The Big 12 in 2022 takes no prisoners, and after the Farmageddon Fiasco just a week ago, the Cyclones would have to bounce back in a hurry to take on a Texas team coming off a 49-0 shutout of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Traitor Bowl. It’s never an easy win in Austin, and if the Cyclones were to pick up their first of the season, they’d need to be much better than they were in previous weeks. Could they stand up to the Longhorns, or would the timer on the season tick ever closer to running out...
What Went Wrong
I understand that Texas has a bunch of DUDES on the defensive line and in their linebacker group. They’ve got an incredibly talented front seven, and they’re only getting better with time. That being said, the Cyclones were held to fewer than 100 yards on the ground for the fourth game in a row (all four conference games.) Now credit where credit is due, we did break our conference game average of 56.7 yards per game by getting to 74 yards, but 30 of them, yes 30, came from quarterback Hunter Dekkers.
By no means is Dekkers getting 30 yards on the ground a bad thing, but that shouldn’t ever lead the team. Iowa State had just a pair of carries that gained double-digit yardage. One was a 10-yard burst from Deon Silas, the other was Dekkers’ 11-yard touchdown run. That’s it. Norton’s longest was 8 (totaled 15 on 6 carries), Sanders had just a pair of carries that mustered zero yards, and Jirehl Brock managed just 4 yards on his 2 carries. Thankfully, the Cyclones are on a bye week before getting to face fellow cellar dweller Oklahoma, so maybe guys like Jirehl Brock, Cartevious Norton, and the lot of the offensive line can get a little break to get healthy... because this run game is very poor, to put it lightly.
Remember that awesome special teams performance for Farmageddon? Yeah, where did that unit go? The unit that pinned KSU deep numerous times? The unit that made all 3 field goals? The unit that was good at kick coverage? Why can we only ever put one game together for the entire season?
The Special Teams followed up that awesome performance by going 0-1 on field goals (albeit being what would’ve been a career-long that, admittedly, at least had the distance and was end-over-end), had zero punts inside the 20, and had a punt blocked on the opening possession of the game.
I understand the coaches and players are frustrated, but how has one unit been the sole constant detriment for the last 6 years? The offense has good and bad games, the defense has good and bad games, and the special teams unit finds the strength for about 1 good game a year and they cost us IMMENSELY on at least 2, 3, sometimes even 4, others.
Moments too big...
It’s not all on the special teams. Iowa State was really bad on Saturday in the biggest of moments:
-Starting off on the wrong foot with the blocked punt
-The interception in the end zone when we could’ve gone up 14-0 midway through the 2nd quarter
-Giving up a three-and-a-half-minute, 80-yard touchdown drive to close the first half to go down 14-7, with Texas getting the ball after half
-Taking a sack on 2nd and 9 to make a 3rd and 17 in which you check it down, setting up a 46-yard field goal that’s missed (even if you spike it twice on 2nd and 3rd down, it would’ve been a 44-yard try which is Gilbert’s career-long)
-Taking the lead just to give up an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive ending in a 4th and goal touchdown
-Xavier Hutchinson’s massive drop on the final drive that would’ve set up first and goal (he did make the 4th and 2 catch AND 3rd and 10 grab that drive, but man, you’ve gotta have that wide open snag
-Then, like it or not, agree with it or not, (essentially) the final play fumble from Dekkers. Hindsight is 20/20, but that’s not a hit you want your QB taking, penalty or not...
I know I rambled here, and I could go on with more things that went wrong *cough cough* Big 12 officials *cough cough*, but I’ll spare you that rambling and save my, as well as all your, energy.
What Went Right
Man, I love this guy. He has his drops, as all of our guys seem to have at times, but man. When he steps up and makes plays, he is explosive as hell. Finally got him in the end zone for the first time in his career for the opening touchdown of the game, giving the Cyclones a 7-0 lead. It was a perfectly designed angle route from Tom Manning (been a while since I’ve said that one), and it was perfectly executed by Dekkers and Noel. Jaylin came in motion to pull the eyes of the defense, faked going out into the flat, and then hit the accelerator into the middle of the field for the wide-open grab for six.
And he wasn’t done there. Yet another perfectly executed play, this time on the RPO (run/pass option), where Dekkers faked the handoff, pulling the ball out from the running back’s hands at the last second to hit Noel over the middle (what a catch, by the way) and sprinted 54 yards to the house, this time to get the Cyclones back in it at 17-14 late in the 3rd quarter. This kid coupled with Xavier Hutchinson has such a high ceiling, and man-oh-man, do I hope this past weekend was a wake-up call to use it.
Future looks bright
The Cyclones had plenty of young guys that were going to need to step up over the course of the season. I feel like of any game that exemplified what this team still has building, Saturday was that game. There were a LOT of young guys that saw the field a lot more than maybe what any of us were expecting. Will McLaughlin started at linebacker, Cartevious Norton started at RB (despite the struggles), and Jeremiah Cooper at safety. All those guys are freshmen. Coupled with some great sophomores like Jaylin Noel at receiver and Beau Freyler at safety.
I know it gets old hearing it, but I do really still believe that Matt Campbell is merely just getting started with what he’s building here at Iowa State. I know with 4-straight losses, it’s hard to find positives, but growing pains are just a part of growing. It is what it is, and we have to know that there are always going to be ups and downs.
Point being, I’m with all of you guys. I’m frustrated; I’m bent out of shape; I’m angry, at times. Sometimes, you just have to fall in love with the process, and eventually, the process will love you back.
It’s always a great day to be a Cyclone... just some days are better than others.