After an 0-2 start to the season, Cyclone fans were not picky heading into Thursday night’s road trip to Tulsa. Something tells me that most of you – no – all of you would have been happy with any sort of a “W," even one of those ugly ones (if there is such a thing).
Iowa State’s 38-21 romp of the Golden Hurricane was as convincing of a win any realistic spectator could have asked for.
The positives that come from this one are countless.
The Cyclones finally found a running back in Aaron Wimberly. There was a night and day difference in the entire offensive scheme compared to the first two games. Sam Richardson wasn’t perfect by any means but still looked much healthier than he did against Iowa. A swarming Cyclone defense created turnovers while stopping the run and last but certainly not least, that Tom Farniok guy sure is a brute.
How good is Tulsa? Let’s all be honest with ourselves. Not very. But even so, there were a few times in this one where it looked like the Golden Hurricane were going to make things interesting. Heck, this game was tied 14-14 at halftime. But Paul Rhoads’ young team was resilient and did exactly what it should have done against the Golden Hurricane, and that’s beat them by multiple scores.
Lose that game and well, I don’t even want to think about what the next week would have been like for the team, the coaches, the fans and selfishly, this website leading up to Texas.
This was a must-win. It was a darn good win. It was a win that the Cyclones will undoubtedly build on before a national television audience invades Ames along with the Texas Longhorns next Thursday night.
Tom Farniok – Too often in this world do we (fans and media alike) give too much credit to skill position players while overlooking the big dudes up front. Do not get me wrong. Aaron Wimberly looked like a special football player on Thursday night (more on this later), but Tom Farniok’s return to the lineup as Iowa State’s center not only showed how gutty of a player he is, but how valuable he is to this football team as a whole.
While I was co-hosting the Cyclone Radio Network’s postgame call-in show about an hour after the final gun, a caller named Dave buzzed in wanting to discuss Farniok’s value to the team. His point was that if Farniok wouldn’t have gone down vs. UNI that the Cyclones would have won that game solely because of his presence. You know what? I agree completely.
We can talk about quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers until we’re blue in the face, but those guys are only as good as the offensive line in front of them. Iowa State’s line is probably a D+ without Tom Farniok in the lineup. With him, it is a solid B. This guy is a difference maker and because of that, I’m giving Tom Farniok my game ball.
Aaron Wimberly – Stat of the game: Aaron Wimberly averaged 7.2 yards per carry in route to a 137 yard night vs. the Golden Hurricane (he also caught a 31-yard pass). I guess we know who has that “hot hand” now don’t we?
For the first time this season, one guy stood out amongst Iowa State’s crop of running backs and it was clear that Wimberly had an inexplicable extra burst that has been lacking in Ames for a while.
Will this type of production stick around? That’s a fair question. The fact is though, if Wimberly was this much better than all of the other guys, he would have taken the majority of the snaps in games one and two.
This is a great place to start though. Finally, Iowa State has a primary running back, an identity if you will.
But do not forget about James White and Shontrelle Johnson. This is when their roles become even more critical. Iowa State has nine straight weeks of football ahead of it after burning its two byes in the first month of the season. Wimberly will need some blows and Iowa State has two very capable men waiting in the wings.
Rush defense – Statistically speaking, Iowa State entered Thursday’s game ranked 108th in the country in rush defense giving up 223 yards per game. Tulsa, a program that was built off of a strong running game, netted 86 yards on the ground vs. the Cyclones.
That was some fine gap control folks.
And it helped that Tulsa’s combination of quarterbacks make Christian Ponder look good. Iowa State didn’t have to respect the Golden Hurricane passing attack all evening long. Case and point, did you notice how tightly Iowa State’s corners were defending Tulsa’s wide receivers on the line? I don’t think I have ever seen that in four years of covering Wally Burnham’s defenses.
The big dig on Iowa State’s defense this season has been its inability to stop the run. By holding the explosive Trey Watts to 38 measly yards on the ground, the Cyclones proved that they are much more capable in this category than most thought.
Two-minute drill – This is perhaps the most important “up” of them all. Late in the second quarter, Tulsa had just taken a 14-7 lead and those malicious demons appeared to be creeping back into the minds of the Cyclones. An impressive Aaron Wimberly kick return gave Iowa State the football on the 34-yardline with 1:26 on the clock and in eight plays, the Cyclones tied the game up (via a 10-yard Sam Richardson to Jarvis West touchdown pass) heading into the break.
What if Iowa State wouldn’t have scored there?
Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. After all, the Cyclones were clearly the better football team on Thursday night.
But being down seven is a heck of a lot different than being tied, fresh off of a touchdown at the break. The Cyclones came out of halftime and played inspired ball while controlling the clock for 10:33 in the third period alone.
Maybe, just maybe, that will go down as the drive that saved the season.
Kicking – Redshirt freshman Cole Netten went 0-for-2 in the first half, missing field goals from 46 and 49-yards. Same story, different day. This is your life Cyclone Fanatic.
Give Netten some credit though. He rebounded nicely by nailing a clutch 40-yarder in the fourth quarter that more a less clinched Iowa State’s victory.
Sacks – Sam Richardson was sacked four times in this game. The line has to do a better job of protecting but at the same time, Richardson needs to get better at reading blitzes and thinking on the go. Both should come with more time and reps in actual games, not practice.
Tulsa – From the pregame smack talk to the on-field product, it wasn’t a great night to be a fan of the Golden Hurricane. I respect Bill Blankenship and the program that he runs, but this was not a good football team that Iowa State man-handled on Thursday night.
As I summed up in the intro, I’m not sure that Iowa State fans could have asked for a whole lot more from an 0-2 football team in this one. The offense came to life. The defense swarmed and punished. No notable injuries were suffered that we are aware of.
All and all, Iowa State has a lot of momentum heading into next Thursday’s high-profile date with the Texas Longhorns.
Check out CycloneFanatic.com on Friday for more analysis of the big win.