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Football

Williams: Nebraska report card

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher

It was the perfect call at the perfect time. The Cyclones simply didn’t execute.

Collin Franklin was wide open. Nobody was expecting it.

And no, I’m not toeing the company line here.

I genuinely loved that call.

The play was planned before overtime even began. It had been practiced dozens of times. Paul Rhoads was itching to use it.

After yesterday’s 31-30 overtime loss to Nebraska, former Iowa State wide receiver Jack Whitver and I hashed this out for about an hour on the Cyclone Radio Network.

“Why put the game in the hands of your backup punter?”

That was Whitver’s take on the play. He isn’t not alone with that thought either.

I see that point. It makes a lot of sense. Daniel Kuehl’s pass to Collin Franklin was nothing short of a disaster.

But if you line Austen Arnaud up in the shotgun on that situation, you lose the element of surprise. In fact, I’d prefer taking my chances in a second overtime before lining the offense up for a standard play in that situation.

The element of surprise is what made Rhoads’ fake PAT call so great. After watching the replay about a 74 times last night, it is clear that if Kuehl would have put any sort of zip at all on that pass or maybe even a little loft, we’d all be celebrating a win today.

Perfect call. Perfect time. Poor execution.

One thing is for sure. Paul Rhoads is developing a reputation around the coaching world. He’s college football’s Phil Ivey.

You can love or hate the call and I’m sure that we’ll all hash this out for months here at Cyclone Fanatic. But if you’re an Iowa State recruit watching that game in Texas or Florida, how do you not want to come play for a guy like that?

The bottom line is that if the play had worked, we all would be calling Paul Rhoads a genius today. The man has marbles the size of bowling balls. Get used to it. He’s coached like that ever since he got to Ames. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.

GAME BALL

Ben Lamaak – He probably shouldn’t have even been out there, but Iowa State’s senior center Ben Lamaak wasn’t going to miss this final clash with the Huskers for anything. Lamaak strained his MCL at the end of the Texas game and defied odds to make it back for yesterday’s contest. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again. Lamaak is the best overall player on Iowa State’s team. I’m giving him my game ball not necessarily for any specifics during yesterday’s game, but for the example that he set for all of the young Cyclones in the program. That’s what being tough is all about. That’s what Cyclone football is all about.

HELMET STICKERS

Jake Williams – This senior wide receiver could have easily been my game ball recipient. Williams caught two touchdown passes and tallied up 46 yards against one of the best secondary’s in all of college football.

O-Line – While Lamaak got the game ball, the rest of the offensive line, specifically Alex Alvarez, deserve helmet stickers. Lamaak was rotating in and out by the series at certain points in yesterday’s game. If Lamaak played anywhere else on the line, this wouldn’t have been that big of an issue. But he’s the center! That means that Alvarez was constantly moving from guard to center and back, which I can’t imagine is an easy thing to do. There wasn’t one bad snap delivered to Austen Arnaud all day long.

Austen Arnaud – His two interceptions were ugly but besides that, Austen Arnaud was outstanding yesterday. Iowa State’s senior signal caller went 21-for-32 for 203 yards, with three passing touchdowns and one on the ground. Most quarterbacks would have curled up into the fetal position after throwing that unflattering pick six and going down 14 to a top 10 football team. Arnaud is a gamer though. Instead of being flustered, Arnaud got better. As we’ve seen so many times throughout his career, Arnaud led his team right back and damn near won the football game. You can criticize the interceptions all you want but without Arnaud, Iowa State isn’t even in that game at the end. What’s lost in all of this is how well Arnaud has been running the football. Over the last three weeks, Arnaud has tallied 40, 59 and 63 yards on the ground. That’s a whole other dimension to game play against for Iowa State opponents to prepare for.

Jake Lattimer – The improvement in Iowa State’s defensive line from September compared to now is colossal. Junior defensive end Jake Lattimer has everything to do with it. Lattimer tacked seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble onto his season stats in yesterday’s loss and he was instrumental in slowing down Nebraska’s elite rushing game.

David Sims – Another solid performance from last year’s Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year. Sims was all over the field yesterday as he recorded 13 tackles and forced a fumble.

