Always tough to bounce back from a gut-punching loss at home in primetime. It’s even tougher when you have to play at 8:15 p.m. mountain time, or 9:15 p.m. central time. That was what Iowa State was tasked with doing this past Saturday as they took on the BYU Cougars in Provo, Utah.
What Went Wrong
Kickoffs, I guess?
Not really sure what else to start with in this section, so I guess I’ll say the kickoffs. One of which went out of points and another got returned 37 yards by Keelan Marion. Not really sure entirely what the plan was all night, but clearly Iowa State didn’t have a terrible interest in trying to kick the ball to the goal line. One of those worked out, with Ray Paulo fumbling a kick return and setting up the Cyclones well. The rest were, well, fine. Nothing particularly special. Kickoffs out of bounds are unacceptable, though. Can’t be doing that.
I’m not going to say Iowa State was awful with the penalties on Saturday night. 6 penalties for 53 yards is slightly over average for the Cyclones (normally around 5 penalties and 44 yards per game) but it’s not out of this world bad. Much like is normally the case in blowout wins, maybe I’m being nitpicky here, but hey, when “slightly worse than the normal” is in this section of the article, you’re probably doing alright. 45-13 says that pretty well.
What Went Right
This kid is going places, folks. I don’t know that I’d go as far as to call him “Barry Sanders” like the ESPN commentary crew compared one of his touchdown runs to, but I certainly see a little Breece Hall in this guy. Granted, he’s wearing 24 and not 28, but he’s got the explosiveness, the shiftiness, and the potential to certainly be the next great Iowa State running back.
Abu Sama III is, in fact, that dude— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) November 12, 2023
From the nasty juke he put on a BYU defender to the 59-yard touchdown run to find the end zone for the second time, Abu was excellent on Saturday night. 8 carries for 110 yards (his first 100+ yard game) and the pair of touchdown runs. The 59-yarder being the Cyclones’ longest touchdown run of the year and longest since Breece Hall’s 80-yard touchdown vs TCU on Senior Night in 2021. The true freshman now has 50+ yard touchdowns in two games this year (55-yard run vs. TCU) and was named the 24/7 True Freshman of the Week this week. He was in the dog house a little bit after that fumble in the Baylor game, but hopefully we get more of the BYU game Abu Sama III and less of the Baylor game Abu Sama III.
I know I love this kid even more than most Cyclone fans, but Jaylin has continued to fly under the radar all year. He’s been so key in the passing game both as a safety valve underneath (occasionally breaking loose with yards after the catch) but also as a guy that can press the secondary and get down the field in a hurry. He did the former on Saturday, catching 5 passes (his 3rd game in a row and 6th time in 9 games with 5+ receptions) for 98 yards and, like Abu Sama, found the end zone twice.
Not only that, maybe his best play of the night was a punt return that he initially muffed at the goal line, but managed to scoop the ball up and bring it out to the Iowa State 34. Iowa State promptly scored to close the half and put the game away then and there at 31-7 going into the break. The return game and special teams turn around this year has been phenomenal, and like I mentioned previously, it’s an incredible feeling to know that, at least for the time being, the special teams isn’t costing this team.
What if I told you that BYU would have two turnovers after just one offensive snap? Will McLaughlin intercepted Jake Retzlaff’s first pass of the night on first down of the first possession of the game. Then, after Iowa State scored and kicked off, Caleb Bacon forced a fumble on the kick return setting up the Cyclones to take a 10-0 lead just three and a half minutes into the game. Following that, Iowa State would score on 3 of their 4 remaining drives in the first half, completely flipping the script on the 1st half of the Kansas game. Going from needing a kick at the buzzer to even score in the first half to putting up 31, which would’ve been the team’s second most points in a game this year, is an incredible turnaround. Now, BYU may not have the team or defense that Kansas has, but for the defense to set the offense up in the short field and to having the offense capitalize on all but one drive, that takes an adjustment.
Hopefully Matt Campbell, Nate Scheelhaase, and co. can build off of this performance and bring it again this coming Saturday with the 9-1 Longhorns coming to Ames for one final time.