Time for ISU offense to pick up the pace

AMES — In its only two losses this season, Iowa State’s offense has averaged 209 yards and 13.5 points per contest. That’s obviously not going to cut the mustard vs. most Big 12 opponents. 

Offensive production – or the lack there of – was the hot topic during Iowa State football’s weekly media session on Monday in Ames.

What exactly is the problem? 

That’s a loaded question without an easy answer to give. 

“We have to open up bigger holes,” said head coach Paul Rhoads in his weekly press conference. “We have to make the right run reads consistently. We maybe have to create some plays that create those holes and that space that you need. There is a group of things that we can do to help our team in that regard.”

Through the first six games of 2012, the Cyclones are ranked 99th nationally in total offense at just over 342 yards per game. In its two losses and even during the win over Iowa on Sept. 8, the Cyclones struggled to do much of anything with the football, which brings us to the age-old question.

Do you run to set up the pass or pass to set up the run?

“One doesn’t necessarily get the other one going. You’ve got to complement them both,” said Rhoads. “You open up the run with the pass and you open up the pass with the run. We just haven’t done a very good job of that in enough games this year. We’re 4-2 and we’ve scored 37 or better three times. But we’re not operating as efficiently as we need to, especially with six games to go in the Big 12.”

Iowa State hasn’t boasted a 100-yard rusher in a game this season since Shontrelle Johnson did so vs. Tulsa on Sept. 1. That’s a stat that Rhoads has taken note of.

“I made sure that the offensive staff thoroughly understands that and our football team understands that,” said Rhoads. “I am not a (pounds the table) gotta run the ball guy. But (pounds the table) you’ve got to run the ball.”

The Cyclones only collected 68 rushing yards on 28 carries (an average of 2.4 YPC). Iowa State is currently ranked dead last in the Big 12 conference in rushing offense with an average of 143 yards per game. 

Numerous members of Iowa State’s program stressed first down production as a critical way to get things on track. 

“We want to gain four or more on first down and put ourselves in manageable situations,” explained Rhoads. “I think we shied away from taking some shots as that game went along being afraid of 2nd and long to get to 3rd and manageable to get to 3rd and manageable because we weren’t doing a very good job of that. It’s a good play callers responsibility to put together a plan, have confidence in the kids to execute that plan and not be afraid to take those shots and still get yourself back into a position where you can convert on third down.”

Junior running back Jeff Woody put the first down situation in terms of a normal person with a day job.

“If you have a deadline and your boss says this is due by three, if he tells you that at 8 o’clock in the morning you think, ‘alright I’ve got time to work on this,’” said Woody. “The equivalent to 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10 is if he says that this is due at 3 o’clock and he tells you that at 2:51. You are pressed. You are stressed out and it is a lot harder to do your job or do it well when you know you have that much farther to go or that little of space to have wiggle room.”

Something has to give. Iowa State’s next opponent, Oklahoma State, is currently America’s No. 1 team when it comes to total offense at just over 601 yards per game. And even as well as Iowa State’s defense is currently playing, there’s no question that the offense needs to become more efficient, consistent and explosive over the second half of the season. 

Injury Report 

*** As expected, Rhoads confirmed that junior running back James White will miss Saturday’s game due to a knee surgery that he underwent last week. However, Rhoads said that White is doing well. 

“He probably surprised himself, which is important in the training room with the things that he was able to accomplish already, four days post surgery,” said Rhoads. “I think he was in a good deal of pain 24-48 hours past it and probably discouraged with that. The fact now that he is four days out and able to really move it and do some things strength wise has probably encouraged him.”

*** Meanwhile, Jeff Woody said he is more than ready to see his workload increased due to White’s absence.

“I will still probably have to play with a brace on for contact but other than that, yeah, 100 percent,” said Woody. “I’d love to be out there as much as I possibly can. If you were to talk to a player and he said he didn’t want to play every snap he’d be lying to you. I want to play every snap as much as I can.”

*** More on the running back injury front. Believe it or not, Rhoads said that redshirt freshman DeVondrick Nealy has been suffering from pink eye in both of his eyes.

“He had to go back to the eye doctor again yesterday to get some medication to help minimize that condition as we progress towards this game day,” said Rhoads. “Hopefully we get him to that point and he’ll be at a position where we can use him more.”

Nealy carried the football one time for four yards in the loss to Kansas State.