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    On Campus: Frustration Setting In (Very good read!)

    CN Link

    By Brent Blum
    CN Columnist
    Posted Oct 12, 2006

    The frustration is starting to show. We’re halfway through the season and Iowa State hasn’t been able to put a complete football game together. Check that…they haven’t been able to put a half of football together. Even the eternal optimists like yours truly have less of a skip in our step. Nobody is pleased with the performance level so far.

    But, perhaps the most miffed folks in the Cyclone Nation are the players themselves.

    After chatting with several guys earlier this week, I was struck with the impression for the first time this year that the frustration is starting to fester. Smiles were scarce. Moods were melancholy. The ‘fellas looked like somebody had just punched them in the face and stole their lunch. They were none too pleased.

    I remember the same look of discontent last year after the overtime loss at Missouri. A loss that moved the Cyclones to 3-3 on the year. Sitting outside of Faurot Field in Columbia last October, I watched as the players walked on to the bus one by one, heads down and scowls snarling. Nobody said much. They didn’t need to. It was clear then, as it is now, that a 3-3 start to the year is not where Iowa State should be.

    A year ago, Iowa State responded to the adversity and won four straight to set themselves up for a chance to win the Big 12 North.

    In 2006, with the performance level so far, competing to play for the Big 12 Championship appears as far-fetched as Dan Fouts winning an Emmy for Sports Broadcasting.

    That said the fire is still burning in the Cyclone locker room. They know they are going to play better. They won’t give up on the season. There are way too many character guys in this program to let this season fall into the dumpster.

    Quitting isn’t an option. Just ask DeAndre Jackson. D-Jack learned from one of the best leaders to wear a Cyclone uniform in Ellis Hobbs. During Hobbs’ senior year the Cyclones started the year 2-4 and 0-3 in conference play, including an embarrassing 34-3 loss to Texas A&M during Homecoming. Things looked awful. But the captain in Hobbs stepped up. He wasn’t going to let his senior year end in disappointment. So he rallied the troops to four straight W’s. Confidence increased, attitudes adjusted and success followed.

    DeAndre was a sophomore that year. This year he’s a senior captain. This time it is up to him and the rest of the Cyclone seniors to raise the intensity. They have to realize this is it. What will their legacy be? It is up to them to decide.

    Coaches draw the plays, decide the personnel, and organize the gameplan. But those on the field have to take some ownership as well. They have six games left to cement their places in the Cyclone history books. Record crowds can only do so much. The onus is firmly on the players and the coaches. It’s up to them to give the crowd something to cheer about. When Todd Blythe was asked this week whether or not they are providing a good product on the field he responded with a simple, “No.”

    Now is a good time to start performing. There is plenty left to accomplish. It all starts with some leadership.

    ******
    After watching the tape of the Nebraska game on my new HDTV with my roommate and intelligent football mind by the name of Brett McIntyre, we came to some conclusions and diagnosed the ailment of this Cyclone offense. (By the way, HDTV will change your life. If my performance level drops in the next few weeks, it’s probably because I’m watching Wheel of Fortune in HD. I apologize.)

    Anyway after several hours of analyzing the tape, here is what we came up with:
    • The Cyclone offensive line had way too many mental errors in the first half. They were put in the right position, the scheme was great in most cases, and they were able to initiate some push, but the big dudes up front each had a glaring error in the first session. On RJ Sumrall’s blown-up reverse on the first drive, Aaron Brant missed not one, but two, blocks. When RJ is running to Brant’s side that is not a good recipe for success. That was one of many mistakes and was the biggest reason the offense couldn’t gain it’s footing early on.
    • Paul Fisher was outclassed by Adam Carriker in the first half. Carriker was moving him 3-5 yards every play and even though Carriker’s numbers weren’t reflected in the stat sheet, he was a huge disruption in the backfield.
    • Despite the errors, the Cyclone offensive line played much better after halftime. Reggie Stephens filled in well at right guard and they were able to give Meyer some time. Even Paul Fisher did a better job of holding his blocks.
    • But, Bret and the receivers didn’t do a whole lot to help the big guys out to make them look good in the second half. Nebraska was sending up to eight guys in blitzes. And as the game wore on the more often they came because Iowa State couldn’t do a thing to make them think twice. This is what we believe were the biggest reasons the blitzes were so effective:
      • As Peyton Manning says in one of his thousands of commercials, “Checkin’ to Pancakes. Checkin’ to Pancakes.” Meyer looked as if he rarely checked into a different play at the line of scrimmage.
      • Nebraska had ISU’s snap counts read to a T. On the linebacker and especially safety blitzes, the Huskers would be in full sprint when the ball was snapped, enabling them to bust right through the line and break up the play.
      • The receivers’ routes had too much depth when the Huskers blitzed. ISU ran very few, if any, screens or quick slants to counter the jailbreak blitzes. All of the patterns were deep and to the sideline.
      • After the blitz was picked up and a decent pocket formed, Meyer would get a bit antsy and roll right into the blitzing side, forcing a throw away or a minimal gain.
      • Meyer would lock on a target allowing the defensive line to read it and knock down his passes.

