Normally, I’d do an intro of some kind here, but I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty of that by just diving into the rights and wrongs of the CyHawk game for our dear Cyclones.
(Spoiler alert, there’s a lot of one of those and not a lot of the other one)
What Went Wrong
I’ll be honest. I’ve watched a lot of Iowa State football. Good showings, bad showings, wins, losses, everything. I don’t know if I’ve seen as bad of a rushing attack as I saw on Saturday. Anytime you don’t rush for a hundred yards in a game, you’re probably not controlling the flow and pace like Matt Campbell and Company want to. Then you throw in the fact that the Cyclones ran the ball thirty-one times? You need just over three yards per carry to get to the century mark there and Iowa State didn’t. Not only did they not get to triple digits, they didn’t even get to ninety. Eighty-seven yards was all the Cyclones got on the ground.
Their longest carry was eleven yards by Cartevious Norton. That’s thirty carries for seventy-six yards. That’s not beating anyone in college football. If your goal is to establish the run, take pressure off your inexperienced quarterback, control the clock, and play the football that Matt Campbell wants Iowa State to play, you’re not beating anyone with eighty-seven yards on thirty-one carries. ESPECIALLY not a team like Iowa.
Obviously, the competition for Ohio (the Cyclones’ next opponent) hasn’t been good. Their last two games were against Long Island and Florida Atlantic. That said, they held Long Island to thirty-four yards and FAU to five yards. FIVE. I expect better next week from the Cyclones, but Ohio is no slouch, and the run game will need to be better for Iowa State to control the game.
Okay, so you’re not running the ball well. That’s fine. You’ve got plenty of skill on the outside to bail out your young QB and push the ball... or maybe not. Sixteen yards was the longest play from scrimmage for Iowa State on Saturday. A 4th down touchdown to Jayden Higgins was it. Of the other gains that were ten or more yards, I honestly couldn’t tell you how many of them were passes in the air for all those yards. I know I credited Rocco for his mistake-free “check down” style of game that he played against UNI, but that came with a couple of caveats.
First of all, you need to have some semblance of a run game, which Iowa State did not on Saturday. Secondly, you need to have someone make a play with the ball in their hands. A checkdown to Eli Sanders where he makes a guy miss and gets fifteen yards. A screen to Jaylin Noel where you get a big gain with the blockers out in front. Something to get your guys the ball in space and let them work.
Neither was the case on Saturday. Again, I expect this to improve next week in Ohio, but it was ugly this past week. Have to learn how to push the ball down the field to try and open up that underneath game. When teams aren’t afraid of you downfield, they can tighten up those first 7 yards and make your life miserable.
While I wasn’t thrilled with the performance from Rocco Becht on Saturday, it was a lot worse than it should’ve been. There were countless drops on Saturday from a plethora of guys. Jaylin Noel was probably the worst offender with three or four on his own, but the rest of the receiving core (backs and tight ends as well) wasn’t without flaws.
Jaylin Noel with a pair of dropped catches. Three and out for the Iowa State offense. Tyler Perkins on to punt.— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) September 9, 2023
Part of what this team needs in order to succeed is your playmakers to get the ball in space. If you’re dropping the ball, you’re not able to make plays. It’s that simple. Drops plagued this team last year in the worst way, and if Saturday was any indication, we may be in for another long season in the drops department.
What Went Right
Wait, did I type that out correctly? Hold on, let me double-check that. One second, please.
Yeah, that looks right, actually. Chase Contreraz and Tyler Perkins were easily the best two players on the Cyclones offense (if you can count the kicker and punter as offensive players) on Saturday. Contreraz went two for three on the day (the miss was a block that wasn’t his fault) with a long of forty-six yards (the other was forty-two) while Tyler Perkins had yet another phenomenal day punting the ball.
Tyler outkicked Hawkeye legend Tory Taylor by thirty-three yards (311 to 278, both had six punts), had a longer long (sixty-three to fifty-three), and put half of his punts inside the twenty (Taylor didn’t do it once) with a pair of touchbacks (Taylor also didn’t have any of those.)
It was a clean sweep for Tyler Perkins over Tory Taylor on Saturday, which probably doesn’t mean you’re winning the game, but we won punting, so who’s the real winner here, Hawk fans?
Offensive Line (Pass Protection)
Alright, which one of you jokesters swapped the rights and wrongs from this CyHawk game compared to every game that Iowa State has played under Matt Campbell? This is so backwards it may as well be forwards.
The Iowa State offensive line didn’t allow a sack to an Iowa team that while they more so make a living off takeaways, they do that in part because of pressure they force on the quarterback. They weren’t as effective as they could’ve been on getting to Rocco Becht and a lot of that has to do with Ryan Clanton and the work he’s put in with this group of guys during the offseason.