Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

From The Other Side: West Virginia

BearsIllustrated.com sat down with Alex Halsted, who covers the Cyclones for AllCyclones.com to discuss the Baylor vs. Iowa State game this Saturday.

1. Rhoads was a favorite when he was hired, but things haven't seemed to turn like I'm sure he would have liked. Where do things stand with him? Is his job in jeopardy or does he still have support to work things out?

Before the season started there was various speculation about what it would take for Paul Rhoads to survive the hot seat. Some felt four or five wins and show progress, some felt bowl or bust. Midway through the season, Iowa State is 2-4 and faces another difficult test against the No. 2 Bears.

It’s hard to say for certain what the outlook is, especially in the world of college athletics, which can be a bit different than with professional teams. But the one certainty is that there is definitely angst among the fan base as the Cyclones have just seven wins in the last 2 ½ seasons. The key might be the final five games starting next weekend, where the Cyclones could be more competitive after facing the nation’s top-3 offenses in the country in back-to-back-to-back weeks. Nonetheless, the Big 12 never gets much easier. 

2. SBR has had a couple of seasons in the Mangino offense. How would you rate his handling of the offense this year? What things does he need to improve on?

The biggest disappoint for many in senior quarterback Sam Richardson this season has been the inconsistency. There was hope among fans that in his final season, and with 20+ starts under his belt, Richardson would take the next big step. So far, it’s been a mostly inconsistent season.

Despite having a number of weapons at receiver, Iowa State’s offense at times has been lacking. Richardson really needs to improve on taking shots downfield and just the consistency of playing a complete game. The Cyclones scored 21 points in the first quarter against TCU and then never scored again in the final 46 minutes, 49 seconds. Whether that’s all on Richardson is hard to say.

With all that said, Richardson has only six games remaining in his Iowa State career, and many fans are getting anxious to see more of redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning. 

3. Mike Warren and Allen Lazard have been great sparks for the ISU offense. What have you seen from them that has helped make them successful through the first half of the season?

Fans got a good look at Allen Lazard as a true freshman last year as the four-star receiver, who had his pick of schools before staying in his home state, broke out as one of the team’s leading receivers. In 2015, Lazard is much bigger and faster and it has shown. Last week, Lazard showed his ability best when he caught a 29-yard pass, broke a tackle and took the ball another 45 yards for a 74-yard touchdown. He’s dynamic, but Iowa State needs to target him more often.

As for Warren, he’s been the bright spot in a thus far disappointing season. He has 652 yards to lead all FBS freshmen running backs and posted back-to-back-to-back 100-plus yard performances for the first time by a freshman in school history. Warren is quick and shifty and has the ability to break a big run on any carry, which Iowa State hasn’t had in recent seasons.

4. This will be the third straight top 5 offense that ISU has faced, in as many weeks. How do you see the ISU defense approaching this game in trying to slow down the Baylor offense?

The Iowa State defense, which is improved from 2014, has been given a stiff test. After facing Texas Tech and TCU in the last two weeks, both of which were ranked in the top-3 nationally, the defense now faces Baylor’s No. 1 high-powered offense. There is no stopping Baylor’s offense, but it’ll be interesting to see if it can use the last two weeks to at least make improvement. Iowa State allowed 66 points to Texas Tech and improved that number to 45 against TCU, so we'll see what's in store this week.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said the team has discussed ways to attempt to slow down Corey Coleman, including with a double-team, but he said it’s picking which “poison cup” to drink from as it’s either let Coleman do his work or leave someone else open. And the Cyclones know Coleman is bound to get his touches one way or another. 

5. With the season not starting out well for the Cyclones, what is the mindset of the team, and how do you them approaching this game from a mentality aspect? 

I don’t think the locker room is lost in maybe the same way it was late in the 2014 season, and there are a lot of young players on the team who want to prove themselves, but it doesn’t get easy when you’re 2-4 and entering another week of stiff competition as 37-point underdogs.

With that said, Iowa State’s defense seems to see this Baylor team as another challenge. 


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