day. The Rebels are averaging 21.5 points per game this season. Though, UNLV may have a quarterback issue.
Doug Brumfeld who led the Rebels on two scoring drives in Saturday’s game against Arizona State is considered day to day after sustaining an upper body injury. Brumfield was 6-14 passing for 60 yards to go with eight carries for 43 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. Justin Rodgers the starter in the opener would be the next man up if Brumfeld is unable to go. The Rebels also have Tate Martell on the roster who has practically been at every college in America.
Its not all bad for UNLV as they do have some intriguing young guys Arroyo’s first recruiting class already making a splash. Wide receiver Kyle Williams is the reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year after hauling in 35 catches for 426 yards, with two touchdowns in the six games last season. Look for Anthony Johnson to be matched up on Williams to stop any kind fo spark from happening.
The Verdict - Iowa State
UNLV is still trying to plug holes pretty much everywhere, but do have some studs that are young that will make this Rebels offense interesting in the future. While that is intriguing for UNLV fans, this Iowa State defense on Saturday is going to overwhelm them all night. Heacock and the boys are absolutely dialed in right now and I don’t expect that to change against a team that hasn’t won a game in over 600 days.
The Iowa State special teams continues to be an issue. Granted, we finally got our kickoff out of bounds and we don’t have to worry about that every damn time. What we do have to clinch our butts for now is punts and punt returns. Corey Dunn so far through two games has show zero ability to consistently punt the ball and flip field position. Huge issue and I don’t think it’s even remotely correctable with him. May have to look at another guy there.
Punt returns!?!? What are we doing? We have no plan ever to return a punt and even when we stick three guys back to catch one, it still doesn’t get caught and gives the opposing team 30 yards of flipped field position. It’s time to figure this out. Iowa State has to do better here.
The Verdict- Even
The Cyclones probably have the better players on their special teams unit. But, like I said last week, until Iowa State can put a full game together of flawless special teams, I absolutely will not give them the edge here. I would rather give Mark Mangino a carrot than give Iowa State the edge in special teams. The odds are better there.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
“Sitting there, it is impossible to change your luck. But, you can always change the machine you are at!” ― James Hauenstein.
Iowa State is changing the machine they’re at and heading to Vegas for a week. Cyclones are about to hit the jackpot in this one.
UNLV is trying to build their program from basically the ground up and it is going to take some time. Iowa State on the other hand has bigger asperations than just building something for the future. There’s a Big 12 Championship to be had and they need to find their way offensively this week before heading to Baylor to start conference play. I think the Cyclones do just that and finally find some rhythm.
Third Key to Victory - Dominate
If you are headed to Vegas have a wonderful time and turn that death star into Jack Trice West. If you’re staying at home, find a few beers or coffees and let’s get this win.
Iowa State - 41
Give us your thoughts and predictions below!