By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com contributor
IOWA CITY – Iowa State’s touchdown drought against Iowa is over.
That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the score didn’t come soon enough.
It took the Cyclones offense 17 quarters to cross the goal line against the Hawkeyes. It’s the second-straight year Iowa State has struggled mightily against Iowa, this time losing 35-7 in Iowa City. The loss is the Cyclones’ third in a row in the series.
“We got whipped,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
The Iowa State offense never found its footing against the stout Hawkeye defense. That happens when you only run three plays in the first quarter and get outgained 129-3 in the frame. By the time Iowa State ran its fourth offensive snap, Iowa had already sprinted to a 14-0 advantage.
When the Cyclones finally got their chance, quarterback Austen Arnaud couldn’t connect with his receivers. The senior finished the game 20-of-44 passing for 197 yards and a late touchdown. He also threw three interceptions.
With the Iowa State offense scuffling, did Rhoads think about giving backup QB Jerome Tiller a shot? In a word, no.
“Austen Arnaud is our quarterback,” the second-year coach said. “He did not have his best game. He was not playing well in the second half. He needed to go out and play well. He needed to go out and move us down the field.
“We had no thoughts whatsoever of removing him.”
Credit an aggressive Iowa defense and ineffective play calling for the Cyclones’ poor performance. In his last eight quarters against Iowa, Arnaud’s thrown seven interceptions.
“Against a defense like that and with a offense like ours, you have to find a rhythm,” Rhoads said. “We couldn’t find a rhythm. You do that by having success on first down. We couldn’t find any first-down success.”
To make matters worse, Arnaud continually faced pressure from Iowa’s front four. The Hawkeyes sacked him twice and forced the quarterback to hurry his throws.
“They have three or four NFL prospects on the D-line,” Arnaud said. “It’s tough going against those guys. They are good at what they do.”
On three consecutive possessions in the third quarter, Arnaud was intercepted. Shaun Prater, Brent Greenwood and Tyler Nielson all nabbed a pick for the Hawkeyes.
Still, the fact that Rhoads stuck with his signal-caller speaks volumes.
“I know (Rhoads) has confidence in me,” Arnaud said. “I know this team does. There were a lot of things that went wrong today, not just my play. As a team collectively, we didn’t play well and we played a very good team.”
By the time the final horn sounded, the Cyclones only had 275 yards of total offense on 69 plays. Robinson – Iowa State’s dangerous running back – carried the ball just 11 times for 49 yards because the Cyclones were playing catch up from the start.
Now, Iowa State’s focus turns to Kansas State. A loss to Iowa hurts, but with Big 12 conference play starting next weekend in Kansas City, the Cyclones need to regroup quickly. There are bigger games on the horizon.
“Tomorrow begins a new week of work,” Rhoads said.
Johnson makes his mark
Despite the final score, there were positives for Iowa State. One of those was the play of freshman tailback Shontrelle Johnson. Twice, the DeLand, Fla., native gave the Cyclones great field position after big kick returns.
“Shontrelle Johnson was a bright spot,” Rhoads said. “I thought he showed up as a true freshman and played well.”
In the second quarter, Johnson burst up the middle, streaking past the Hawkeye kickoff coverage. He was tripped up at the Iowa State 43-yard line.
A quarter later, Johnson again used his speed to beat the defense. The 5-8, 182-pound running back showed flashes of things to come when he went 62 yards to the Iowa 34.
“Coach talks about big plays and giving the whole team a spark,” Johnson said. “When you get opportunities, you have to make the most of it.”
Van Der Kamp impresses Rhoads
Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp made the most of his first career start on Saturday. The true freshman averaged 40.4 yards on seven punts. The West Des Moines native hit a long of 52 yards and pinned Iowa inside its 20-yard line twice.
“I thought Kirby Van Der Kamp came out with a tough wind and a tough environment and punted the ball well,” Rhoads said.
Van Der Kamp replaced Daniel Kuehl who punted once against Northern Illinois for 18 yards.
Tau’fo’ou breaks leg
Not only did Iowa State suffer a 35-7 defeat, the Cyclones also lost linebacker Matt Tau’fo’ou to a broken fibula.
Rhoads did not set a timetable on Tau’fo’ou’s absence, but he did predict the junior would be back at some point this season.
In the meantime, A.J. Klein – who finished with 11 tackles on Saturday – will slide over to the Mike linebacker position. The Cyclones will then hold an open competition for Klein’s vacated spot. Rhoads said Iowa State will also likely play more nickel with Tau’fo’ou now out.