Football

MONDAY MUSINGS: Who holds an advantage in the Cy-Hawk game?

Sep 1, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell takes a moment before kick off against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Lightning is the worst.

Such a weird, terrible weekend…On top of that, it sounds like it is going to rain essentially all week in the state of Iowa. I feel like we’ve been living in a rainforest for the last 5-6 days. 

I don’t need to tell you guys how badly of a kick to the stones Saturday night was, so let’s look ahead to Saturday afternoon’s annual Cy-Hawk game (4 p.m. on FOX) and how the cancellation of game one impacts it.  

From a football preparation standpoint, this is above my head, so I decided to reach out to a few of my “football” friends. Here’s what they had to say:

Former Cyclone/CF Analyst Jeff Woody…

I think the biggest part of week one is ironing out the kinks in your gameplan. You think you’ve got a great way to get someone the ball or isolate someone in space, but in live action, it may not work. Take the first play of the (one) offensive series. ISU tried to run a pin-and-pull to the offensive right, thinking they could get everyone reached. Well, it turned out to not work. Keep finding those little wrinkles 40-50 times and you have a more concrete idea of what works in action, not just in concept. So Iowa, in theory, had a week of wrinkle-finding compared to ISU’s one drive each. 

The positive aspect, though, is that Iowa has very little idea what to expect of ISU. For example, last year, ISU was predominantly a 3-down defensive front. They released a depth chart of a 4-down front on Monday of last week. Then their first series was back in a 3-down front. But Kamilo Tongamoa was suspended for week one. Is the 3-down a look for just a series and they planned to switch? Does the addition of Tongamoa change back to a 4-down? Was the 4-down depth chart just to throw everyone off? Really hard to know for sure with such a small sample size. So if you’re Iowa, you have to equally prepare for a 3 and 4 man front because either is just as likely as the other. 

Long story short, I think there is a small advantage for Iowa in that they got their players a week to feel out real-life football. But the mystery of not having game film evens it out a bit. So expect a fun, physical, unpredictable game next week.

TELECONFERENCE NOTES: Campbell focusing on next challenge after week one cancellation

Former Cyclone/CF Analyst Jay Jordan…

I view the cancellation ahead of the rivalry game as a neutral factor with a slight negative lean for Iowa State. A team gains a level of comfort and confidence from a week 1 performance, then settles in for week 2. That is why we see improvement in that stretch year after year. Iowa struggled a bit against a solid ball club. They will evaluate and know themselves a bit better next week. Iowa State, in simplified form, will be guessing a bit about their identity as they move forward. Though, I suspect ISU has been preparing for the Iowa game during the pre-season.

The positive side is that Iowa will not have film of many of the adjustments in ISU’s personnel and tendencies, but first-week game film before a rivalry game rarely reveals that. The other positive is fresh legs and full strength, neither of which is a distinct advantage after one week. I would have preferred that ISU burn some adrenaline and get comfortable playing after the game time adrenaline dump has occurred. 

Overall, the canceled game will have little effect on the game next week, but, the intangibles favor the team with a week of experience under their belts.

Former Cyclone Jack Whitver…

Having a game under your belt is a big deal but Iowa State can definitely overcome it. Kyle Kempt had never played when he went into Norman and he did ok. But overall, you make more little mistakes in week one – penalties, missed assignments. If you watched Iowa, it took them an entire half to get rolling. I’d give a little edge towards Iowa in that and being at home but I’m not conceding anything. I think it will be a really good game! I’d say home field gives Iowa 3 points and ISU not playing yet gives Iowa about 3. Worry about guys like Mike Rose and Colin Newell. Big first game to try to get used to college football.

Former Cyclone Sage Rosenfels…

I think in some ways ISU has an advantage. They got to have the true dress rehearsal for the new guys. They’ve been thru the process. Nobody will be injured. We will have the extra energy this week. We don’t have the one full game of experience but we have about 3 other advantages too. 

Thoughts on the weekend…

PREGAME ATMOSPHERE: I agree with Jamie Pollard, who said that the pregame atmosphere on Saturday night was as good as he had seen since landing at Iowa State in 2004. I did two hours of pregame radio on Saturday and the vibe around the stadium was absolutely electric. 

WHAT WE SAW: The defensive line has been one of the top storylines all offseason long and granted – it was only one series – but I walked away as bullish on this group as I ever have been. (If you missed it, I encourage you to read this piece I wrote about Iowa State’s defensive line back in July, with extensive thoughts from Matt Campbell on how he wants to use it.) I truly believe that sophomore defensive Enyi Uwazurike has as much pro potential as guys who get talked about with that often – David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler. Uwazurike just plays closer to the ball, which generally means it will take longer for him to stand out. He absolutely stood out on Saturday night, blowing up his side of the line a couple of times in the one series that we saw. Uwazurike is currently a little-known stock that’s trading under $10 but has the potential of AAPL. Buy now!

