So last week in Lawrence wasn’t exactly what Iowa State fans, players, and coaches had in mind. A rough weekend for multiple reasons, but now is not the time to linger on what we cannot control, so instead, we move on to Kansas State and the Farmageddon Rivalry. While Kansas State has had impressive spurts this year, this is definitely a winnable game for the Cyclones. It’s time to move the all-black unis to 9-0 at home... right? Surely we couldn’t hit a lower point than the loss at Kansas, right?
What Went Wrong
Final Two Drives
So there was plenty wrong with the offense on Saturday night in Ames, but I want to focus specifically on the final pair of drives. I want to start out the what went wrong segment by giving some props to two guys in particular. Stevo Klotz and Jaylin Noel (and the Special Teams as a whole) gave the offense all they needed to succeed in the final seven minutes of the game, and Tom Manning and company couldn’t pay it off. The Cyclones started back-to-back drives near midfield. The first at the Kansas State 49, and the second at their own 48. Care to guess what the offense did with a pair of possessions needing only about 25 yards to get into field goal range? They went 3 and out, gaining 4 yards on the first and 4 and out, gaining 3 yards on the second.
As if that wasn’t predictable enough, on BOTH 3rd down plays, Hunter Dekkers completed passes. The first was a 3-yard pass on 3rd and 9, and the second was a 3-yard pass on 3rd and 10. Bet you never saw that one coming. 3-yard crossing routes on 3rd and long? What mastermind could’ve come up with that play-calling?
Iowa State’s longest play against the Wildcats came on an RPO play up the middle to Xavier Hutchinson for 38 yards. Aside from that, a play in which Dekkers got the ball out very quickly, the Cyclones had 2 plays longer than 20 yards. Two. A 25-yard pass to DeShawn Hanika and a 24-yard scramble from Hunter Dekkers, setting a new season-long. Now, while the defense didn’t really give up all that many explosive plays on the other end, there were two in particular that were quite bothersome for the Cyclones’ defense.
The first came early in the game as Colby Reeder whiffed an unblocked rush on Adrian Martinez, who floated one downfield to Philip Brooks, who broke a tackle downfield and scampered 81 yards to the end zone on 3rd and 5. It was a massive play that instantly sucked the life out of the Ames air. The second, I’ll go into a little more later on, but Martinez was able to extend a play with his legs on 3rd and 10, where he broke containment off the right tackle and was able to loft a pass deep downfield for a 68- yard gain to Malik Knowles.
It’s not that you “need” explosive plays on offense to win football games, but in a league constantly improving on defense and always capable of finding an offensive explosion and plenty of points, if Iowa State is going to dig themselves out of this 0-3 conference hole, they’ll need to be able to stretch the defense. Even if it’s for just 5 plays a game, there needs to be something to take the top off the defense and open up the bread and butter of what Tom Manning wants to run.
Another week, another disappointing showing from the run game. After a lightning-quick start to the season from Brock and the run game, the Cyclones were held below the century mark for rushing yards for the 3rd consecutive game. In conference play, the Cyclones are averaging just 56.7 yards per game on the ground. I believe that being this one-dimensional is part of the reason this offense is struggling as mightily as it is. In the past, we’ve had David Montgomery and Breece Hall to rely on in the running game. It’s not that Jirehl Brock and the RB room can’t be good, or isn’t capable of carrying the load of this team, but the problem that I’m seeing anyway is that there isn’t any flow to the run game and the offense as a whole. It’s too predictable. Plus, we can’t (or don’t) push the ball downfield as much, which brings the linebackers and safeties up to stop the run, but we’re not effective enough at running the ball to pull them up enough to hit the home run ball over the top.
Calling an offense isn’t an easy job, but the coaches have had now all offseason and 6 games of the season to figure out how to find the balance in this cycle of running backs with the weapons we have on the outside. Now I know the veteran in Jirehl Brock has been battling injuries, and he’s dealing with a heavy workload as is with as young of a group as we have... but you’d expect it to be at least better than 57 yards per game on the ground...
What Went Right
It wasn’t all bad for the Cyclones despite scoring just 9 points in the loss. In fact, you could even say there was a part of the game that was perfect. Jace Gilbert, coming off what could very well end up being the worst week of his life, missing a trio of field goals in Lawrence, was damn near flawless on Saturday night. The kid responded in a way that no 18-year-old true freshman kicker has any right to. He knocked through a 35-yarder to thunderous applause and cheers from the home crowd, and then one drive later and knocked through a career-long 44-yarder to cut the lead to 1. Come to the end of the 3rd quarter, Jace got his true chance at redemption with a 43-yard field goal to give the Cyclones the lead. The only real downside to Gilbert’s night was that we didn’t get the Cinderella ending of him truly redeeming it with the game-winner (though, that was no fault of his.) Way to bounce back, Jace.
For as bad as the run game has been on the offensive end, the rush defense has been nigh unstoppable for the Cyclones. Had you told me before the game that Cyclone Larry would’ve perfectly nailed this tweet, I would’ve told you the Cyclones probably win by double digits.
Neither Deuce Vaughn or Adrian Martinez will rush for 100+ yards tomorrow I’ll guarantee it— Cyclone Larry (@CycloneLarry69) October 7, 2022
Not only was Martinez held to just 71 yards after going over 140 each of the previous two games, but Kansas State’s star weapon Deuce Vaughn was held to, get this, just 23 yards on 10 carries. 2.3 yards per carry. The 23 rushing yards were the 3rd lowest of Deuce’s admittedly very successful college career, only being held to fewer against Oklahoma State last year (22 yards on 13 carries) and against West Virginia in 2020 (22 yards on 9 carries.) That’s a damn near impossible effort from the Cyclones' defense against one of the elite rushing teams in the Big 12, hell, even college football as a whole (currently 6th in the country in rushing yards per game and 3rd in the country in total rushing yards.)
Man. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Anthony Johnson’s first career interception. Well, he didn’t add to that number on Saturday, but he had quite possibly the best play of his career instead.
There’s nothing that takes the air out of a crowd like a massive touchdown. Malik Knowles was well on his way to securing just that until the senior safety caught up to him and punched the ball out just before the goal line, and the duo of Beau Freyler and Colby Reeder combined to make the recovery in the end zone to get the offense back on the field. I m ean, this is really all you can ask of the guy. Just a hell of a play made by a hell of a player.