FERG: Five observations from Iowa State’s win over Baylor

Oct 28, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Abu Sama III (24) runs the ball against Baylor Bears safety Devyn Bobby (28) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State had plenty of chances to put Baylor away on Saturday during what ended up as a 30-18 victory. Here are my takeaways, that begin exactly with that point.

1. The first half of that game gave Iowa State fans a real, stress-free start to things, at least in the first 28 minutes and change. The Cyclones improved to 2-6 since 2004 when facing off with the Bears in Waco, but stress did indeed enter the picture later in the game.

Weird things happen there, and that typically isn’t good news for the Cyclones. It worked out fine for ISU this time, though.

Iowa State (yet again) had multiple chances to put the Bears away. Quarterback Rocco Becht overthrew Jayden Higgins on a fly route down the sideline that would have been a touchdown had he caught the ball in stride. He had one of his less memorable starts as a Cyclone and still finished 19-31 with 238 yards, a touchdown, and one interception on a different overthrow intended for Jaylin Noel.

“All of the receivers and tight ends made plays today,” Becht said on the Cyclone Radio Network postgame show. “I’ve got to be better, though. Honestly, I felt like this was one of my worst games accuracy-wise. So, I’ve got to get back in the lab and get better and help this team out.”

The defense allowed Baylor to convert on three of its six fourth-down attempts, and Iowa State could have breathed a bit more easily if it had stopped the Bears’ offense in some key moments.

No matter the missed opportunities, Iowa State walked away with a big win. Maybe it’s just something to clean up, o maybe the wet, rainy weather had an effect. That question will be answered over the impending four-game stretch as the regular season concludes.

BONUS: Oh, and during that stretch in the Iowa State – Baylor series, coach Matt Campbell improves to 2-2. His Big 12 win percentage climbed a few points as well. 51-45 through 96 games. (53.1% win percentage).

2. No matter how Cartevious Norton’s career turns out, Iowa State used his physicality perfectly on Saturday.

Norton finished with 58 yards and had an impressive push to a pile during the game, but his 49-yard touchdown will stand out the most between his 10 rushes and two scores on the day.

The big play came on the opening drive of the second half, which helped Iowa State make a statement as it came out for the final 30 minutes.

Norton describes himself here better than I can:

“On that play, one of the (offensive lineman) kicked his guy out, Norton said. “Great kick out on his behalf. I think it was my guy (Jarrod) Hufford. That caused me to get vertical. And, you know, once you have a guy at 225 (pounds) getting vertical, you know he’s hard to tackle.”

3. Like many of you judging by social media, I wanted to see Iowa State run the ball a few more times during the 1st and goal series in the fourth quarter.

That’s just typical armchair coaching. It’s much easier to sit on a couch and watch a clock management situation transpire on TV than it is to actually live it.

I wanted to single this series out because of why I thought it told me something. Iowa State trusts its defense, and felt comfortable in the spot they were in.

While up by nine points, they opted to go at the end zone through the air. Becht missed Daniel Jackson, who was waving his arms trying to get his quarterback’s attention, for what could have been a score. Iowa State didn’t convert.

However, despite the defense giving up a touchdown alongside a pair of missed tackles on the prior drive from Baylor, Campbell held serve.

I think its akin to moments similar to Becht’s pick-six thrown in the Iowa game. Iowa State kept its quarterback in the game and grew trust. It’s paid dividends going forward.

4. Chase Contreraz impressed again. I know, I’m bringing up the kicker who’s longest field goal came from 45 yards in the game.

But seriously, Iowa State fans have long wished for a player to be 80% of what Contereraz has been for this squad.

In Big 12 play, the Iowa native is currently 12/13 on field goals and is a perfect 15/15 on extra points. Those are numbers only thought of in dreams of the season ticket holders in the past decade.

BONUS: Malik Verdon became the first player to intercept a ball from Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen on Saturday. The pick ended up helping Iowa State’s field position and eventually the Cyclones took a 17-0 lead in the first half.

At the end of the first, T.J. Tampa got ejected from the game for targeting. Had it happened 55 seconds later, he would have been forced to sit for the first half of the Kansas game. Instead, some extra rest for one of the staples of the Iowa State defense.

5. With the win, Iowa State moves into first place in the Big 12.

Find me one soul on this planet that predicted Iowa State to win four of its first five Big 12 games after dropping that game at Ohio. Or another that figured it would be in first place at any point beyond game 1 of conference play.

Iowa State made the adjustments it needed to to set itself up for the spot its in now: first place with four, high-profile games to go.

And that’s just where they want to be.

“That’s where you want to be at the end,” Matt Campbell said on ESPN+, postgame.