By Ben Bruns, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor & former Iowa State All-American
Here’s the fictitious conversation in my head that’s been torturing me for two days:
Me: Ouch. Okay – that’s it for this week. Thanks for visiting Fanatic!
Voice in the distance: Wait.
Me: Chris? Is that you?
Me: You mean I have to try and write insightful commentary on Saturday’s game? Seriously?
Well, let’s get right into the heart of things. That wasn’t good. Not only did Utah thoroughly dominate the game athletically, the Utes also played harder, faster and smarter than the Cyclones. As ISU’s offense left the field time and time again on Saturday (which happens if you go 0-11 on 3rd down), it was obvious it wasn’t going to be much help to a defensive group that had more than its hands full. When you’re playing an offense like Utah’s, you need to keep your offense on the field. My disappointment with the Cyclones on Saturday was not so much in terms of their offensive execution, but their countenance. In the second quarter Saturday night, from my vantage point, we in no way looked like we wanted the ball. We hustled out onto the field, trying to get some tempo, trying to get into things. But when we stood on the line of scrimmage, we looked tentative.
I know the guys across the way were good: They were actually really good. But they weren’t bringing anything exotic. Much of the time they only brought four…and it was difficult to know pre-snap who the four were going to be. But, for much of the evening, we didn’t pick up the four with our five or six. When really good football players are running free to the ball carrier or quarterback, you don’t have a chance.
I probably put too much this year on the shoulders of ISU’s offense – but, theoretically, it should be the strength of the team. The defensive line isn’t developed to the point where it can be put on the field over and over again and be expected to win a game for us. ISU’s offense needs every week to have the get-after-it mentality it has had in some weeks…and especially against the top opponents. That starts up front.
All that said, the Utes are exactly what the Cyclones want to become. They have taken a group of guys others missed on and made them a big, nasty ball of whoop-ass. While it doesn’t hurt that their offensive and defensive lines are 23-25 years old, they certainly do everything right on the field. Utah’s offensive line was a good of a group as I’ve seen in a long time. Not only are they big and strong, they’re also lean and fast. They were devastating in space against ISU on Saturday. Utah’s special teams were just that – special. They had a couple of great athletes returning the ball, but with the walls they had set up with their blockers, John Walters might have had a chance to take one to the house.
Eric Heft’s observation during the broadcast Saturday that the Utes play with reckless abandon was the perfect way of putting it. They play every snap like it’s their last. I believe we just played against what the future of the Cyclones looks like, but getting there will be every bit as difficult as the next two games.
Now if only Chris Williams could set up a mission trip to Muscle Beach for each of our incoming linemen.