AMES — As the pace quickened, so did the production.
Iowa State’s decision to go up-tempo on offense in the second half of Saturday’s 37-30 win over Toledo proved to be critical to achieving at least 30 minutes of success.
The Cyclones scored 28 points in that half-hour of game clock, but fans hoping to see an exclusively up-tempo approach will likely be disappointed.
“We’ll continue to implement it, certainly,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads, whose team (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) takes on Texas (2-4, 1-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Austin. “It was good to us. It was successful.”
Why not utilize it on a full-time basis, then?
For one, Rhoads said in practice the offense hasn’t routinely shined while reeling off plays at a higher-than-usual clip.
Secondly, productive or not, downtime for the Cyclones’ young defense must be taken into account, too.
“It can be a real detriment, especially with your defense, if you’re not (successful),” Rhoads noted.
Saturday brought almost universal success.
ISU ran 87 offensive plays — marking just the second time it had topped the 86-play plateau in the last 22 games — and 49 of those snaps came in the second half.
The Cyclones racked up a season-high 454 yards of total offense while achieving a season high in points.
“It was a great win,” ISU tight end E.J. Bibbs said after the game. “It felt good out there moving the ball.”
Quarterback Sam Richardson completed 21 of 27 passes for 206 yards in the second half and raised his touchdown-to-interception over the past four games to 9-to-1.
He’ll try to pick apart a Longhorns secondary that ranks third nationally in passing yards allowed per game at 133.7.
“You’ve got to take advantage of single coverage if they give you those,” Richardson said. “It’s just trying to be stout up fort and take any kind of blitz if they’re going to give you those and trying to find favorable matchups. I know that they’re good on the back end, but I think we’re pretty strong at receiver, so trying to exploit those matchups.”
Those efforts may or may not include operating at high tempo, but at least the Cyclones have proven in a game situation that they can produce big numbers at a fast rate.
“I think we’ve grown a lot as an offense and the trust is continuing to grow from an offensive standpoint,” Richardson said. “I feel pretty comfortable. I think the main thing is wanting to hit more deep balls in games, taking advantage of those.”
Tempo’s not required to make that happen, but precision is. And right now, Rhoads said, Richardson’s showing progress in that area, as well.
“I think Sam’s level of play has been very important to keeping us competitive and leading us to the victory column against Toledo,” Rhoads said. “He was really, really good in the second half of that game. We need him to remain that way and even keep improving as the year goes into the second half.”
INJURY UPDATE: Rhoads said in his opening statement Monday that running back Aaron Wimberly (ankle), wide receiver Jarvis West (ankle) and linebacker Drake Ferch (collarbone) will all be available for Saturday’s game.
WATCH OUT: Bibbs kept his name on the John Mackey Award midseason watch list. The award’s remaining semifinalists will be announced Nov. 17, with finalists set on Nov. 24. Bibbs, in one and a half seasons, already ranks fourth in career receiving yards (652) and fifth in receptions (61) by a tight end in ISU history.