AMES — Heading into the season, anybody with any sort of a pulse on the Iowa State football program would have told you that the secondary was the big strength on the defensive side of the ball.
Jacques Washington was one of the Big 12’s top returning free safeties. Jansen Watson (cornerback) and Deon Broomfield (strong safety) both brought forth a load of promise. The second cornerback position was up in the air, but a handful of quality competitors were grinding it out for the job.
Now, don’t take this the wrong way. Iowa State’s secondary hasn’t been bad so far in 2013. In fact, that isn’t the case at all. Its performance against Texas in a 31-30 loss last Thursday was commendable, but far from exceptional.
“They were more aggressive with the short passing game,” Paul Rhoads said of the group. “We made plays on balls down the field. The tradeoff is not good because where the plays came were downhill plays where we were playing through receivers to the ball as opposed to with our back to it. That’s where we have to get more efficient.”
Time after time again in that game, fans saw Cyclone defenders get their hands on one lazy Case McCoy pass after another yet time and time again, the football dropped to the ground. From a position standpoint, Iowa State was right there. The Cyclones just failed to execute that big play on defense.
“We have to start ending up with some of those balls in our hands,” Rhoads said. “As clean as some of them may have looked, Jansen gets a hand on a ball before Deon could make a clean interception. That little variance of the ball makes it hard to catch. The same with Jacques, a ball that looked like he should have had, got knocked away and a would have been a fantastic catch had he come up with it. There is where we need the biggest improvement. We need some intercepts and to add to our turnover margin that is pretty good."
How does ISU keep pulling off road upsets?
Alabama. Oregon. Ohio State…..Iowa State?
How in the world are the Cyclones in a category with those three programs? Iowa State is one of four teams in America to win a road game against a top 25 opponent in three straight seasons. A win on Saturday (11 a.m. on Fox Sports 1) vs. Texas Tech would be year No. 4.
I asked Rhoads about how he’s been able to accomplish this feat on Monday. His answer was execution.
“It doesn’t matter home or away or whether if it is Thursday, Friday or Saturday. It doesn’t matter if it is day or night. You’ve got to execute well,” Rhoads said. “We didn’t execute well on Thursday night to finish the victory. Going on the road now against the 20thranked team in the country, we’ve got to learn what it takes and work to improve on those things and then go out and execute them on Saturday morning to give us an opportunity for victory in Lubbock, Texas. That’s what our guys are setting out to do. It was very clear in here on Friday afternoon and confirmed even more on Sunday afternoon when they came to work.”
*** Your weekly Sam Richardson health update…
“He is still hurting. He is far from healthy,” Rhoads said. “With eight straight weeks of football now, it is going to be really challenging for him to ever be 100 percent this season. It is commendable that he plays through it as he has and has played effectively through it right now.”
*** Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on Iowa State in his Monday press conference…
“From what I saw in that press conference, they’ll be fired up. He does an incredible job motivating those guys. You see that on tape the effort, first and foremost, of what jumps out to you. All those guys play their butts off each and every snap. And that is a compliment to that head coach.”
*** Paul Rhoads on Texas Tech head coach Kilff Kingsbury…
“He doesn’t lose. He’s undefeated as a head football coach. That’s a pretty clean record to have.”
*** Former Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett, who led the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history against No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011, has left the Illinois State football program for "personal reasons."