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Iowa State Football Post-Mortem: Kansas

Hold officials accountable

Syndication: The Ames Tribune Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iowa State vs. Kansas

A joke of a game in 2015, a meaningful primetime game in 2023.

Let’s take a closer look at what went wrong and what went right on Saturday night.

What Went Wrong

Pass Defense

Jeremiah Cooper was out on Saturday, and that proved incredibly costly for Iowa State. It wasn’t so much that Bean and Kansas threw the ball that often (14/23 passing), but it seemed like every pass was a deep shot. From the Lawrence Arnold 80-yard touchdown to the Quentin Skinner 31-yard reception, Kansas took shots down the field primarily targeting Cooper’s replacement, Blake Thompson. Thompson had appeared in 6 games previously (4 this year, 2 last year) and hadn’t really made all that much of an impact, at least in the stat sheet. 6 total tackles prior to this week where had as many. Jeremiah Coopers don’t come around all that often, but it’s weird to see such a drop off in play with just one guy being out. If this is a sign to come, the Cyclones had better hope Cooper’s injury isn’t significant and he’ll be back sooner rather than later...

Run Game/Playcalling

Now,m I’m not going to sit here and tell you Rocco played perfectly. He had some missed throws, including an awful pick-6. That said, it’s hard to look at his 20/26 for 216 and not think we could’ve used more of that instead of committing to running Sanders and Norton to the tune of 21 carries for 80 yards all game. This defense did way too much in the first half keeping this team in the game for the offense to put up all of 3 points while having 7 drives. This Kansas defense is fine, but nothing special. To not score a touchdown in the first half is a crazy thing to think after this offense felt like it was humming the last 4 weeks.

I’m not in the coaching rooms. I’m not in the meetings and planning sessions. I’m not on the sideline. But whether it’s execution in the running game or playcalling not giving our guys a chance to succeed, running the ball straight into 8-man boxes on 1st down every drive (the Cyclones ran the ball on the first play of 7 of their 10 drives), this past Saturday wasn’t the answer and no adjustments seemed to be made until it was too late. Let’s get back to the Cincy, Baylor, and Oklahoma State games, please.

No sacks... again

I mean, not much to really go into here. Cyclones only had 3 tackles for loss and 0 sacks. I know a lot of pressure was on Blake Thompson stepping in for Cooper on the back end, but when Bean can sit there or shuffle around for 4, 5, 6+ seconds to find guys, it’s impossible to cover for that long. This team has struggled to get sacks all year, and it finally came back to bite them the second that the all-pro caliber secondary wasn’t 100%.

What Went Right

Rush Defense

Normally with a 3-man front, you tend to give up a tick more in the run game as the offensive line is able to create more holes given the lack of bodies up front. But against an elite rushing attack in Kansas, the Cyclones only gave up 74 yards on 35 carries, and not once did they allow a carry of more than 9 yards. For an offense with Devin Neal, Daniel Hishaw Jr., and a mobile QB in Jason Bean, Iowa State did a great job clogging runs up the middle and stretching out runs on the perimeter. While the pass defense struggled, particularly deep down the field, the run defense put together as good of a performance as I’ve seen.

Special Teams?

Crazy what has happened to Iowa State’s special teams this year. I wonder what could’ve changed?

Okay, jokes aside, Jaylin Noel has been a LETHAL kickoff returner, Chase Contreraz has been virtually automatic since Ohio (14/15), and Tyler Perkins continues to be a solid to very good punter, averaging 42.5 yards per punt and putting a pair of his four punts inside the 20-yard line. I know it sounds weird, but I think the special teams is sliding under the radar this year. For what seems like the first time in Campbell’s time here, it seems like the 3rd unit is keeping us in games instead of costing us them. It’s a wonderful change of pace and hopefully it keeps up.

Passing game

Yes, I saw the pick-6 on what looked to me like a miscommunication between Higgins and Becht. I’m choosing to ignore that in the name of most every other play being a good one. Higgins had a big gain on a double pass from Jaylin Noel (who himself had 5 catches for 54 yards), Daniel Jackson’s lone reception picked up 35, and how about Dimitri Stanley? Been a slow and uninteresting season from him this year, but he showed out in primetime with a season-high in both catches (5) and yards (59). #LetRoccoCook was no more prevalent than it was last night, and cleaning up a missed throw here or there, Iowa State is going to have a chance in these last 3 games.

Weekly Grades

Offense: D+

Defense: C+

Special Teams: A

Double Passes: Still fun

Big 12 Contenders: Not quite yet

Jeremiah Cooper: Defensive MVP