Let's be honest, Cyclone fans; that game turned out a lot better than anybody expected. Even though Iowa State lost to Baylor on Saturday by a score of 45-27, there were a lot of positives coming out of a rainy day in Waco.
First off, with the way this season has gone you would expect the passion and mental toughness to drop off, especially after playing the top-3 offenses in successive weeks. This team has probably heard the same speech from the same voice in the locker room every week, yet they still believe in the coaching staff and their game plan. In my opinion that speaks volumes to the way Paul Rhoads and company has prepared this team, and we will see direct effects from that later in the season.
Second, how about that defense? Iowa State held the top offensive team in the nation to 93 total yards and 10 points in the second half, and both times Baylor scored were on short drives, after an unsuccessful onside kick and a Lanning fumble.
Third, and what will most likely be the buzz around the media for this week, was the performance by Sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning. Lanning clearly outplayed starter Sam Richardson, and displayed a gritty running style, and touch on the ball with three touchdowns through the air. Will it be Lanning's job when ISU faces Texas next week, or will the fifth year senior hold onto his position?
What Went Well
Offense - Redshirt Freshman Mike Warren has given Paul Rhoads an offensive identity for the first time in his tenure at Iowa State. Warren has turned into the workhorse running back that the Cyclones haven't had since Alexander Robinson, and will be a joy to watch for the next three years. He carried the rock a career-high 28 times for 145 yards, and notched his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
Joel Lanning took every snap in the second half and portrayed a calmness in the pocket. Mangino kept the playbook short and sweet, and Lanning dinked and dunked his way down the field, hitting his receivers on short routes, and breaking tackles with his legs. His touchdown pass to Jauan Wesley in the back of the end zone was a thing of beauty.
The line looked inept in the first half, and was disrupted by the athleticism of Baylor's front four, but found their stride in the second, giving Warren and Joshua Thomas some big holes to run through.
Defense - The third quarter that the Iowa State defense played was probably the best quarter of football that they have played all year. Instead of defenders stuck on islands, we saw more gang tackling, and the defensive line was able to get pressure. Demond Tucker and Dale Pierson combined for 2.5 tackles for loss, and CB Brian Peavy continues to impress, as he recorded another interception.
Baylor slowed their tempo down in the third quarter, and the Cyclone defense capitalized by making huge stops in the run game, and forcing three punts and recovering a fumble. Baylor had only punted 12 times all season, and ISU forced the Bears to punt five times. The Cyclones also held Baylor to its lowest scoring and yardage output of the season.
Special Teams - Trever Ryan had a 19-yard return on a punt, and if he would have cut back and followed his blockers, may have legged one out for a touchdown. Punter Colin Downing also showed off his wheels, running a fake punt to perfection, and converting on an 8-yard run.
What Went Wrong
Offense - Starter Sam Richardson looked like the same player he was against Texas Tech two weeks ago. His mechanics were sub-par, and he floated too many of his passes, resulting in two interceptions. Lanning lost a fumble on a sack, but that turnover appeared to be 100% the fault of Jake Campos. Campos has not turned into the stellar bookend tackle we once thought he would become, mainly due to his lack of foot quickness.
Allen Lazard's health is a concern. Hopefully the coaches kept him out to save him for next week, as he will be the best player on the field against Texas. In other injury news, guard Daniel Burton played, and where he goes, so does the running game. Having him healthy will go a long way for Warren and company.
Defense - The first quarter defense was as soft as a warm stick of melted butter. Baylor moved their way down the field too easily, and scored their first three touchdowns all under a minute and 35 seconds. Defenders continued to miss tackles against a running quarterback, as that has been a problem all season.
Paul Rhoads said after the game that CB Nigel Tribune played one of his best games as a Cyclone. The junior also nearly turned two passes into pick-six touchdowns. Now we know why he plays on that side of the ball.
Special Teams - Once-confident kicker Cole Netten had yet another bad day at the office. He hooked a PAT wide left, and followed that up with a horrendous onside kick that travelled all of seven yards. Clearly his head is not in it, and I would look for ISU to open up the kicking position yet again.
Offensive Grade: B+
Defense Grade: A-
Special Teams: C-
Turnovers - ISU with 4 and Baylor with 2. ISU had two quick interceptions, and buried themselves in a 21-point deficit right away from which they were never able to fully recover.
Penalties - Iowa State had 4 for 30 yards, and Baylor 9 for 48.
The three week offensive powerhouse gauntlet is now over. We can all breathe a sigh of relief and move onto homecoming and Halloween next week against Texas. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. in Ames.