One final time to take on the Texas Longhorns. Arguably the Cyclones’ toughest game of the year, but they get it right where they want it. A home game... in prime time... in November. What could go wrong?
What Went Wrong
Oh yeah. The margins. I suppose that could go wrong. As they always seem to do in the biggest games in the most inopportune times. Whether that’s a high snap leading to a missed field goal, or giving up a punt return touchdown (called back on a block in the back penalty), or even having an extra point blocked and returned for 2 points the other way, the special teams couldn’t get out of their own way on Saturday Night.
This got called back, but Xavier Worthy is BEYOND electric— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 19, 2023
Can we get the good special teams back, please? The unit that was playing before I cursed them in one of the more recent Post-Mortems? That’d be great for Farmageddon this weekend.
9 yards. That’s it. 9 whole measly yards on 21 carries. LESS THAN HALF A YARD PER CARRY.
I don’t care if you think you can “establish the run” in order to “possess the ball” or “control the clock” against any team. It was clear and obvious to everyone watching the game both in person and on television that Iowa State’s offensive line wasn’t going to be able to move the Longhorn front AT ALL in the trenches. That problem only becomes heightened when you run inside zone and only ever inside zone. There’s no pressing the edges, there’s no getting the ball in space, there’s no creativity, there’s no uniqueness. It’s inside zone or maybe a zone read that Rocco keeps once a game.
Regardless of that, if you’re going to try and establish the run, you can’t do it to the tune of 0.4 yards per carry. 5 carries or 50, you’re not beating anyone when it takes you two carries to get a yard. I get that you can’t throw literally every down (I don’t know, maybe you can. If there was ever a time to try it, it probably should’ve been in this one) but you certainly can’t run on 1st down 13 of 24 times if you’re only going to gain 14 total yards on said carries.
(Side note: of the 11 times Iowa State passed on 1st down, Rocco Becht was 6 of 11 for 111 yards, 5 first downs, an interception, and a touchdown. Every completion Rocco had on a first down went for a first down or a touchdown... Even with the INT and slow start on 1st down (1 for his first 5,) I’d take that over the 1 yard per carry any day...)
2nd Half Defense
Jon Heacock has made a living it seems off of making halftime adjustments and limiting teams to a little over 7 points per half. With the holding of Texas to 6 points in the first half, it seemed as though we were in for another slugfest of a half. Texas seemed to have had other ideas, putting up a 20-piece (two of that on a blocked PAT return) on the Cyclones’ defense and counterpunching every answer Iowa State was able to put up. That’s not something we’ve come to expect from this Cyclones defense, and hopefully that’s not something that becomes the new normal.
What Went Right
Maybe this isn’t what I mean to put here, but I wasn’t really sure how else to say it. Texas is a team that’s been atop the conference virtually all year and is right in the thick of the College Football Playoff conversation, sitting at 7th currently. That said, Iowa State honestly played them fairly well in most of the “noticeable” stats. Iowa State was right there in yards, passing, 3rd downs, turnovers, time of possession, penalties, score. I’d like to remind everyone that this team started the season 1-2 after a loss to Ohio and still played meaningful football (competitively at that) in November in the hunt against some of the best teams the conference has to throw at them. Yeah, they came up short. That happens sometimes. This team has so much potential to grow with how young they are, and I’m excited to see how they build off of not only this game, but also this season.
Sellout crowd for a home November night game? Sign me up for that every possible time. There’s nothing like Jack Trice Stadium at night, and that’s only amplified when everyone’s rolling on for Senior Night. I’ll take that every day of the week and twice on Saturday.
Rocco really only made 1 mistake over the course of the game. Granted, when your one mistake is as big and as bad as the one he made, it can at times overshadow the rest of the game. I hope people don’t do that for Rocco this past week.
Becht put together a really solid performance, going 24 of 32 (75%) for 323 yards, 2 touchdowns, and the interception. He started off somewhat slow, especially on first down (starting 1 of 5) but he really settled into the game as he got more reps in against an elite defense. He stood in the pocket when he could, hit his receivers consistently and accurately, and had some nice touch passes over the top in key moments.
QB1 has been really good for much of the year this year, and hopefully another nice performance against a really good Texas defense gives him some continued momentum through Farmageddon and the bowl game, wherever that may be.