By Ben Bruns, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
The good, the bad and ugly were on display in Kansas City last weekend as the Cyclones lost 27-20 to Kansas State at Arrowhead Stadium. I’m a glass is half full kind of guy, so I’m going to start with the good.
The second offensive possession of the game was perhaps Iowa State’s most crucial this season. If we go three and out there, the defense is back on the field for a performance that could have possibly started to look like that from the week before. Instead, we drove the length of the field, chewed up yardage, clock and then put seven points on the board to take the lead. That drive was a difference maker for our season; I realize you might not think it right now since we ended up losing. But trust me: Mentally, that was a huge drive.
Grant Mahoney had a perfect day in a place that housed traumatic memories for him – mental toughness on display. Jeff Woody showed that he can be an impact player. A.J. Klein came up huge. Our punting game and coverage were outstanding. We took some steps forward in this game. We had a chance to beat a team that was running the ball almost at will, and when you get those sorts of chances (which are rare), you need to take advantage, which brings me to the bad.
Kansas State hooked up an 18-wheeler and ran over our front seven. Injuries to an already thin defensive front figured largely Saturday. Bailey Johnson, who had proven his ability to fight off of blocks in spite of being injured from the start of the season, didn’t play. Middle linebacker Matt Tau’fo’ou was missed as well, as the Cyclones needed size in the middle on Saturday. Kansas State won match after match, one-on-one Saturday. When the Wildcats double-teamed our down linemen, they got movement. Iowa State’s defensive backs had to step up and make plays at the line of scrimmage. Even given the mismatch up front, our defense was good enough to give us a chance to win, which brings me to the ugly.
Iowa State has veterans throughout its starting offense. There are guys who can make plays. There are accountable guys and there are tough guys. What I’m looking for are some smart guys. Iowa State lost on Saturday in part because of a lack of execution. I’m not going to sit at my keyboard and B.S. you that we shouldn’t have hooked up a couple of passes in that game we didn’t. I know there are people out there that are going to be tough on Austen Arnaud over the outcome of Saturday’s game. He missed a couple of huge plays. But he also made a couple of huge plays to get us in position to win – plays that few quarterbacks make. We gave up sacks, dropped a couple of tough balls and still had a chance to win.
No, ISU did not lose because of execution. We lost because we were dumb. We shot ourselves in the foot with a howitzer. After week three, Iowa State ranks 73rdin the country in penalty yards with 164, a far cry from the shocking statistic Troy St. is rocking out at 315, but enough to cost us Saturday’s game.
2nd Quarter holding – 1st and 20: drive stopped
3rd Quarter holding – 2nd and 6 on the KSU 19: turned into 2nd and 17 on the KSU 30 followed by a false start that added another 5 to the penalty total; ISU hits a long field goal instead of scoring a touchdown in the red zone
4th Quarter illegal block: turns a 1st and 10 at the KSU 22 into 1st and 21 at the 33 and ISU settles for a field goal
Iowa State’s defense wasn’t great, but it was the sum of its somewhat beleaguered parts. The offense has to lead this football team for the Cyclones to win games like the one they were in Saturday. The road doesn’t get easier. Almost everyone we play for the rest of the season will have a better defense than the one Iowa State faced on Saturday.
Eight penalties. Sixty-four yards, yards that Iowa State can’t make up or have back. We aren’t explosive enough to put ourselves in 1stand 20 and get a first down with any sort of consistency – few teams in the country are. A tenet of the Paul Rhoads philosophy, as I understand it, is to play smart. We need to start doing that soon, or it’s not going to matter.