at Folsom Field • Oct. 16 • 11:30 a.m. (MT) • FSN
Head Coach: Bill McCarney (10th year)
2004 Record: 2-3
Iowa State rotates two quarterbacks, redshirt-freshman Bret Meyer and sophomore Austin Flynn. Meyer has thrown 96 passes, Flynn 55. They helm an offense that spreads the field. Iowa State's three top receivers — Jon Davis (13 yards per reception), Todd Blythe (18.3. ypr) and Todd Miller (12.7 ypr) all average well over a first down each time they catch the ball. The trio has combined for 50 catches through five games.
Sophomore tailback Stevie Hicks is ISU's main weapon in the running game. Hicks has good size (6-2, 215), but isn't as swift as the backs that have had big success against CU this year — OSU's Vernand Morency and UNT's Jamario Thomas.
Both Iowa State quarterbacks will run with the ball, both in designed and broken play situations.
Iowa State's Todd Blythe has become a big-play threat in the Cyclone offense.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Player to watch: Split End Todd Blythe is a big target at 6-5, 210 pounds. The redshirt-freshman has become a big-play threat for the Cyclones, and has touchdown catches in four consecutive games, six overall.
KEYS for COLORADO
Avoid the Mental Mistakes
Mental mistakes by Colorado players and coaches (stopping on a live play, foolish penalties, calling the wrong defensive formation, running into your own punt returner) led to three big plays in the first half vs. Oklahoma State last week. Two of those resulted directly in touchdowns, the third eventually led to another touchdown. And the 21-0 deficit at halftime proved too much for CU to overcome after the break, especially since CU continued to make bonehead plays.
Three and four seasons ago when Iowa State was at its apex under McCarney, the Cyclones made a living off of turnovers. Creating turnovers is still something that McCarney preaches. ISU will make the Buffs pay if Colorado doesn't take care of the mental side of things Saturday.
Pressure the ISU quarterback(s)
When they don't run the ball, ISU will try and stretch the field in the passing game. At the same time, Cyclone quarterbacks can both run, and will try a little option to keep defenses off balance. But if Colorado can come out and be aggressive in its front four, and blitz a linebacker CU could force mistakes.
Through five games, Iowa State has given up 18 sacks — the highest number in the Big 12. Colorado has managed just 12 sacks. This is the week to add to that total.
DEFENSE The Iowa State defense has been effective against the run this season, giving up 117 yards per game to opponents. Most impressive is the 2.75 yards per carry ISU has allowed, one of the best marks in the nation.
Iowa State held Oklahoma State to 189 yards rushing on 55 attempts — 144 yards UNDER their average at that point. However, four first half ISU turnovers led to a 23-0 disadvantage at halftime, much like what happened in CU's loss to the Cowboys.
Junior SS Nik Moser has been a playmaker for the Cyclones. He has two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, three tackles for loss, and Moser leads ISU with 38 stops.
Teams have averaged 25 points per game against Iowa State. But some of that has come because mistakes on the offense put the Cyclone defense in tough situations. If the Colorado offense that's shown up in games vs. Oklahoma State, Missouri, Washington State and the second half vs. Colorado State shows up Saturday, they could have a difficult time against the Cyclones defense.
Player to watch:Junior nose tackle Nick Leaders takes up room on the inside for the Cyclones. The 6-2, 290-pound junior has 21 tackles, six of them for loss, while often taking on two blockers to free up teammates to make plays in ISU's run defense.
KEYS for COLORADO
Put James Cox in the Position to Succeed
This is a huge game for first-time starting quarterback James Cox. It will be important for Cox to have some success in order to build on the confidence he gained in the second half last week against Oklahoma State.
Conventional wisdom says get the running game going in order to open up the passing game. But conventional wisdom has not worked for this CU offense this year.
Colorado's Blake Mackey didn't make this catch vs. Washington State, but gained confidence with six catches vs. OSU.
Photo: Getty Images
Put the Ball in the Hands of Potential Playmakers
Colorado has struggled on offense this season because, much like the 2000 season, offensive playmakers — guys who can reach above and beyond the designed play and make something special happen — have not really emerged. The best bet for someone to emerge is among the trio of Bobby Purify, Lawrence Vickers and Blake Mackey.
Purify will likely not be at 100 percent with his shoulder injury. It's well past time for the CU offensive brain trust to realize that Vickers is more valuable with the ball in his hands than not. And CU can't play worse than it has on offense in several games this year. Go ahead and make sure Mackey gets the ball thrown his way and see what he can do with it.
This may be where Cox becomes an asset compared to what Joel Klatt had done so far. Klatt too often locked on to a single receiver, and seemed slow to read through his checks to second and third options. Cox seemed more willing to get receivers other than Evan Judge involved in the passing game. That tendency needs to continue.
SPECIAL TEAMS Troy Blankenship has been consistent in his punting, and has put nine of his 29 down inside the opponent's 20-yard line. However, kicker Brian Jansen has struggled, hitting just 3-of-8 field goals. He's just 1-of-5 from the 30- to 39-yard range, and has missed two PAT attempts.
ISU STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing: Bret Meyer, 53-96-589, 2 INT, 4 TD
Rushing: Stevie Hicks, 97-364/3.8, 0 TD
Receiving: Jon Davis, 25-325/13.0, 1 TD
Kickoff returns: Tyease Thompson, 13-301/23.2
Punt returns: Todd Miller, 17-131/7.7
Punting: Troy Blankenship, 29-1,165/40.2
Tackles: Nik Moser, 28 UT, 10 AT, 38 TCKLS
Tackles for loss: Tyson Smith, 6.5 TFL
Sacks: Tyson Smith, 2 SCKS
Interceptions: Nik Moser, 2 INT