Jake Knott – Is this guy really only a sophomore? Jake Knott had 11 tackles in the loss. He now has 103 on the season, which leads the team.

Alexander Robinson – A-Rob eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third game in a row yesterday. He’s now up to 826 yards on the season, making it very likely that he’ll hit that 1,000 again this year.

Grant Mahoney – Iowa State’s kicker had missed five field goals in a row. Grant Mahoney bounced back in late in the first half yesterday and boomed a 57-yard field goal. Regardless of the fact that he missed two other kicks from 49 and 55-yards, Mahoney gets a helmet sticker. Without that long shot of a field goal, overtime doesn’t happen.

THREE UP

Coaching – You all know my thoughts on the fake PAT at the end of the game. In addition to that, I think that Rhoads was spot on by not trying to push the football down the field at the end of regulation. Iowa State was on their own 20-yard line with 40 seconds on the clock, with three timeouts in their possession. But at that point in time, the chances of running the football into field goal territory were slim. Nebraska would have been expecting the pass and oh yeah, remember the scouting report on the Huskers’ secondary? They’re kind of good. If Iowa State would have turned the football over, Nebraska had that one guy named Alex Henry salivating on their sideline. He’s the best kicker in America if you didn’t know. Turn it over and let Henry beat you on a long field goal at the end of regulation. Then we’ll see who’s questioning this coaching decision after that happens. Iowa State was down by 14 points at the tail end of the third quarter. At that point, overtime sounded pretty good. Rhoads was spot on here. Yes, Paul Rhoads is a gambler. But he’s not stupid.

In addition to all of that, is there a defensive coordinator in America who gets more out of less than Wally Burnham? Let’s give offensive coordinator Tom Herman some props today too. His offense has come a long way over the last month.

Culture – At one point last week, I wrote that Paul Rhoads and his staff still had one thing to prove. They needed their team to really go nose-to-nose with a top 10 football program. All of their previous efforts had resulted in blowouts. After yesterday, that is no longer the case.

Colorado’s debacle of a day – As a kid, my mother always told me to not take pleasure in other people’s misfortunes. I can’t say that I’m enjoying the debacle that is the current state of Colorado football, but considering that Iowa State is traveling to Boulder next week, it does give me a bit of a warm fuzzy. The hapless Kansas Jayhawks outscored Colorado 35-7 in the fourth quarter yesterday to win that game 52-45. Dan Hawkins had already lost his team before that choke job of epic proportions. After blowing that large of a lead, try to imagine what Colorado’s first practice preparing for the Cyclones will be like on Tuesday. As I understand it, the only reason that Hawkins hasn’t been canned already is because his kid is the only quarterback remaining on that football team who isn’t redshirting. Fire Dan and you either have to burn a redshirt or make a position change. That’s all assuming that Cody would follow his pops out the door. This situation sets up perfectly for Iowa State. Next Saturday in Boulder, expect to see fans with bags over their heads. You’ll see “fire Hawkins” signs and hopefully, you’ll see a depleted Colorado team that just wants the season to end.

THREE DOWN

Big 12 North Talk – It was fun while it lasted. It will take a minor miracle for Iowa State to represent the North in the Big 12 championship now. This chatter was a pipe dream heading into the season but heading into overtime against the ‘Skers, a trip to Dallas was a very real possibility. Next year right? Errrr…..Maybe not. Unfortunately, that won’t be possible.

Prior ISU Opponents – Seriously Utah? This was supposed to be your statement game. The Utes, who beat Iowa State 68-27 back on Oct. 9, lost at home to TCU 47-7 yesterday. At the same time, Oklahoma, who beat Iowa State 52-0 on Oct. 16, lost to Texas A&M 33-13. Iowa limped past Indiana and all of the sudden, the Cyclones’ road win over Texas doesn’t look nearly as impressive. The Horns dropped another Big 12 game yesterday to Kansas State in a 39-14 rout. In one positive note, Texas Tech, who Iowa State beat on Oct. 2, collected a big win over Missouri, 24-17 in Lubbock. This my friends is why you shouldn’t gamble on college football.

No more Nebraska – I like to give Husker fans a hard time. But I am sad to see this series come to an end. The two programs sure sent it out with a bang though didn’t they?