AMES — Underwhelming. Just very, very underwhelming.
That is the nicest way to describe the opening game of the Matt Campbell era at Iowa State – a 25-20 loss to UNI.
No realistic football fan expected an overnight turnaround with a new coaching staff, but the floor of where this team was at in week one was much lower than most believed.
Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for Iowa State football. UNI – an FCS program – has now embarrassingly won three of the last six games in the series. To throw salt in an open wound, Iowa State has now lost its season opener to an FCS program in three of the last four years.
In front of over 60,000 loyal fans in Jack Trice Stadium, the Cyclone Nation watched its team shoot itself in the foot again and again and again and the Panthers did what good programs do – pull one out.
“They deserved to win the football game,” Campbell said after the game.
Check out Cyclone Fanatic later tonight and tomorrow for more coverage but until then, here are five immediate takeaways from the loss.
Offensive issues: When it comes to run blocking, the offensive line was worse than we thought it would be, which is really saying something. Even with the excitement that the Campbell hire brought in the offseason, we knew that the line would be a massive question mark.
And it was.
Without watching any tape, the pass blocking was what I’d call decent – maybe even better than I expected (which isn’t saying much).
Granted, redshirt freshman Julian Good-Jones, who was supposed to replace Jake Campos at right tackle, was suspended for this one (Violation of team rules. He will be back next Saturday). (If you’re wondering, Iowa State started Philbert, Scoggins, Bobek, Meeker and Fett.)
Mike Warren – who led all FBS freshmen in rushing last season – averaged 2.5 years per carry. He had 12 of them for 30 yards. The Cyclones tallied only 51 rushing yards in the loss.
The passing was better, but wildly inconsistent. Joel Lanning threw for 256 yards but also was picked off twice and fumbled once. Besides the one that clinched the win for the Panthers (UNI would then down it), the other two turnovers resulted in scores for the men in purple.
“Offensively we were so off,” Campbell said. “We were constantly catching up and didn’t have any sort of a rhythm. We can’t just sit there and chuck the football for 60 plays and be successful.”
Another important stat: Iowa State went 3-for-11 on third down.
So much slop: Starting with the fact that in Iowa State’s last three possessions, the Cyclones turned it over three times. It was almost as if UNI was begging Iowa State to win the game. When opportunities were handed to them, time and time again the Cyclones faltered.
Penalties played a big part in this game, especially in the first half. Iowa State had nine of them for 89 yards. (An illegal substitution on a kickoff stood out to me. Holds happen. That’s the stuff that’s unacceptable.)
The defense: Most of UNI’s success in the first half resulted from quarterback Aaron Bailey getting outside of the pocket.
Early on, Demond Tucker absolutely dominated.
But it was a similar story to the last few seasons. The offense struggled to get first downs and as a result, defense was on the field for huge chunks at a time. UNI possessed the football for nearly 36 minutes compared to Iowa State’s 24.
Silver lining: Honestly, there really isn’t much positive to take from the opener other than things can only go up from here.
It’s a young team with obvious talent at the skill possessions.
I am vastly concerned about the offensive line and mildly concerned about a first-year offensive coordinator. The fact that Lanning didn’t look to be much better than he was a year ago has already launched the Jacob Park chatter.
Personally, I will elect to see the course from here and not make any rash judgments of Campbell’s program.
My hope is that the most loyal fan base in America elects to do that too.