Blum: Groundhog Day

This season got off on the wrong foot. Iowa State’s first drive against Northern Iowa ended in a missed field goal. They have since had seven more opening drives; none of them have resulted in points. The fits of the offense reminds of the drag racing machines that explode the moment the light turns green. The Cyclones are digging themselves monstrous holes and have been unable to latch on to anything to climb out. It’s like Groundhog Day game in and game out. Iowa State has been out-scored in the first quarter 79 to 28. The only time they have had a lead after the first stanza was against Tulsa.

The season is now 2/3 complete. We hoped that the Northern Iowa game was going to be the aberration of 2013, it has turned out to be the norm. 

I wrote in August that the offense is due for a break-through; I will obviously not be providing lotto numbers any time soon.

The thought process coming into the year was the continuity between the head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback would lead to consistent production for the first time in a long time. My optimistic brain figured getting to 30 points per game was entirely achievable because for goodness sake Duke averaged 32 points last year and they are Duke and the Duke offense is historically hot garbage.

Once again this season, half of college football averages 30 points or more (including Duke); after putting up a meager 24.5 points in 2012, Iowa State has back-tracked down to 23 per game.

At the very least, there was not supposed to be a quarterback dilemma in 2013. Jared Barnett departed, Grant Rohach wasn’t quite ready and Sam Richardson had command of the scheme. Through the first four games, Richardson played quite well and the offense had glimpses of finding its groove. The goal this year was to complete 60-65 percent of his passes and a hobbled Sam was still producing.

After the Texas game these were Richardson’s season numbers: 86/138, 62 percent, 254 yards per game, 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions. Believe it or not, those numbers were on pace to break several Iowa State season records.

But in the next four games, injuries mounted, Richardson’s accuracy plummeted, the offense unraveled and here we are smack dab in another quagmire of a quarterback situation. Any and all positive juice and confidence Richardson built has evaporated. I swear we’ve seen this movie before.

Iowa State QB’s are now completing just 54 percent of their passes, flirting with Purdue, Kansas and UConn for most inefficient BCS passing offense.

In search for one answer, the Cyclone offense has added a dozen more questions. I certainly can’t blame the offensive staff for trying something, anything to solve the riddle. Richardson, Rohach, Richardson, Rohach. There are a lot of buttons being pushed on this Cyclone offensive elevator and all of them have ultimately gone down. It is really hard to watch unfold and you can’t help but feel awful for Richardson and Rohach, both young guys put in a precarious situation, taking a beating with no solution in sight.

The parallels between this season and the ugly 2003 campaign are remarkable. The 2003 team won its first two games and went on a 10 game skid to end the year. They started the year with a promising freshman at QB in Austin Flynn, who led the offense to flashes of brilliance in the first handful of games. Then the negative bulldozer cometh. The ’03 team was ravaged by injuries in the offensive line, lost a winnable game at Northern Illinois, Flynn was constantly under siege and became skittish in the pocket, the Cyclones had their doors blown off by Oklahoma, they played three different QB’s to attempt to right the ship, the defense played way too many snaps, nothing was working, the losses mounted and the season mercifully ended. It was painful for all.

2013 is playing out in similar fashion.

After the 2003 season, Dan McCarney assessed his coaching staff, making several notable changes; bringing in Barney Cotton and Todd Fitch to replace Steve Brickey, Marty Fine and his easter eggs.

(Fine, who was the offensive line coach in 2002 and 2003 once said after one of those 10 straight losses, "They don’t talk about how nice the Easter eggs were. They talk about the guys who pulled out the gun and shot the Easter eggs. Today that was us." Ten years later and I still have no idea what that means. Fine is currently the head coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island. His offensive coordinator is Steve Brickey.)

Prior to the 2004 season, the Cyclones brought in a JUCO linebacker named Tim Dobbins, debuted a freshman quarterback in Bret Meyer and a rangy deep threat in Todd Blythe. Iowa State’s young offensive line which was thrown into the fire in 2003 matured in 2004. The ’04 team got some lacking confidence midway through the season and rode the wave to the finish line. The Cyclones went on to a winning record for just the 3rd time in 20 years and were a field goal away from winning the Big 12 North in 2004.  

In my humble opinion, this current batch of Cyclones has way more talent in the program than 10 years ago. By no means is the 2013 season over, the men in Cardinal and Gold really deserve to experience some form of positivity. Heck, they haven’t had a lead since the Texas game. The seniors have put way too much into the program to go out quietly.

This season never got out of the starting blocks and won’t end in a bowl game. However, there are moments and momentum over the last four games that can help set the table for things ahead.

It is up to Paul Rhoads to decide if the issues currently hampering that momentum are self-healing or not. An opening drive for a touchdown would be a great place to start.