    • Iowa State was forced to throw almost every down and this meant Nebraska had five D-backs in most of the second half. As unpopular as it is, the run game was working. After Iowa State ran the ball, the Nebraska defense was less aggressive resulting in successful passing plays on the next play. The Cyclones need to run the ball to be successful. No questions asked.
    • I think Todd Blythe is an amazing receiver, but he is far from complete. Every catch he received were towards the sideline. In fact 80 percent of Meyer’s completions were to the sideline. They need to utilize the middle of the field. This would hold the safeties and do a better job of keeping the blitzers honest.

    Some offensive positives:
    1.Scott Stephenson, besides three or four plays, dominated All-Big 12 tackle Ola Dagunduro. He was especially good on run plays and often had Ola driven five to ten yards past the line of scrimmage. The holes were there for Stevie when ISU did run.
    2.Reggie Stephens and Tom Schmeling each had some bright spots. They will be, at the very least, serviceable in the next two years.
    3.Walter Nickel’s pass protection was very good. This really surprised me. Nickel has enough talent to play in the NFL. If he cuts down on some mistakes, he could be very special. ISU’s needs to find a way to utilize him more.
    4.Jason Scales in the one series he played showed some toughness and didn’t cower from contact. He took on Carriker and stood him up on one occasion.
    5.Jon Davis is extremely underrated. He has strung his three best games of his career together the past three weeks.
    6.Bret Meyer has a heart the size of TO’s ego. He continued to get up and encourage his teammates. Although I think he didn’t have his best game, he continues to amaze me with his ability to continue to fight.

    I really think this offense with the slightest bit of improvement and some consistency can still put up some good numbers. They aren’t as far off from potency as the scoreboard shows. Oklahoma has some holes in the defense that they may be able to exploit. And I believe it all centers on the run game. I expect the backs to get 20-25 carries on Saturday. And who knows what could happen? Heck, the last time ISU won a road game against a ranked team was 1990 against these same Sooners. I think the Cyclones are due.



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    Re: On Campus: Frustration Setting In (Very good read!)

    Very insightful indeed. He should be sending his analysis to Coach Mac & his staff! Saturday should be interesting...



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    Re: On Campus: Frustration Setting In (Very good read!)

    I hope the staff does take a cue and put some more frills on the experienced offense. Nebraska was scared to blitz earlier in the year because of their safety weakness. Then they brought in two newbies for the nickel package the second half. It was planned since they were comfortably ahead and it worked. That would have been a good time to run halfway throught the third quarter since it was only a fourteen point game. The Nebraska fans expected that. It did not happen.
    Yet we did play into their hands by not drawing them offside, checking off to a quick dump outside to Blythe who was covered by a shrimp (thought we did that two years ago), Bret looking one way and thowing to Walter Nickel the other way. It all gets down to way are too vanilla on offense and the better teams see that and have their players eat the vanilla. We have to quickly learn to fool the opposition or this team will finish up poorly. Have we fooled anyone yet this year on any of our playcalling?
    Adam Carriker is a load at 285#, but why could not Paul Fisher at 337# do the job the first half when the game was in doubt? That is what is called the Brent Blum complete game.
    I still did not like the poor third and four hike in a critical situation that forced Bret to grab the ball and toss too late to the outside.

    Earth to Coaching Staff: You need to put a few more tools into your fine toolbag to keep the other side guessing. Otherwise use a random generator number to call the plays.


    Last edited by Wesley; 10-12-2006 at 03:00 PM.
    Let my Fred's Posse Ride: Georges, Naz, Hogue, Bryce, Nader, Monte, Matt, and McKay.

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    Re: On Campus: Frustration Setting In (Very good read!)

    What makes you regret this season so far is we could have worked some of these details/nuances over the summer with our veteran offensive line and talented backfield.
    Instead we want to keep defense and offense schemes very simple like our players will make fewer mistakes. That may be so, but when the opponent completes 75% of passes in almost every game, it is time to take off the gloves and go for it by being more unpredictable. I always felt that Oklahoma defense fell into this category. Not only were they fast and good, they were unpredictable.
    With the ten people evaluatiing a team upstairs in the booth, information flow is endless. You cannot stand pat and play the same way for long periods. The opponent will make his adjustments and be off to the races. Glad to see other people say our team has not been that bad (we have not been blown out), but the little things necessary to win against even UNLV have not been done to date. When we are in trouble on third and more than two, Bret either rolls out left or right and nary a Cyclone blocker is helping him. So he has to pick a good spot to gather himself and then wing it downfield to the outside line. This is a little like flag football. Can they throw to other targets (Stevie, Walter, Jon) after the roll out. In some cases Saturday, can we just continue to run on the rollout for a surprise? I believe we have some fairly basic routes that need to be upgraded to the next tier. If the blitz is on do we not know that there is a hole opening that a receiver might choose to run into. Yes, I know, they do that in the pros. Well, is it that hard with our veteran crew? Seems like when a play breaks down we hope our receiver can get his feet down. That is fine, except in college, when you go up in the air they just push you out of bounds and it does not count. Looks like Nebraska used that technique four times on Blythe. Details, details.

    Bottom line, we can play better simply if we play smarter. Let's prove that we are smarter than the Oklahoma team.


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    Re: On Campus: Frustration Setting In (Very good read!)

    Iowa St. reminds me of my high school football team way too much. Anyways, this was a great piece by Blum. He was by far, my favorite writer in the Daily last year but he is now more on cameo appearances now. He's a top notch writer.



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