Former Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud with his five keys to an Iowa State victory vs. Western Illinios.
1. Start Fast – This week will not be a let down for Iowa State fans. The Cyclones will win this football game. However, the Cyclones cannot afford to play down to the level of Western Illinois. For instance, last week college football fans saw Louisiana-Monroe knock off Arkansas at Arkansas. Louisiana-Monroe is a much better football team than Western Illinois; but you get the point. If the Cyclones let the Leathernecks hang around, they are definitely are playing with fire. This game is very significant for the simple fact that it is the in-between. Iowa State has a bye next week and then opens Big 12 play on September 29th against Texas Tech at JTS. The Cyclones can’t afford to be complacent this weekend. They need to take care of business and win convincingly.
2. Turnovers – Steele Jantz is completing right around 70 percent of his passes right now BUT his touchdown/interception ratio is 3:3. This has got to be better. I know it is early but last week there were several opportunities for Jantz to change this figure and he didn’t do so. Rarely do you see a team lose the turnover battle and win a football game but the Cyclone defense bailed out the offense quite often last weekend in Iowa City. This is the type of week where you pad the stats against an FCS team and Iowa State as a unit shouldn’t turn over the football. Now let me play devils advocate – The Western Illinois Leathernecks are a very opportunistic defense that has forced five turnovers so far this year, including a four interception game last week against lowly Indianapolis.
3. Establish The Run – This is a very sound Western Illinois football team. They run well, make tackles and schematically are sound in their assignments. They are very well coached (Mark Hendrickson originally from Richland, Iowa) and play hard. This game will be no different than any other for the Cyclones offense as far as preparation goes, but the Cyclones must dictate the tempo as always and run the football efficiently. This week we hope to see a healthy Jeff Woody back getting more carries. However Shontrelle and James White will do just fine in this one. The Cyclones are due to have a big day on the ground – Steele included. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them eclipse the 300 yard mark on the ground.
4. Consistency – The Cyclones have proven that they are a consistent football team this year. Iowa State must have the attitude that they are going to play this season one game at a time and can’t look too far in the rear view mirror or too far ahead in the future. There is something about winning a game and then having a bye week in front of you that makes the kids get complacent. However, I don’t believe that Paul Rhoads and his coaching staff will allow this to happen. He recently told the team “don’t let there be a ceiling to what we are doing." That is very true and we all know how scary of a word potential can be. The Cardinal and Gold must be consistent and make few mistakes to come out of this game the way they would like.
5. Putting it Together – After last week, it is time for the offense to put on the show. We have a pretty good idea that this defense is the screws and bolts holding this team together. This offense has several players capable of having big game potential in every game. Steele has to be more consistent. Shontrelle has to be more patient. The receivers need to create more separation downfield and the offensive line has got to be more physical in the interior. Saturday is a day when the Cyclone offense should hang 50 points on Western Illinois, just because they are supposed to. In my opinion, this offense can be one of the best in the league if they are consistent but turnovers and spotty play is holding it back from being great.