First 3-0 start of the Campbell era, and what’s the reward? The reigning Big 12 Champion Baylor Bears come to town. It’s a big one in Ames as both teams begin conference play. Only one could come out victorious, so who got it done and who came up short?
What Went Wrong
Yes, I’m going there. Strap in.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. It’s very rarely the case (if ever) that the officials single-handedly cost a team the game. Saturday was not one of those rare cases, but that doesn’t excuse how absolutely abhorrent the officiating was. From inconsistent targeting calls (starting on the fourth play of the game), to unnecessary unnecessary roughness calls, to possibly the worst “block below the waist” call one has ever seen, the officials came with all of it on Saturday.
Beau Freyler’s Targeting:
Someone please explain the difference here. Freyler got ejected for the exact same hit. pic.twitter.com/7rskRtYYFv— Derek Duke (@DerekDuke25) September 24, 2022
Now, I’ll be honest here. I do legitimately see the case for targeting here. My problem isn’t entirely with the call that was made, but rather the inconsistency of what targeting even is, how it’s called, and why something completely incidental ends in a player missing 99% of a game for this. This play happens on as many tackles as you could call holding on for offensive linemen. Seriously, watch any carry that doesn’t go out of bounds, and damn near all of them end with the runner and tackler lowering their heads and making some sort of contact. How do I know this? The officials didn’t even call this targeting on the field. The Bears were lining up for their following play when the replay official made the call to review this. It was then called targeting, and Beau Freyler had his day ended early.
Now to follow up, there’s this hit by Baylor safety Devin Lemear. Why this isn’t officiated the same way, I have no idea. We all agree that concussions and CTE are serious problems in the game of football. So why officiate these hits differently? I don’t know. I guess that’s why I’m not the rules expert.
Unnecessary Roughness on Colby Reeder:
This was called Unnecessary Roughness… pic.twitter.com/r98yvw38l0— Derek Duke (@DerekDuke25) September 24, 2022
This exact play happened to Iowa State tight end Easton Dean all of one week ago against the Ohio Bobcats. Wasn’t called. That is all I have to say here. Clearly, Reeder is well within his rights as a defender. (This was one play after Beau Freyler’s ejection)
Anthony Johnson's “Block Below the Waist”:
This was called a block below the waist to give Baylor a first down. pic.twitter.com/MemF8M348P— Derek Duke (@DerekDuke25) September 24, 2022
I mean, this one is just the absolute worst of them. So bad to the point coach Matt Campbell called a timeout just to berate the officials on the sideline. There’s been an emphasis on both sides of the ball to avoid players taking out the opposition’s legs. You know, that's fair. We all hate leg injuries. But tell me, where does either play here get hit below the waist? Maybe my eyes are blinded by cardinal and gold glasses, but I just don’t see what the officials saw here.
At the end of the day, Iowa State didn’t do enough to win this football game. Offensively and defensively, there were plenty of struggles that cost us the game. Merely pointing out that the Big 12 continues to have the worst officials in the sport... and it needs to be fixed.
I mean, the running game was just terrible on Saturday. Iowa State mustered all of 66 yards on the ground on 27 carries. Thirty-seven of those yards came on a Jirehl Brock touchdown late in the game to close the deficit back to 10. It’s been a constant struggle for the Cyclones this year through 4 games now. The pass protection is usually quite good, but the blocking just doesn’t hold firm on the first level, making it impossible for anyone to set a block on the second. The running backs are constantly hit at or before the line of scrimmage, and they just don’t have anywhere to go. This may be a new offense with plenty of new skill position players, especially at RB behind Brock, but the line is more than experienced enough to be better than what they have been so far in the running game. 66 yards (29 outside a monster carry) isn’t going to cut it in the Big 12. It just isn’t.
It’s no surprise that despite his early reliance on the run game, Blake Shapen is the best quarterback that the defense has seen so far. That said, he picked apart the secondary like vultures on a carcass on Saturday. Up and down the field, sideline to sideline, deep and short, Blake Shapen and the Baylor receivers were all over the Cyclones’ defensive backfield. 11 different receivers hauled in 19 receptions for 238 yards and 3 scores on the day, including a wide-open double-reverse flea-flicker that essentially ended the game with 9:37 to go.
What Went Right
Jaylin Noel played pretty clearly the best game of his career on Saturday. He tied a career-high with seven catches, almost doubled his previous career-high of 65 yards with 120, and added a new longest catch of 50 yards. Noel was the consistent underneath target most of the day, but he also had a pair of nice deep targets, one of the things Cyclone fans have been waiting for. Dekkers found him on a wheel route down the right sideline for a 27-yard gain on 2nd and 21, and then he tacked on the 50-yard catch and run over the middle on 3rd and 7 to help set up the field goal to cut the deficit to 7 before the final onside kick attempt. Iowa State already has a lethal passing attack with Xavier Hutchinson (who was also quite good again), but if they can get this consistency from Noel both underneath AND over the top of the secondary, it will unlock a whole new level to the offense.
I feel like normally when I write these articles, this category either doesn’t show up, or it’s in the “What Went Wrong” section. That was anything but the case against the Bears. Iowa State was quite good on 3rd downs, particularly on offense. The Cyclones converted eight of their fifteen 3rd down attempts over the course of the game, none bigger than the 50-yard completion to Jaylin Noel mentioned earlier. Iowa State was able to extend drives and move the ball well through the air on Saturday, and I’d expect that to continue with the offensive line’s continued inconsistencies in the run game. If the Cyclones can stay at or above that 50% line on 3rd downs, they’ll more than be able to right the ship.