enCYCLONEpedia: Why not now?

By Kirk Haaland of Contributor Follow Kirk on Twitter @Khaal53

Currently this year, Oklahoma State is averaging 8.59 yards per pass attempt and is 11thin the nation in that category and second in the Big 12 behind Baylor.  In which game of Cyclone football history did they give up the most pass yards per attempt?  Give me the year, opponent and final score.

The tale of the tape does not favor the Cyclones but, then again, when has it?  Especially when facing a 10-0 opponent that is ranked No. 2 in the NCAA playing for a national title.  While the gaudy offensive numbers have been thrown around and no doubt will continue to be because they are just the outrageous for the Cowboys— there are actually some noticeable similarities between the Cyclones and Cowboys.

Similarities that actually take place on the football field…primarily with the defenses.

Going by points allowed per possession, the Pokes have the third best defense in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas and allow just 1.57 points per possession. Meanwhile, ISU has climbed out of the cellar (which was ninth place earlier in the season because Kansas has had a firm grasp on the worst defense in the league all along and their play would be categorized as much worse than the “cellar”) up to sixth in the league in points allowed with just 2.02 points per possession.

That is a pretty decent jump in comparing the defenses of the two teams, but how did both teams get to that point? Interestingly enough, many of the defensive numbers are quite similar or just barely favoring Okie State.

For example, look at this: As noted, Oklahoma State has a sizeable advantage in points allowed per possession and to the far right of the table you will see the biggest statistical reason for that while many other categories are even.

isu osu comp 550x86

As you can see, the Cowboys actually allow more yards per game (in part because opponents on average have two more possessions against OSU than they do against ISU). But the yards allowed per play is quite similar with OSU giving up 5.37 as compared to the 5.51 that ISU is surrendering.

Across the board, the numbers are ever so slightly in OSU’s favor in regards to rush yards allowed per attempt, pass yards allowed per attempt, the opposition’s passer rating and the percentage of opponent’s pass attempts that a sack is notched.

Even the plays per possession for the defense — which is at least some form of an indicator with how well the defense can get off the field (of course, it could mean that it gives up points so quickly that it gets off the field quickly in that fashion as well)—and the percentage of times that the defenses allow teams to drive all the way to the redzone, and give up third-down conversions.

Then to the far right you start to see some separation.  On 16.67 percent of possessions team’s are scoring touchdowns against the Cowboys while the Cyclones are giving up touchdowns on 21.8 percent of possessions.  With all the other stats being so equal what is the explanation?


The Cowboys are forcing turnovers on 20.24 percent of possessions while Iowa State is just past half that with 11.28 percent.  In this area the Cowboys lead the Big 12 by 4.5 percent and are second nationally behind South Carolina’s 20.86 percent.

Then, there is the other side of the ball to worry about.  The vaunted Cowboy offense.

Currently the Cowboys are forth in the nation in scoring at 3.42 points per possession (ISU is last in the Big 12 scoring just 1.73 points per possession) and fifth in yards gained per play with 7.2 (ISU is cranking out just 4.97).  The potent attack is also averaging 5.25 yards per carry (17thin the NCAA) on the ground and 8.59 yards per pass attempt (11thin the NCAA).

As noted earlier, the Pokes do score efficiently with 3.42 points per possession but the other contributing factor as to why they put up so many points is that they are second in the NCAA by averaging 15.1 offensive possessions per game. For comparison, Wisconsin is second in the NCAA with 3.97 points per possession yet only averages 11.7 possessions per game.  That is some of the reasoning behind the video game numbers.

The popular sentiment for the Cyclones to be able to stay in the game on Friday will be to slow it down and keep the Cowboy offense on the sideline. While true and a piece of the puzzle, the real key is limiting their offensive possessions as much as possible by generating offense of our own.

Avoid three and outs, sustain drives, do not turn the ball over, record first downs, trickerate when you need to…but the offense must be in a flow and must play how it plays best. That includes playing fast if the coaches deem that is the best method for success. You don’t limit OSU’s possessions by running clock but going three and out.  You limit their possessions by getting first downs by playing your game.

On the flip side, the defense must make them work…Think Texas Tech and not Missouri. Force a field goal attempt here and there, get lucky with a receiver drop, force a turnover, and for the love of God do not give them first downs by penalty—they’ll be getting enough of those on their own. Bend…do not break.

If you didn’t already know, Iowa State isn’t a beacon for success when playing the top flight teams in the country having never beaten a team ranked higher than seventh.  ISU has played top six teams 59 times in school history to a record of 0-57-2.  Not so good.  It doesn’t get any better when only looking at the home games:  0-26-1.  Even the close calls are rare.

The two most recent close calls were the 17-7 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma in 2007 and the 38-31 loss to No.3 Florida State in 2002.

But that’s why Paul Rhoads is here. Knocking down brick walls one by one that have rarely been done before in program history…all in just 34 games so far on the job.

The tape does not lie and the odds are stacked against the Cyclones, again.  But, I want to share some words with you from Ted Kennedy that our own Dan McCarney shared at his resignation press conference:

“…some people see things as there are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not. When I took this job I said, why not Iowa State? Why not winning? Why not bowl games? Why not sell outs? Why not national respect? Why not us? Why not here? Why not the Cyclone Family”

Why not now?