Former Cyclone quarterback Austen Arnaud with his five keys to an Iowa State victory on Saturday vs. Tulsa. Arnaud will also be a guest on Saturday’s Cyclone Fanatic/Wilson Toyota Pregame Show that is presnted by Channel Seeds from 11-12:30 on Des Moines’ Sports Station, 1460 KXNO.
1) Be the aggressor – As we all know, the Cyclones are going into this game as the underdog. This should make Cyclone fans and players alike very upset. However, let’s face reality. This is a Tulsa team that nearly ran the table in Conference USA (7-1) last season. That’s a conference that had a very good year all around with five different teams playing in bowl games. So, when I say "be the aggressor," Iowa State must come out and start fast. Whether it is the offense or defense that takes the field first, the Cyclones have to dictate the tempo of the game early. Tulsa is a team that is very fast paced on offense; which won’t be a huge deal because the Iowa State defense sees a fast paced offense every day in practice. However, it is a different offense and the defense will have to make adjustments on the fly which can always be problematic. The offense must be efficient and march the ball down on their first possession and score – a statement drive that initiates the tempo of the game.
2) Establish the Run – When I first started this column last year, I said that this specific key for victory would always be on the list. Here it is again. Iowa State will have to establish the run early and often against a Tulsa defense that is going to be undersized and most likely not as skilled as its foe. The recent update of Shontrelle Johnson’s good health only makes the situation better for the Clones, as they will have in my opinion, one of the most explosive backs in all of the Big 12 carrying the rock.
Add to Shontrelle’s skill set a hard-nosed runner in Jeff Woody, an every down back in James White and the occasional elusive carry from DeVondrick Nealy. That makes Iowa State’s backfield easily one of the best in the league (depth-wise).
Steele Jantz will also be a very vital part to the run game for Iowa State. At times last year, we saw the definition of extending a play with some of Jantz third and long heroics. And as we all know, the run sets up the pass which is a good thing when facing one of the worst pass defenses in the country last year (Tulsa gave up 290 yards per game last year ). All of these factors also encompassed with the fact that Tulsa’s defense will most likely be undersized and not as physical as what the Cyclones are used to has the making for a big ground day at Jack Trice Stadium.
3) Short Memory – Coach Rhoads is always the best at expressing this to the players, “You can’t play in fear of making a mistake.” This is so true. Having played college football on a big stage, there isn’t one player on that field Saturday who will play mistake free. There are too many unknowns in the game of football so a key to victory this week is having a short memory and dealing with adversity.
Former Cyclone Coach Dan McCarney always reiterated the fact of weathering the storm in big football games. There are too many momentum shifts for a player to get worked up about. Iowa State must play in the moment and have a short memory because if you let the occasional turnover or missed tackle bother you, it will affect you the entire game.
4) Linebacker Play – Everyone is well aware of how great No. 20 and No 47 have been for this football team in the past. Now it is time for No. 52 Jeremiah George and No. 26 Deon Broomfield to show Cyclone fans how special of players they can be.
Tulsa has two legitimate running backs in Trey Watts and Willie Carter. Watts, a junior who rushed for nearly 900 yards last year while splitting time, is a back who also returns punts and kicks also for the Golden Hurricane. It’s safe to say that this guy is their most athletic player. And Carter is the true definition of an H-Back. He is used in the slot and out of the backfield had a whopping 61 catches, nearly 900 yards receiving and seven touchdown grabs.
So our linebackers must come to play and know that these two guys are going to be the lifeline of this team, especially early in the season with an unproven quarterback. The success of George and Broomfield will come from stopping these two guys in space. Knott and Klein have proven even against better backs that they can do it. It is time for the future of this program, at a position where depth is lacking, to step up and put their mark on what could be a stingy defensive unit.
5) Turnovers – In the game of football there is a direct correlation between taking care of the ball and winning the game. If you take care of the football, you win the game. The Cyclone offensive players must cherish the football. It is simple. Iowa State is not good enough as a team to turn the ball over a significant number of times and expect to beat a team like Tulsa. On the other side of the ball, the defense has to create takeaways and more importantly get off the field in third and long situations. I expect the Cyclone to win the battle of turnovers, this in turn will win them the game 34-30.