By Ben Bruns, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor & former Iowa State All-American
I think I know what you’re thinking. Why did we look like a completely different offense last weekend? What happened last week? Why this sudden change? Why now? Oh, and by the way, can we keep doing it?!
I’ll start with the latter question: Yes, I believe the Cyclones can continue to look like they looked on Saturday. There’s no question that we will face significantly stiffer competition this week The Utes are the real deal. But the Cyclones performed as well as they did because they did the little things right on Saturday night.
At the very start of the contest, it appeared that the ISU penalty problem would hold us back once again, perhaps with disastrous consequences. ISU appeared to be capable of competing physically with Tech and moved the ball effectively at the start of the game. Austen Arnaud was sharp, and the offensive line and receivers were clicking until the questionable holding call on Alvarez basically shut the opening drive down. When a first down-generating play gets whipped out because of the yellow hanky, it is a bad feeling. As an offensive unit, you usually get around 75 chances (snaps) to be successful. Each play only lasts for four to six seconds of action – meaning that, in the course of a 60-minute contest, played out over a total duration of three hours, you really only are going full-bore for 6 around minutes – a staggeringly small amount of time to do your work. When give seconds of that time gets used up by a penalty play and the resulting positive work is negated, it is a big deal to an offensive football team.
For really the first time this season, the Cyclones answered the bell when it came time to execute. Arnaud and Co. made huge plays over and over again. The reason the Clones looked so different? The players did their jobs well on each snap. The Cyclones took shots down the field, many of which didn’t yield connections. But for the first time this season, several did. Receivers came out of their breaks in the right spots and AA put the ball on them. Two breakaway running plays gave ISU the game-changing strikes for which this program has hungered – strikes that put Tech’s defense on their heels. As the game went on, the penalties slowed down too: Funny how that works when you start having success…the more you have, the easier it is.
I thought that the Texas Tech game would say a lot about this ISU team. We needed to prove who we are and who we are going to be the rest of the season. No one could have been happier with the results than the coaching staff was. Saturday was another step forward for this program after a big step back in week two.
Iowa State’s next opponent has many more weapons than Tech and has had an extra week to prepare. Utah will have two to three new wrinkles that Iowa State has not yet seen. Good football teams install some additional offense in the off week to set up the run in the second half of the season and exploit what they see in their next opponents. The Cyclones have to deal with that over the next two games, as Utah and Oklahoma both have off weeks prior to playing ISU. The Utes are one of the best teams in the country. They believe that by the end of the season, they may be in the hunt for the title game. I’m excited to see if this is the best football team we’ve played to date. They may well be and that is saying a lot given how good the Hawks were on Sept. 11.
The road ahead is hard, but there are seven opportunities to earn wins four, five, and six…and reap all of the extra fun, development, and national attention that sixth victory brings. I’ll tell you this; I’m certainly not about to tell Paul Rhoads & Co. they can’t get their fourth win this Saturday. Get your tickets, load the cooler and get back to the Jack.