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    Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

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    Jeremy Lind

    Anybody that has read any of my articles on here over the past three years would know that I believe that no game is a "must win game" in the typical sense. I don't feel that any one game makes or breaks a season (unless of course you're undefeated and need to stay so in order to go to the title game, or need one more win to become bowl eligible). No one game defines the overall direction of a program - fans, players and recruits don't remember individual games a couple weeks down the road in the sense of it having an impact on ticket sales, recruiting abilities, etc.

    With that disclaimer out there... this weekend against Texas A&M, Iowa State faces a critical game for numerous reasons. Yes, you heard me, Iowa State faces a critical game - not for bowl eligibility reasons or title hopes - but because the fans are at a major tipping point, in my opinion. The program isn't on the line because of this game, but the loyalty of the fans for next season is squarely on the line.

    A loss on Saturday would be Iowa State's 6th in a row - 3 of those having been at home, 1 against a far inferior conference, 1 against the perennial bottom feeder of the Big XII and at least 3 against mightily struggling programs (Iowa, Nebraska and Texas A&M). Instead of being able to sell hope like it's done the past two years (well the past two decades if you count the previous staff's time) Iowa State would be forced to beg for season ticket renewals. With the economy in the toilet and pocket books stretched to the max, Iowa State could conceivably see ticket sales drop 25% or more in a matter of one season if fans don't feel they're getting their money's worth come game day.

    Excuses Abound

    There is no doubt that Iowa State has a young team that needs experience - but that excuse only goes so far. The experience excuse starts to go to the way side when you get manhandled by Baylor and Nebraska teams that are in no better position than us. You can use the lack of experience for the coaching staff excuse, but thus far we're winless against opponents with new coaching staffs. You could say we lost a key player in Bates, but then you'd still have to explain the lack of fire in the players or the lack of ability to use what we do have on the field against a Baylor team that has far less talent than us, not to mention explain the first half against UNLV. You could say that our play calling is limited, but then you'd be making a good point and have to explain to me why it's so limited when we have a strong-arm QB and above average receivers. You could blame it on the lack of running game, but then you'd have to explain why we haven't gone to the air down field more to spread the defense - isn't that football 101?

    Having pathetic offensive performances against Baylor and Nebraska cannot be excused. When facing two of the worst defenses in the country, you have got to be able to look like a D1 school, no exception. Take away one long run against Nebraska and Iowa State rushes for less than 40 yards against a team that allows 130 yards rushing per game. Getting two first downs in the first half against Nebraska's terrible defense is simply unbelievable and mind-boggling.

    A coaching staff has 2-3 years of a honeymoon at non-power schools, in my opinion. Iowa State fans are as giving and forgiving as any in the country, but sooner or later the increased donation requirements, ticket sale restrictions and let down after let down start to take a toll. With the economy tanking, those issues only compound. Now don't get me wrong, a staff should get 4-5 years to build the program as they see fit, but most fans give them 2-3 seasons before they form their everlasting opinion about the staff and what they can do. I'd hate to see the fan base any more divided over the coaching staff than they already are (pro-Dan McCarney fans vs pro-Gene Chizik fans) but we're possibly heading in that direction.

    Coaching Questions

    I have no doubt that Chizik can coach, no doubt whatsoever. He's a great leader, a great man and somebody that I'm proud to have heading up the program. However, I think there are some fundamental aspects of the game that need to be answered for - and ultimately he is the one to answer for what goes on.

    Why are we not airing it out when we have the talent to do so?

    Why are we seeing a team come out game after game that has absolutely no fire in them?

    Why are we seeing such ugly football without major changes during the games, or even week to week?

    What does the team do during the week if they aren't improving on the field?

    Why are we seeing absolutely no improvement on game day this season?

    Why are we not even competitive against teams that clearly don't have as much talent as we do?

    Will the coordinators be held accountable for the lack of execution and improvement in their respective areas?

    What steps are being taken to make us a competitive program against even the least talented of opponents in the future?

    I understand we're a season or two from a bowl game and from having Chizik's recruits on the field, but that doesn't explain why we aren't performing better with the talent we do have. We have above average talent at some key positions and yet we're playing like a far below average team at all positions, not to mention as a team. Nobody has stepped up as a true leader on the field and none of the players really seem to be mentally focused. Those are issues that need to be addressed right now, not just when we have all of Chizik's players on the field.

