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Iowa State Football Preview: Cy-Hawk

Can Iowa State make it two in a row?

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

Iowa State (1-0) vs TOE (1-0)

TV: Fox

Time: 2:30 CST

When We Last Left Off..

The Iowa State Cyclones started off the season with a 30-9 home win against the Northern Iowa Pantherhawks.

It’s largely been a comedy of errors for Iowa State against UNI over the past decade, but the matchup last Saturday left little doubt that Iowa State was the better squad. After all, whom amongst us hasn’t pined for a boring win against Northern Iowa?

The game got off to a quick start with UNI driving into ISU territory before Jeremiah Cooper jumped a route, taking the ball to the house for a pick-six.

UNI would then punt back to the Cyclones, and everyone held their breath as redshirt freshman Rocoo Becht took the first snaps. After trading punts, a huge punt return by Jaylin Noel set up a seven-play, twenty-one-yard drive led by Rocco Becht land punctuated by a QB sneak from under center.

A horrible punt-fest broke out after that, until Becht again led the Cyclones on a long TD drive keyed by two Abu Sama runs, passes to Aiden Bitter and Jayden Higgins, and a 14-yard Tyler Moore TD pass.

Jeremiah Cooper reeled in his second interception on the next drive before the most shocking development in Cyclone Football in years - kicker Chase Contreraz lined up a 56-yard field goal and absolutely nailed it.

Becht would open the second half with a long touchdown to Ben Brahmer, which was a beautifully designed play, and Iowa State coasted to the finish from there.

UNI would continue to move the ball, putting up some stats, but Iowa State was content to not put anything more on film or risk injuries, as backups mainly played the 4th quarter.

Rocco Becht finished 10/13 for 113 and 2 TDs on the day, handling his first start very well. Iowa State racked up six sacks and two INTs, and also rushed for 134 yards as a team, as the offensive line turned in a solid performance.

TOE Tidbits

TOE started off the season with a 24-14 victory over Utah State. Coincidentally Brian Ferentz missed his 25.0 points per game quota and already has some ground to make up, according to his contract. Cade McNamara threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns. TOE also ran for 88 yards in the victory.

Iowa State Offense

The Iowa State offense had its ups and downs this past weekend against Northern Iowa. The Cyclones only ran 45 plays for 250 total yards of offense but a little context on that is the 5.5 yards per play they averaged on the afternoon. So that was the good. The not-so-good were the penalties once again and an an extremely vanilla offense that struggled to move the ball at times, especially in the second half as the heat started to wear people down.

The Iowa State offensive line looked a bit behind compared to the other position groups. They weren’t really getting much push up-front and making room for the run game, but that was just the first game, and many of the mistakes can be fixed with some real game tape against an opponent.

We didn’t get a great look at the wide receiver room, as only a handful of Becht’s & Kohl’s passing attempts went to non-tight ends, so it’s too early to extrapolate much from this group. However, we did get a glimpse of Jayden Higgins’ ability, as he turned a six-yard hitch route into a fifteen-yard gain through some nifty work after the catch. Needless to say, this group will need to produce more against the Hawks.

As mentioned before, one group that did show some serious promise is the tight ends. Ben Brahmer and Tyler Moore both found the endzone for the first time in their Cyclone careers. Gabe Burkle and Easton Dean added in a combined 4 receptions as well. This will be a group that will be targeted heavily and through one game it appears they will be up to the task.

Northern Iowa v Iowa State Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

This Iowa State offense is going to have to find a rhythm early on Saturday though. They will not be able to mess around and try some things against a Phil Parker group and now with Rocco Becht getting his first start against a Power 5 team. You know TOE will be coming out guns blazing.

Iowa Defense

The TOE defense is led by Cooper DeJean and Xavier Nwankpa in the secondary, and once again will be probably the top defense Iowa State will face all year. They held up to that in the season opener against Utah State.

Utah State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

TOE allowed just over 4 yards per play against Utah State and forced one turnover on a Xavier Nwankpa interception. The longest play of the afternoon allowed by TOE was a 39-yard pass and their longest run allowed was 18 yards.