EXPERIENCE: It’s interesting to note that this exact scenario has happened to a Matt Campbell coached team before. In 2015, the same year that Toledo defeated Iowa State 30-23 in two overtimes, the Rockets had their season opener (vs. Stony Brook) canceled due to weather. The next week, Toledo went on the road and beat then 18th ranked Arkansas out of the SEC. I’m of the opinion that Iowa State missing a game favors Iowa, but this is actual proof that game one being canceled isn’t the end of the world. 

BIGGEST FEAR: I agree with Whitver, who noted that freshmen Colin Newell (center) and Mike Rose (linebacker) had the most to learn in week one. Throwing both of those young men into a raucous Kinnick Stadium on Saturday makes me nervous.

THE SUNDAY AFTER…Nothing

Scouting Iowa

I took the following notes late Saturday night (early Sunday morning) while watching the tape of Iowa’s 33-7 victory over Northern Illinois. 

Iowa’s defensive line vs. Iowa State’s offensive line: This matchup concerns me greatly, specifically Iowa’s stud sophomore defensive end A.J. Epenesa. He’s made great strides in the offseason and was a handful for an experienced Northern Illinois offensive line. As was senior Parker Hesse for that matter, who recorded two sacks in Iowa’s season-opening victory. Iowa’s three rotating defensive ends – Epeenesa, Hesse and Anthony Nelson – combined for four sacks in the win. Hawkeye defenders got to NIU quarterback Marcus Childers five times. 

Iowa State has plenty of options for help here. Chase Allen and Dylan Soehner are solid blocking tight ends. David Montgomery is a very adequate blocking running back and Kyle Kempt gets rid of the football faster than any quarterback in America.

How will Iowa adjust to Iowa State’s versatility on defense?: In my mind, this is the most fascinating football storyline going into Saturday. Mainly because last year, Iowa racked up 44 points in a double-overtime win against the Cyclones – but that was a shell of the defense that Iowa State boasted the rest of the year. I’m curious to see how the Hawkeyes – and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz – respond to Iowa State’s 3-3 stack defense. 

— Will we see Iowa State go at it with the four-man front? My guess is yes, to some extent. A lot of it will be dictated off of how the game is going. The three-man front can be confusing for quarterbacks, especially if they aren’t used to seeing one. That fourth man (and sometimes fifth/sixth) is always coming from somewhere, but this allows Iowa State to disguise it.  My guess is that we’ll see mostly a three-man look from the Cyclones, but this year, Iowa State has options. 

Iowa as a whole: The Hawkeyes were actually pretty sloppy for most of that game on Saturday. They simply did what a good Big Ten team should do vs. an opponent from the MAC – wore them down. NIU was gassed by the time that game got into the third quarter and Iowa took advantage of it. 

Big 12/college football thoughts

TEXAS: Woof. 

Seriously though, it seems like the Longhorns have been bubbling Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger at quarterback for the last decade. Ehlinger got the nod in Saturday’s 34-29 loss to Maryland and looked horrible, going 21-for-39 and throwing two interceptions along the way. 

K-STATE: Not trying to stir anything up here, but Blum told me that the same guys who officiated Iowa State’s heartbreaking loss in Manhattan last year had the assignment on Saturday night when the Wildcats somehow survived vs. a game South Dakota squad. 

AS A WHOLE: Not a great weekend for the league. 

— Texas Tech’s defense is apparently going to be terrible again. With 11 starters returning on that side of the ball, there was a prayer that Kliff Kingsbury’s squad could take a step forward this year. Instead, the Red Raider D looked like a wet paper towel in a 47-27 loss to Ole Miss. Rebel running back Scottie Phillips averaged 12.8 yards per carry while Ole Miss passed for 336 yards on 32 attempts. 

— Kansas lost at home to Nichols (?!?!?!?!). David Beaty has lost to more FCS teams in his time at Kansas than FBS teams he has beaten. 

— On the positive side, Baylor looked a lot better than it did a year ago (as was expected). West Virginia is for real (IMO) and overall, Oklahoma might have a better squad than last year’s Playoff team. 

COME SAY HI

Starting Tuesday, I’ll be out on the RVTV trail with WHO-TV 13, 1460 KXnO, CF and Hawkeye Nation. 

This year’s route looks like this:

Tuesday: Norwalk

Wednesday: Knoxville

Thursday: Albia

Friday: Ottumwa

Minus the toxic Twitter BS, Cy-Hawk week is one of my favorite times of the year. Enjoy it! 

Chris Williams

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Chris was hired as Cyclone Fanatic’s publisher in the fall of 2009. He is Iowa State football's postgame show host on the Cyclone Radio Network and can be heard daily from 4-7 on Des Moines' top-rated sports station, 1460 KXnO. Williams, a 2007 graduate of Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism, is the former publisher of the old CycloneNation.com (Scout.com). He has also written for the Des Moines Register, the Ames Tribune, CycloneReport.com and is the former sports director at KMA Radio. When Williams isn’t working, you can usually find him doing something outdoors with his wife Ashley, daughter Camryn, and Golden Retriever Dierks. He enjoys golfing, boating, country music, the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Braves and is passionate about any and all motor sports so finding Williams at a local dirt track is very common.