    Reasoning

    The reason I personally feel this game is critical is due to conversations with fans. This past weekend, I had friends tell me that they left the NU game at half-time when they had never left a game even a few minutes early - not even the '97 Nebraska massacre or the '07 Texas man-handling. Friends that make up some of the most supportive and die-hard fanatics that I've ever met are at their breaking point over what has been a dismally disappointing season. There have been seasons where we've won less and lost by much more, but those were seasons where most of us really didn't expect to win much. Those were days when our expectations weren't heightened and when we weren't being asked to fork over more and more money each year. There is no reason why we shouldn't be at a minimum of 4 wins right now, no reason at all.

    When you add in the countless fans that are still mad about DMac being forced out (I am not one of them, never have been), you have a perfect storm for apathy and anger to take over. Maybe it already has for some, maybe it has for some of the players - but whatever happens, ISU needs a win now more than ever.

    No game defines the direction of your program, but one game can be the catalyst that finally pushes some over the edge.

    Note - I realize a lot of people won't agree with this post, that is perfectly fine and expected. I am as "glass half full" of a person as there is, but instead of writing one of my usual "pep articles", I wanted to be more realistic with what I see on the board and in the stadium. We're at a pivotal point in the rebuilding stage - one where the fans are starting to feel let-down. Rebuilding takes time, lots of time, but a little progress shouldn't take years to be evident.


    A program isn't built on one player and it doesn't succeed because of one player, thus a program won't fail if it doesn't get that one player.

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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    CycloneFanatic.com
    Jeremy Lind

    Why are we not even competitive against teams that clearly don't have as much talent as we do?
    I completely disagree with this. I believe our talent level is at a 12-year low. You have to go all the way back to McCarney's early years to find a team that had less talent than this one. Our QBs and WRs are definitely the worst in the Big 12 and it's not even close. Our RBs are right near the bottom. Everyone wants to lay the blame on the offensive line, but I don't see it that way. Just look at the statistical leaders in the Big 12 and you will see that our skill players are the worst we've had in a long, long time. Let's hope that Tiller and Bo Williams are an upgrade next year. Or maybe Arnaud really is injured this year and that's why he's looked so mediocre.

    ESPN - Big 12 News, Schedule, Players, Stats, Video - College Football



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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    On a positive note, I don't blame Chizik for our lack of talent. I think that McCarney's staff became deflated after the OT losses to end the season in 2004 and 2005. Our recruiting classes between 2005 and 2007 were horrible. Chizik made some strides with our 2008 recruiting class (L. Johnson, T. Benton and Bo Williams to name a few). Let's hope he continues to find some diamonds in the rough for 2009. We will need them!!!



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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Which teams do we "clearly have more talent than"?

    I generally agree w/ St. Louis clone.



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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    See, I disagree. I think Arnaud is a better QB than Meyer and as a whole our WRs are far better than they're playing. Our passing game is probably close to 9th or 10th in the conference but that's because the top 8 QBs in the Big XII are in the top 15 in the country. Arnaud has the fundamentals to be a great pocket QB and a decent mobile QB - IF the plays were called to exploit it. He has a strong arm and is pretty accurate, he just needs to be "let free" in a way. Maybe he doesn't have the mental side of the game, I don't know, but I know he has the fundamentals to be a decent QB and far more accurate than Meyer was. The plays have been screen passes and within a 10 yard range, that doesn't take advantage of his strengths.

    Our running game is pathetic, no doubt about it. Our OLine has held fairly well this year, it just hasn't been taken advantage of by the other offensive tools, in my opinion.

    Overall, I think we have an average level of talent compared to the past 10-15 years at ISU, we just aren't using it to the best of their abilities and/or exploiting the strengths of each player individually.


    A program isn't built on one player and it doesn't succeed because of one player, thus a program won't fail if it doesn't get that one player.

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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    There is one thing I just don't get about our short passing game though. I understand why we can't run deep after rewatching some of the last few games. We can't block anyone and have to keep too many guys in to block. But what I don't get is how we expect to be effective in the short passing game only sending two guys out. We NEED to spread the field and send at least 4 or five out if we are going to be quick strike. This protects the QB by not giving the defense time and allows bigger plays by mismatches and gaps in the coverage. Just look how our D has been gashed by it. We can't expect two receivers to get open against 3 and 4 DB's when we keep two tight ends and a RB in to block.



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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    We have more talent than UNLV, Baylor, Kent State, SDSU and Texas A&M - quite possibly even Kansas State and Colorado. We have beaten two of the teams that I believe we have more raw talent than and lost to two. You could also make the arguement that we have more talent than Nebraska as an all around team. They have absolutely no defense and their offense is only a little above average. They have key players that are above average, but overall we should have been able to beat them in Ames.


    A program isn't built on one player and it doesn't succeed because of one player, thus a program won't fail if it doesn't get that one player.

