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Iowa State Football Post-Mortem: Northern Iowa

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Ugly wins are better than pretty losses

Nirmalendu Majumdar / Ames Tribune

Cyclone football is back, baby! After a weird and crazy 2020 season, Matt Campbell and the Iowa State Cyclones open the year at home against everyone’s favorite FCS opponent, the UNI Panthers. Surely Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Co. wouldn’t let 2019 happen again, right? Surely Iowa State won’t need more than 60 minutes to beat the Panthers, right? Surely we’ll open the season strong starting the season #7, right? Well, let’s take a look...

What Went Wrong

Running Game

UNI has a front 7 that shouldn’t be underestimated, but after Matt Campbell spent the offseason stating that he felt this was the best Offensive Line he’s had here, it got off to a rough start in the running game. Breece Hall had absolutely no room to run all day. Hall carried the ball 23 times on the day for 69 yards (nice), averaging just 3 yards a carry. Saturday marked the 4th time in 5 games that Hall has failed to eclipse the century mark for yards which *could* be some cause for concern.

Hall did have the Cyclones’ only score on the day when he punched it in from 2 yards out, but he and the line never really got in sync. Iowa State is used to slow starts to the season, but with another good (even better) front 7 coming to town next week, the OL isn’t going to have much time for a turn-around.

Playcalling

Can we stop with the insanely basic playcalling in Week 1 already? Especially with a veteran team like Iowa State returning basically everyone on offense? Not sure why this seems to be the case every year for week 1, but the playcalling and (occasional) decision-making from Campbell, Manning, and the offense seemed quite suspect at times. Clearly, UNI was planning for Breece Hall, limiting him to 3 yards a carry, and with Purdy going 21/26 (without Charlie Kolar, who was sidelined with an ankle injury), you’d think we’d let the best QB in school history air it out more. Nope.

Iowa State stuck with underneath “dink and dunk” passes for large parts of the game. The 1 time Purdy really let one fly, he completed on for 39 yards to a diving Xavier Hutchinson. I’m not saying we need to be Oklahoma and let Purdy chuck the ball 25 yards downfield every play, but it’d be nice to see the offense actually stretch the defense to make them respect the deep ball to see if we can spring Breece loose. You can’t really unleash the beast when the defense knows 98% of your passes are going within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage.

What Went Right

Okay, after watching the game a 2nd time and really diving into the stats of it all, I’ve determined we didn’t look nearly as bad as I thought... But far from where we need to be in the coming weeks.

Special Teams?!

WE KICK TOUCHBACKS NOW! Come on guys, you and I both know you exploded when Mevis launched that thing through the end zone. Pretty sure I heard the stadium erupt form Welch Ave. Not to mention he and Assalley went a combined 3/3 on kicks. Man, it feels so good. Corey Dunn even got into the action with a 57-yard bomb in the first half. We’ve seen it, now let’s continue it, ST unit!

Defense

As always, the professor made his halftime adjustments. Saturday marked the 3rd time in 6 games that Jon Heacock and the Cyclone defense didn’t allow a point in the 2nd half. In fact, in those 6 games, Heacock and Co. have only given up a TOTAL of 16 points in the 2nd half. If Iowa State is going to get into slugfests this year and not shootouts, there aren’t a lot of guys I’d rather have than Jon Heacock. Along those same lines, Iowa State DIDN’T drop their chances at takeaways last week. Both Isheem Young and Datrone Young picked off McElvain in the 2nd half. Sure, Young’s INT cost the offense about 15 yards of field position as it was on 4th down, but I’m not going to fault the guy too much. Still, something to learn from, but I imagine he’ll take it this week.

As much as I talked about how Breece Hall had no room, at least Purdy was able to scramble at a little over 6 yards a carry. UNI’s run game was nonexistent at best. Dom Williams led the team with 43 yards on 12 carries. The other 4 Panthers that registered a rush attempt combined for just 2 yards on 14 carries. 45 yards on 26 carries for the Panthers coming out to under 2 yards a carry. And that’s against a defense that primarily uses 3 down linemen and an extra member in the secondary. Well done to the front 7.

Brock Purdy

If you’d have told me Brock Purdy would have only missed on 5 passes, I’d have thought we rolled on Saturday. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but Purdy looked really good. 21 of 26 through the air (for just 199 yards) and another 9 carries for 58 yards on the ground totaled 257 yards for #15.

He did have the 1 deep ball that looked gorgeous out of the hand to Hutchinson in the first quarter, but as mentioned above, a lot of his throws were just quick, concise, completions over the middle or immediately to the outside on little screens. All-in-all, he did what he needed to do to win the game, and that’s what we ask of him. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of these throws in the coming weeks. Man is this a purdy throw:

#CyclONEnation

Man, how much fun was that first tailgate back? Lots, stands, and coolers filled to the brim. Loved seeing all 61,500 seats filled for a full 3 hours of football. So damn excited to have all this back. Cyclone Nation always knows how to bring it, so let’s make sure the rest of this season is the same.

Weekly Grades

Offense: C+

Defense: A-

Special Teams: A+++ (WE KICK TOUCHBACKS NOW LET’S GOOOOO)

Attendance: It’s almost like we haven’t had fans for a year or something

Hat Curve: Flawless as always

Cy-Hawk: #CollegeAmesDay Part 2