By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
The Utah offense is lightning quick and it packs a punch.
That’s deadly combination, especially for Iowa State.
The No. 10 ranked Utes needed roughly 25 minutes Saturday night to knock the Cyclones out. Utah blitzed Iowa State for 593 yards and rolled, 68-27. The 68 points were the most by an opponent in Jack Trice Stadium history.
“Some days you get up and you get the unexpected,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “That was a heck of a football team. There was clearly a difference in team speed out there tonight in all phases, special teams in particular. We were soundly beat in all three phases of the game.”
The speed difference became evident early. After spotting Iowa State 14 points on two turnovers, the Utes turned their horses loose. Utah ran around and through the Cyclones defense.
Eight touchdowns and four field goals later and Utah undoubtedly proved to the 43,195 fans in attendance that it belongs among the nation’s elite teams.
“We knew they would be that explosive,” linebacker A.J. Klein said. “Like I said, they are one of the best teams nationally. There is not much else to say about it.”
Chew on these stats. Utah amassed 325 yards passing, 239 rushing and 324 on kick and punt returns. The Utes went 9-for-9 in the red zone, converted 8-of-13 third downs and had 28 first downs.
The onslaught started in the second quarter. To put it mildly, Utah absolutely dominates in the frame. The Utes bulldozed Iowa State for 280 yards and 31 points on Saturday, upping their advantage in the second quarter over their opponents to 101-7.
“We lost energy,” Rhoads said. “That’s what I saw. I didn’t see it start to unravel. I saw a team that was losing energy and I was trying to figure out why.”
The touchdowns came fast and furious for Utah. The Cyclones held a 14-10 lead when Iowa State’s Kirby Van Der Kamp punted to start the second quarter. From there, the game played out like a bad joke.
The Utes scored four-straight touchdowns on drives of 88, 63, 64 and 61 yards. For good measure, Utah also turned an Austen Arnaud interception into another three points right before halftime to add an exclamation point to its dominating performance and make the score 41-14.
The fireworks started and ended with Shaky Smithson. First, he threw a touchdown on a reverse to give Utah a 17-14 lead. Later, his 61-yard touchdown reception sent Cyclone some fans for the exits and essentially ended the game.
In between those scores, the Utes efficiently pounded the football down the field. In 43 first half plays, Utah racked up 367 yards of offense.
“I got in a sort of a 2-minute mode, I just got in a groove,” Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, who went 23-of-31 passing for 325 yards and two touchdowns, said. “A QB can get into that real easily going that fast. I just started seeing things, and I just rolled with it.”
The Utah offense continued to pile up yards and points after halftime. The Utes did anything and everything it wanted.
“You got to find the answers (in the film) that I’m talking about and coach on those,” Rhoads said. “We probably won’t come in and watch every single play from this tape. I don’t think you can burn it, or sweep it under the carpet and act like it didn’t happen.
“You got to learn from it. That’s our job as educators. These kids understand that.”
Ineffective offense dooms Cyclones defense
Yes, Iowa State surrendered 68 points – including 41 in the first half – but that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. The Cyclones offense continually failed to make a big play.
David Sims and the Iowa State defense created two turnovers in the first quarter to help the Cyclones jump out to a 14-10 advantage. After that, the Iowa State offense was inept. The Cyclones finished the game 0-for-11 on third down conversions.
“We were 0-for-11 on third down,” quarterback Austen Arnaud said. “You can’t beat anybody when you don’t convert on third down. We had two big plays (on defense) early that helped us, but when it comes to third down and conversions, we have to be better. It’s kind of been our bugaboo, our Achilles heal this year, converting on third down.
“We have to get better on first and second down, that’s where it starts. We need to get a better push on first and second down so we are not in third and medium to long, we are in third and medium to short.”
Iowa State ended up with 348 yards of offense, 170 of which came on the ground. Unfortunately for the Cyclones, it wasn’t even close to enough.
“They did exactly what we thought they were going to do, but they are just really good at what they do,” Arnaud said.
Shaky Smithson is the most appropriately named punt returner in the country. It turns out he can pass too.
Smithson sparkled under the lights at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday. The electrifying senior accounted for 293 all-purpose yards and just about as many oohs and aahs.
His first act came just seven minutes into the game. Smithson caught a booming 52-yard punt from Kirby Van Der Kamp and immediately spun away from a Cyclone defender. The Baltimore native then sprinted up the right sideline and cut to his left across the field. Smithson shook Van Der Kamp at the 20, cut back to his right, and finally stumbled down at the Iowa State 2-yard line.
One play later, Utah took a 10-7 lead after a Jordan Wynn 2-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Wide.
“Tonight was very important for us,” Smithson said. “It’s very important and I just do everything I can to help the team. I want to make a big play every time I get my hands on the ball and get a lot of momentum for my team. We came out and were successful today.”
It didn’t end there. Only 10 minutes later, Smithson struck again. This time, the 5-foot-11, 202-pound receiver took a reverse, stopped and lofted a pass that split two Cyclones for a 33-yard touchdown.
The encore performance matched the previous two with its pizzazz. Smithson shot high into the air, snatched a Wynn pass and sprinted for a 61-yard touchdown.
When the first half ended, Utah led 41-14 thanks to a 244-yard explosion by Smithson.
“Shaky is a dynamic football player,” Utah coach Kyle Wittingham said. “He’s gained a lot of confidence and he’s feeling very comfortable back there in the punt return game. He’s got that special ability to make guys miss, which all great returners have.”
The loss isn’t the only thing that will hurt Sunday morning. Running back Alexander Robinson injured his foot – not his ailing ankle – and didn’t play after halftime.
Rhoads said X-rays were negative, but his status for next week’s game at Oklahoma is unknown.
Backup quarterback Jerome Tiller is also suffering from an injury. The sophomore didn’t play against Utah because of a bothersome knee that he originally tweaked in the Northern Iowa game.