AMES — Believe it or not, there is actually some decent news to report from Iowa State’s (1-3) 49-28 loss to Baylor (4-0) on Saturday night.
The Cyclones won’t play a better offense (and maybe team) the rest of the season. The carnage that you all just witnessed is officially in the rearview mirror and regardless of how good some of the other offenses in the Big 12 are – those teams aren’t Baylor.
Art Briles’ sixth-ranked Baylor Bears – offensively at least – are on a whole other level. That is a legitimate College Footbal Playoff contender that Iowa State lost to and while it certainly wasn’t pretty, it also could have been a lot worse.
But that’s about all that the glass half-full Cyclone Fanatic can take from game four of the 2014 Iowa State football campaign.
Iowa State trailed the Bears 35-7 at the break because in essence, this team did everything that it could not do if it wanted to be in the game during the first 30 minutes.
Down 14-7 early in the second quarter, Sam Richardson threw a reckless left-handed interception (that’s right). Behind a line that struggled to pick up blitzes and a non-existent running game, Richardson completed only 7 of his 22 pass attempts in the first half.
The most important stat of the game though is that in Iowa State’s 10 first half possessions, the Cyclones went 3 & out or worse (the INT) eight times (it is notable that the defense forced Baylor 3 & out three times in the first quarter). That is certain suicide when attempting to knock off Baylor.
The second half of this football game was simply a formality. It had to be played and luckily for Iowa State, it was.
Led by Richardson’s legs (the QB ran for 99 yards including a 47-yard touchdown scamper), the Cyclones put together two impressive third quarter scoring drives against Baylor’s No. 1 defense that perhaps will give this group a smidge of momentum heading into next weekend’s road trip to Oklahoma State.
Even so, Iowa State’s problems on offense are very real.
Besides scrambles by the quarterback, Iowa State simply can’t run the football and on Saturday night, Rhoads burned the redshirt of true freshman Martinez Syria as proof of that.
Against the Bears, Iowa State’s three running backs ran the ball 20 times for 28 yards. In his debut, Syria eight times for 15 yards.
Through four games, Wimbelry leads all Iowa State running backs with 119 yards on the season.
As my pal John Walters would say, “That’s not going to cut it, coach.”
Other than the most overly optimistic members of the Cyclone Nation, nobody really thought that Iowa State would win this football game. Right? Heck, many never thought that it would be close, and that’s ok.
Paul Rhoads’ team played its ‘you know what’ off in the second half, despite the 28-point halftime deficit.
In a weird way, I’m actually kind of encouraged by what we saw out of a Cyclone defense that gave up a whopping 601 yards (Baylor will do that to a lot of teams this year). The thought of this group stopping Baylor (the best offense in college football) beforehand was borderline insane. It needed help from the other side which in the first half, it simply did not get. This is a young group that saw its first true spread opponent vs. Baylor and will be better for it next weekend in Stillwater.
This team can win some games in the Big 12. Coming out of Saturday night, I’m way more impressed with Baylor than I am discouraged by Iowa State. That team’s defense is legit.
The thing is, Baylor didn’t even come close to playing its best game in this one either.
These days following this loss are when coaching is so critical heading into next week and the pending second half of the schedule.
Will Rhoads rally the troops?
Based on how Iowa State ended this game, I think so.
How many wins will that result in?
I have no clue but in the Big 12, opportunities are out there.
The way I see it, there is the Baylor/Oklahoma duo and everybody else.