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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    We have more talent than UNLV, Baylor, Kent State, SDSU and Texas A&M - quite possibly even Kansas State and Colorado. We have beaten two of the teams that I believe we have more raw talent than and lost to two. You could also make the arguement that we have more talent than Nebraska as an all around team. They have absolutely no defense and their offense is only a little above average. They have key players that are above average, but overall we should have been able to beat them in Ames.

    Sure looked like Nebraska's lines were a bit better than ours . . .



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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    The appearence of the short passing game coincides with AA's shoulder injury.....so that explains that subject.

    Not sure about the other issues.

    Good thoughts OP.


    Carrying the banner for ISU.


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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    We have more talent than UNLV, Baylor, Kent State, SDSU and Texas A&M - quite possibly even Kansas State and Colorado. We have beaten two of the teams that I believe we have more raw talent than and lost to two. You could also make the arguement that we have more talent than Nebraska as an all around team. They have absolutely no defense and their offense is only a little above average. They have key players that are above average, but overall we should have been able to beat them in Ames.
    That sounds pretty much like us except our offense isn't above average.




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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Palmer View Post
    The appearence of the short passing game coincides with AA's shoulder injury.....so that explains that subject.

    Not sure about the other issues.

    Good thoughts OP.
    He had a mild injury but that doesn't explain the rest of the season. Also, if he's that injured, put Tiller in to give us the best chance to win. If your QB can't throw more than 10 yards, he should not be playing, period.


    A program isn't built on one player and it doesn't succeed because of one player, thus a program won't fail if it doesn't get that one player.

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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    We have more talent than UNLV, Baylor, Kent State, SDSU and Texas A&M - quite possibly even Kansas State and Colorado. We have beaten two of the teams that I believe we have more raw talent than and lost to two. You could also make the arguement that we have more talent than Nebraska as an all around team. They have absolutely no defense and their offense is only a little above average. They have key players that are above average, but overall we should have been able to beat them in Ames.
    I mostly agree with your above post and your OP. However, I don't think we should be at 4 wins this season already. I think what's dissappointing is that we layed an egg against two teams we have the "potential" to beat. Why is everyone forgetting the Kansas game? Did everyone get an inflated sense of what type of team we are after that game?

    I agree wholeheartedly that this weeks game is a pivotal game for the fans. IF we lay another egg, a lot of fans will be really disappointed. IF we don't but still lose a close game, I think that's a completely different story. All experts predicted us to be bad. Vegas had us at 3.5 win season. Everyone knows we aren't that great of a team but a lot of people drink the kool aid around here and expect more. Everyone is looking for improvement and I hope to see it in the next few games to come (or at least read about it on here).


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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    He had a mild injury but that doesn't explain the rest of the season. Also, if he's that injured, put Tiller in to give us the best chance to win. If your QB can't throw more than 10 yards, he should not be playing, period.
    I beg to differ on the mild injury. From Pollards mouth," he couldn't lift his arm above his head." He was talking about something that happened during the second series of the Baylor game. I think that is a pretty serious injury for a quarterback. That was why we had to punt from Baylor territory in the 4th quarter.



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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    I can honestly say I'm NOT looking at the wins/losses in determining if we're a better team - I'm simply watching the product on the field and saying flat out that we are worse than last year and we should be a step or two better. We are far from a good team, but we should still be showing some improvements. We probably shouldn't blow any team out, even a team like SDSU or Kent State, but we should be able to hold any game within 14 points (except Missouri, OKState and possibly Kansas). I don't think we're far better than Baylor, Nebraska, SDSU, UNLV, Kent State or Iowa - but I do expect us to be competitive in those games and look like a Big 12 team - not a good Big 12 team, but a Big 12 team nonetheless.


    A program isn't built on one player and it doesn't succeed because of one player, thus a program won't fail if it doesn't get that one player.

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    Re: Iowa State Football - Progress (?) Report

    Quote Originally Posted by timc243 View Post
    I beg to differ on the mild injury. From Pollards mouth," he couldn't lift his arm above his head." He was talking about something that happened during the second series of the Baylor game. I think that is a pretty serious injury for a quarterback. That was why we had to punt from Baylor territory in the 4th quarter.
    Then why is he playing? If your QB can't throw past the line of scrimmage, why is he playing? That is bad coaching tactic, period. A redshirt year on Tiller can be a great thing, but we have to worry about winning today, not one player's eligibility 4 years from now when we darn well better have other options. I'm all for keeping Tiller on the sideline if AA can play 100% - but if not, you have to give us the best chance to win today, that is a coaches' job.


    A program isn't built on one player and it doesn't succeed because of one player, thus a program won't fail if it doesn't get that one player.

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