Jay Higgins the senior linebacker who is looking to fill the void left by Jack Campbell was a man on fire for TOE. He contributed 16 total tackles and one pass deflection against Utah State. It will be imperative for the Iowa State offensive line to get into the second level and find ways to muddy up the plays for Higgins. If you can neutralize the top tackler for TOE, usually you can find some success.

Verdict - TOE

Phil Parker and company are as solid as they come and Iowa State’s offense is just still one big unknown at this time. That’s not to say Iowa State won’t make plays but they will have to beat this TOE defense they won’t let it happen.

Iowa State Defense

The professor is back on campus. From the first snap, it was clear that Jon Heacock was not interested in easing into things. The Cyclones hit the Panthers with pretty much every blitz and stunt you could imagine and it put Theo Day in football hell. Day has been regarded as an NFL prospect at quarterback coming into the season, but turned the ball over twice to Iowa State. One huge one to open the game that was returned for a touchdown by Jeremiah Cooper. The second interception led to a 56-yard field goal for Iowa State.

Iowa State allowed 279 total yards of offense against Northern Iowa. The lone touchdown came late in the second half when Iowa State was primarily playing their second and third team due to the heat and cramping. The Cyclones sacked Day five times and tackled Northern Iowa ball carriers for a loss nine times.

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

The success Iowa State had in the UNI backfield was due in part to Tyler Onyedim and Dominique Orange. Both were taking the UNI offensive line to school and making impact plays all over the field. The same will have to happen on Saturday for Iowa State to continue their success defensively. TOE has had their fair share of offensive line issues and it may be an opportunity for Orange and Onyedim.

Iowa Offense

In what appeared to be a new and improved offense with Cade McNamara behind the wheel. Just turned out to be the same old same old at the end of the day.

Following the first two scoring drives, the Iowa offense hit the brakes and really never accomplished anything significant. McNamara didn’t appear to be fully healthy as he was a bit gimpy and the run game was less than stellar for TOE. This will be something to keep an eye on for Saturday, especially given how aggressive Heacock was in calling blitzes. It would make a great deal of sense to put as much pressure as possible on McNamara while his mobility is significantly hampered by the apparent injury.

TOE rushed for just 2.9 yards per carry and a total of 88 yards last Saturday. This continues the trend of a struggling offensive line since Chris Doyle’s departure. Iowa State’s defensive line will have another opportunity to hone their craft and get better this week. Because there may be some great opportunity in this one for them

Speaking of opportunity! Let’s add some fuel to the fire from the TOE offense, shall we?

The Charleston Southern transfer Seth Anderson seems to be fairly confident going against the Iowa State offense. Anderson caught one touchdown pass last weekend against Utah State. I am not sure what film he was watching but I would also like to see this opportunity he is speaking of.

Verdict - Iowa State

This is just going to be a defensive battle once again. While think the TOE offense will be improve as the season progresses, that group is just lightyears behind the Iowa State defense.

Special Teams - Iowa

Iowa State’s special teams did a ton of things it hasn’t done in years. Returned punts, long punts, and, hell, even a 56-yard field goal was made! The problem is that we’ve only seen it for one game and Iowa has had elite special teams since forever, and for that reason, I will give the edge to TOE.

Final Analysis

Welcome to last year's hell, again. While TOE’s offense has some new fancy toys, the quarterback doesn’t yet appear to be healthy and Brian Ferentz is still very bad at his job. Both defenses are lights out and that is their strength as of today. I expect more of the same as last year with a bit more scoring. Just a bunch of punches being thrown and waiting for that one final mistake to do each other in. I think Iowa State has more talent on offense, but it’s certainly far more unproven than the likes of Cade McNamara. Rocco Becht is going to have to play clean for Iowa State and put together some scoring drives. The win on offense for Iowa State will be on his arm and not in the run game. Can he do it? Let’s hope.

Final Score Prediction

What can I say? I am a homer!

Iowa State 20

Iowa 17