Defense takes lessons learned in loss to Baylor

Iowa State’s defense watched one of its best players get ejected during the first drive of its Big 12 opening loss to No. 17 Baylor.

It was the first punch to the gut the team would face, and it may have only preluded more punches to come.

“When I’m on the field, I don’t really know whats happening (with penalties),” Reeder, who would be called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the ensuing play, said. “You hear the crowd reaction – they usually have our back. It does hurt. We gave them a lot of free yards.”

Controversial calls or not – this was an Iowa State defense facing the best offense it had this season.

It’s probably fair to say that Saturday may have been the first rapid-fire bursts of adversity it can be asked to overcome over the year.

For a team as young as the Cyclones, that’s something that might be tough to levy.

“It’s a young football team that’s going to learn and grow from this,” coach Matt Campbell said after the game. “I love how our leadership continues to keep playing.”

At times, it looked like it might be a difficult game. On two occasions on the first drive of the game, Baylor converted fourth down attempts, the latter one resulting in a Bears touchdown.

“I think for the large majority, we did play good defense,” Reeder said after the game. “Like I was saying, at critical times and in critical moments, we just gave up too much – too many third downs to make four downs. Too many chunk plays. We didn’t take the ball away – we had been doing a good job of that.”

In the second quarter, the defense gave up a 40-yard play on the first drive of the quarter, before stepping up to force Baylor into kicking a field goal instead of punching it in from the 10.

Baylor took the lead – and then the Iowa State offense went three-and-out for the first time in the game.

Back out came the defense, and this time, Baylor converted for a touchdown by way of former Hawkeye Dillon Doyle, who felt no pressure walking into the end zone.

“It’s just kind of being consistent,” Reeder said. “(We) just have to keep playing. We lost fundamentals and eyes. Whether they were running, running, running or doing different things, we knew what was coming. We lost our fundamentals.”

The unit gave up a 93-yard drive in the second half. It had held Baylor to a 5-for-13 mark on third down conversions.

However, any Iowa State fan in the stands at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday will tell you that all five of those made a big difference in the result.

“We never took back momentum,” Reeder said. “We were kind of just shooting ourselves in the foot… They do a good job of making you pay when you’re not doing what your supposed to do.”

For one, that’s something Baylor is unique at and good at doing. It’s certainly not something new for this program going up against the Bears.

But Iowa State’s players are going to study this week what they could have done differently – or better – and where those mistakes were made. They’ll look at the moments where fundamentals got forgotten.

They’ll take away some key learning points, albeit in a loss, against one of the toughest offenses that the program may face this year.

“I mean, that’s the only way to take it for now,” Reeder said. “(There’s) eight more games. We can’t have our heads down, because it’s going to get harder from here.”

They’ll go back to the drawing board on some mistakes – particularly the pair of play-action passes from the Bears that ended in touchdown trips – however, the progress will come in how it handles the gut punches and the adversity.

That’s a timeless ‘key to the game’ that could appear in the leadup of any football game out there, but it’s impactful coming from a guy who has played football as long as Colby Reeder.

“Today was rockin’ – it was loud,” Reeder said in his first big game in Ames. “We’ve just got to play better for the fans and be better moving forward.”