Winning in Waco hasn’t exactly come easy for the Cyclones... Their last win coming in 2017 with Cyclone legend Zeb Noland leading the way. That said, with the Cyclones flying high to start Big 12 play and a bye week to prep for the trip down, they’d be more than ready for anything the Bears had to throw their way.
What Went Wrong
First lost fumble and a poorly timed interception...
If there’s one thing the Cyclones typically do well, it’s hold on to the football, especially the running backs. One of the best qualities about David Montgomery and Breece Hall is how sure-handed they were, rarely losing fumbles (both lost just 3 in 3 years starting.) The Cyclones looked primed for another great season in that department (and still could/should be) but Abu Sama coughed one up as the Cyclones got into Baylor territory looking to go up 14 points in the first quarter. I don’t think this will be a common occurrence, terrible weather surely had an impact with ball security, but it is kind of unfortunate that we lost one.
On the other side of the turnover spectrum, Rocco had one of his worst throws on the season and it came at a very inopportune time for the Cyclones (not that throwing interceptions is ever timely.) The Cyclones had just scored to go up 17-0 and forced a rapid three and out to get the ball back with less than two minutes to go in the half. Even if nothing comes of the drive, the Cyclones were headed for a 3-score lead at the half before a pass sailed on Becht and was intercepted by Bears safety Devyn Bobby. This set up the Bears in Cyclone territory where their struggling offense was able to find the end zone for the first time.
Much like with the fumbles, I’m not terrible concerned with the interception as a whole, but rather the timing of it. The Cyclones didn’t *need* to do anything in the final 2:00 before the half knowing they’d get the ball after the intermission, but they tried to and it bit them in the behind. They were able to recover against the Bears, but with the upcoming schedule, those mistakes could prove far more costly.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t going to include this, but I couldn’t think of too much else to put here so lets talk about it. Whether you think the part that was wrong about this was a mistake by TJ Tampa or you think the rule is wrong, something went wrong on the play that cost TJ Tampa a spot in the 2nd half of the game. I’ll be honest, the hit was probably the “correct” call in being targeting, but to me, the problem isn’t that it was called (after review)… but rather that the NCAA seems to be punishing kids for incidental hits like the one Tampa laid on Saturday. Refs have a hard job, no one is denying that, and judging “intent” would make their jobs harder, but if we’re going to have a penalty that severe result in a player getting disqualified from a game (and a suspension of the 1st half of the following game if the foul occurs in the 2nd half) then we should be basing that on intentional or incidental. Keep the 15 yards for incidental, make it 15 and the disqualification for intentional.
HOLY MURDER. TJ TAMPA!— FQ Iowa State (@FQIowaState) October 28, 2023
The play is under review for targeting. pic.twitter.com/myy616P2MN
While that call wasn’t entirely responsible for it, the Cyclones’ defense gave up 0 points with TJ Tampa in the game, and gave up 18 points with TJ Tampa disqualified. These calls matter, and if we’re going to take kids out of the game, they need to be officiated with that in mind... especially for incidental hits like this one was.
What Went Right
“J&J Fishin” Tandem
For those that don’t know, Jaylin Noel and Jayden Higgins have a fishing TikTok account where they, uh, well, fish. Not sure where I’m going with this, but they were excellent again on Saturday. When Becht needed a completion, he went to his ol reliable in Jaylin Noel who had a team-high with 8 catches and 76 yards. Not too far behind him was Jayden Higgins who continued his hot streak from before the bye week with another touchdown in his 5 reception, 74 yard day. He would’ve had a MUCH bigger day as the Cyclones went back to that double move on the outside, but this week Rocco just overthrew him and the pass fell incomplete.
These 2 on the outside have been a large part of the offense each of the last two weeks, and I, for one, love to see it. The Cyclones haven’t gotten as much from Dimitri Stanley, Daniel Jackson, and other wide receivers the last few weeks, but thankfully, they haven’t needed a whole lot more than J and J. They’ve gotten solid contributions from the tight end room to compliment the guys on the outside, and when the passing game gets going, look out. This team is fast, explosive, and ready to keep rolling.
Man having a running game is nice. The Cyclones have been able to run the ball the last few weeks, and not only get the steady 3, 4, and 5 yard carries, but also break free on those big bursts of 15, 20. 30+ yards. This time it was Cartevious Norton breaking off a 49-yard touchdown (Eli had a 27-yard run and Abu Sama had a 19-yard run) to get the 3-score lead back on the opening possession of the 2nd half.
The touchdown MARCH from Cartevious Norton - his second of the day!pic.twitter.com/XPF64RAmI4— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) October 28, 2023
162 total yards on 35 carries (the Cyclones only threw the ball 31 times *eyes emoji*) marks the 4th consecutive game that Iowa State eclipsed 120 yards as a team. In fact, the 162.5 yards per game the Cyclones are rushing at over the last four games would put them 59th in the country, which might not sound like much, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the 83.25 yards per game (which would be 127th out of 130 schools) that they were at over the first four games of the season.
Red Zone Offense
One of the best things about watching Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Charlie Kolar was that no matter who the opponent was, it always felt like the offense was going to put points on the board. I kind of griped in the game against Cincinnati that kicking field goals in the red zone was good, but not ideal, and while I still hold that opinion, it is really nice to see every red zone possession ending in points. Over the last two games, the Cyclones are 9 for 9 on trips into the red zone with 5 of those drives ending in touchdowns.
One of my biggest complaints with Iowa State last year and early this year was that I wasn’t confident in this offense’s ability in the red zone. Some of that (at least this year) I’m going to say was attributed to a young, inexperienced, and new system offense that needed to work out the kinks... It’s nice to see that they’re working through those slips and now they’re scoring in the red zone, even if it’s field goals, I’m starting to come around to the “well, points are points” side of the table.