Big momentum shift game last week and Iowa State is hoping to build off that while heading to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. The Chili Bowl was locked and loaded. The newcomers to the Big 12 would get the first chance to defend their “Skyline Chili” at home, while the Cyclones would like to introduce “Chili with a Cinnamon Roll” to the Ohioans.
What Went Wrong
Red Zone Offense
You guys should know by now that when Iowa State wins in the manner that they did on Saturday, I typically get a little more “nit-picky” with this section of the article.
So that’s exactly what I’m doing here. I get that it’s nice to have a kicker that feels automatic from inside 37. Contreraz was just that in Cincy going 3/3 on kicks from 30, 30, and 34 yards. Why do I specify inside 37 yards, though? A 37-yard kick would be a kick from the 20, or basically any kicks that result from not scoring touchdowns in the red zone. And yes, I hear you, 9 points is definitely better than 0, and thankfully, in a 20-point win, the margin from potentially 21 points down to 9, doesn’t feel nearly as significant as the close games that Iowa State often finds itself in. On those 3 field goal drives, Iowa State had the following
1st and 10: 1-yard run
2nd and 3rd down: Incomplete Pass
1st and 10: 1-yard run
2nd and 9: -1 yard run
3rd and 10: 1-yard scramble
1st and 10: 2-yard run
2nd and 8: 0-yard run
3rd and 8: Incomplete pass
That’s 9 plays to gain 4 yards. Not great. Thankfully, like I said, those 12 missed points didn’t come back to bite Iowa State, and thankfully, most of the time you won’t need the full 21, but you’d rather score touchdowns than field goals.
What Went Right
How about that for a special teams performance?
Contreraz was perfect on field goals and extra points, Jaylin Noel had kickoff returns of 72 and 38 yards, Tyler Perkins had one of his three punts pinned inside the 20, and Contreraz continued his excellent day with a flawlessly executed fake field goal setting up a touchdown to get the Cyclones the lead that they would not relinquish the remainder of the game.
Contreraz Up The Gut!— Iowa State Football (@CycloneFB) October 14, 2023
Some Cyclone fans may recognize that fake as the same one that Oklahoma ran against us last year to turn 3 points into 7. Love to see this team adapting, taking some risks, and executing. Phenomenal job to the special teams!
Give me that!
So many times in the past we’ve talked in the “What Went Wrong” section about dropped interceptions and missed fumble recoveries. Just having turnover opportunities and not capitalizing on them. This year has been the exact opposite. While Iowa State doesn’t have a fumble recovery, they’ve done a tremendous job taking the ball away in the air. The Cyclones are tied for the lead in the Big 12 with Oklahoma with 12 interceptions, which is also 2nd in the country to just Liberty with 13.
TJ TAMPA IS THE BEST CB IN THE NATION pic.twitter.com/npY0Z7KMeb— OutCYde the Lines (@OutCYdetheLines) October 14, 2023
From Tampa Island (held Xzavier Henderson without a catch by the way) with his 2nd on the year to Jeremiah Cooper getting his country-leading fifth interception, the secondary has been aggressive and it’s such a wonderful change of pace. With the defense taking the ball away like that, Iowa State has a chance to make a big run coming out of the bye.
You guys know I love spotlighting a highlight performance, and while I’d love to give the game ball to Chase, I’ve got to go with Higgins on this one. 6 receptions for 175 yards and a long of 75 yards is easily the best complete game he’s had as a Cyclone and is probably his 2nd best game ever, only being outgunned by his 7 catch 185 yard 1 touchdown day against Charleston Southern last year for Eastern Kentucky.
The play that really caught my eye on Saturday was the double move that took the top off the defense in a 75-yard gain. The reason I loved this play wasn’t the fact that it went 75 yards, but because we finally ran a “sluggo” (slant and go) double move. (top of the screen)
We run slant routes so often off the RPO and to get the ball into our playmakers' hands, that a double move had to come at some point this year. Loved the timing of the big play on Saturday and would love to see them continue to run that once a game. We’ve got the explosiveness on the outside to run it, and we showed that on Saturday.