Film Study usually devotes most of its attention to the opposing team, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and Iowa State's offense can certainly be classified as desperate.
Yes, we're going to take a look at what has ailed the Cyclones this season, and what needs to be patched up before Saturday's game at Kansas State, which runs a hard-nosed 4-3 base defense that tries to take away the big play. It's a purple-and-silver version of ISU's, in scheme and strategy. Four down linemen, three linebackers who are asked to cover and who stay in on passing downs, cornerbacks that play eight yards off a wide receiver.
Saturday against Oklahoma State, Iowa State showed for the first time it could have consistent success in the passing game. Other long plays this year were either one-hit-wonders or thanks to busted coverage. But on both Quenton Bundrage touchdowns, the ball was placed perfectly, where Bundrage had the only real shot at it. Don't overlook that Bundrage ran his fade routes well enough to give the quarterback room to set the ball; this was a problem in previous games.
Kansas State, in sitting its corners off the line, offers only short and intermediate routes to an opposing offense. With so much space and a head start, it's rare for their cornerbacks to be beat, Baylor game not withstanding.
The Cyclones need to try anyway, and Saturday was an encouraging sign going forward. The numbers below, especially Rohach's, are still likely sub-standard of other Big 12 passing teams, but the fact the Cyclones are connecting on even a small fraction of them suggests the deep kinks have begun to be worked out.
Bundrage has a high number of targets in every game — seven last week; season-high was 13 against Texas Tech — which is absolutely the right call. Why would the Cyclones not throw their best receiver the ball? However, offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham needs to find ways to get other receivers involved to relieve Bundrage of some burden and force a defense to cover an entire field. More E.J. Bibbs, more Tad Ecby.
Iowa State will again be without Aaron Wimberly this week, who's now dealing with a hamstring injury after missing most of the second half against Texas Tech and being limited against Baylor because of a shoulder/back injury. Figures, the way Iowa State's season has gone. Since Wimberly earned workhorse status, against Tulsa in September, he's been 100 percent in two games. The Cyclones have tried to make do with Shontrelle Johnson and DeVondrick Nealy, but it's clear neither is best suited as a feature runner.
The most telling metric to back up that statement is quality carries, a mark of efficiency. Defining a "quality" carry as one that gains four yards or more, a touchdown or a first down, we're able to determine what a back is doing with each of his touches and not relying on a stat such as "average," which can be bloated by even one long run.
The quality carry numbers for Johnson and Nealy are not pretty. Wimberly was quality on 63 percent of his carries against Tulsa, suggesting that more than half the time he was hitting the correct hole, staying north-south, trying to make the right play instead of the big one. Johnson this year has a mark of 40 percent. Nealy, 29. The two are fine changeup runners, but neither has the style to be a No. 1 guy. Too many yards lost, too many dance moves, too many unsuccessful bounces outside.
When an offensive line is missing blocks, it doesn't matter how good the running back is. It got better as the game wore on, but the Cyclones were awful in the first few series against OSU, with Tom Farniok (top) and Brock Dagel (bottom), two mainstays on the unit, failing to execute second-level assignments that derailed potentially big plays.
Kansas State, again runs a basic, bend-but-don't-break defense. Not many blitzes, no weird pre-snap looks. Other than the Baylor game, the Wildcats have forced opponents to string together solid drives of 10-plus plays. Messingham doesn't need to pitch a perfect game, but he needs to have ready a gameplan that keeps the Cyclones moving forward and picking up chunks of yards on every play, making sure they stay out of third-and-long (Iowa State is 98th in third-down conversion percentage).
|Matchup Preview | November 2, 2013|
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-6, 1-2 Away)
|Kansas State Wildcats|
(3-4, 3-2 Home)