Five thoughts on Iowa State’s 17-14 loss to TCU

Sep 29, 2018; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) tries to break the tackles of TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Garret Wallow (30) and defensive tackle Corey Bethley (94) during the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1. The defense did enough to win. The offense? Well…

Once again, Iowa State’s defense proved it is legitimately one of the best units in the Big 12. Jon Heacock’s group surrendered just 10 points and did everything it needed to do in order to put the Cyclones in position to win.

The offense, on the other hand, remains a work in progress.

The Cyclones mustered just 198 yards of total offense. I know TCU is one of the most efficient defenses in the Big 12, but this continues to be the Cyclones’ Achilles heel.

One staggering stat pointed out by our Jay Jordan…

I wrote after last week’s game that I would like to see Matt Campbell and the staff try to stretch the field more moving forward. Clearly that did not happen against the Horned Frogs.

We have seen this offense be at its best with the existence of a downfield threat. When that is not present, we see performances similar to what we did on Saturday in Fort Worth.

Until that changes, there could be some more long days coming for the Iowa State offense. I know some people are turning on Zeb Noland right now, but I am not sure how much this can be put on his shoulders.

Did he look great while completing 14-of-28 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown on Saturday? Obviously not. But, I think there are bigger issues for this unit to take care of before we start piling everything on the quarterback’s shoulders.

2. Montgomery becomes the program’s 15th 2,000-yard rusher

Do we truly appreciate how lucky we are to watch this young man in Cardinal and Gold?

Think about the offensive lines that David Montgomery has run behind during his career at Iowa State. Think about it again for a few more moments. *Waits…*

Okay, no running back has any business compiling 2,000-plus yards in 29 games behind that group of guys. He continued to prove his greatness on Saturday weaving through defenders to the tune of 101 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

This kid is special and we need to cherish our opportunities to watch him playing for Iowa State while we still have them.

3. Timely takeaways… Finally!

The ability to create timely takeaways was one of the biggest keys to Iowa State’s defensive resurgence in 2017. So far this season, those takeaways have been hard to find.

Finally, on Saturday in Fort Worth, Iowa State was able to create some. There was true freshman Will McDonald‘s first career tackle coming as a strip sack in the first half to set up the Cyclones’ first touchdown.

There was D’Andre Payne forcing a fumble inside the 10-yard line after the TCU tight end inexplicably tried to hurdle him when he was standing straight up and down. Lastly, Braxton Lewis came up with the third interception of his career, which did not really end up amounting to all that much.

If you had told me before the game the Cyclones would force three turnovers, I would have called the victory a virtual lock. In the end, it was not enough, but we cannot blame the defense for that.

4. The offense did show flashes after Zeb’s scramble…

Who saw Noland coming up with Iowa State’s longest run of the night against the Horned Frogs?

Ironically, after Zeb’s 28-yard run on 3rd and 25, Iowa State’s offense looked the best it did the entire evening. The offensive line was creating great push and Montgomery was finding some rare space to run through.

That looked like the offense Campbell and this staff would like to work with in an ideal world. Figuring out a way to get that sort of push consistently is a different story…

5. Third down defense

Alright, I fully acknowledge I am picking nits right now, but I think if there is one thing the defense can be criticized for it is this.

The unit had chances to get off the field in key moments. TCU converted two first downs, including on its scoring play, on its first-half scoring drive. The 3rd and 6 Shawn Robinson to Jalen Reager connection on the Frogs’ last drive was one of the game’s most important plays.

It is hard to really question the defense when it allows just 299 yards, 10 points and basically carries the team the entire night. That said, I feel like it needed to be brought up.

At the end of the day, none of this loss falls on the shoulders of the defense. The Cyclones will not win many games with an offensive performance as we saw against TCU.

There is another winnable game coming up next week in Stillwater, but that becomes an awfully tough hill to climb when this is the level at which the offense plays.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.