Here are three keys to Iowa State's game at Kansas State on Saturday.
1. Stop starting slow. The number keeps growing — the Cyclones after what Paul Rhoads called an "atrocious" start against Oklahoma State now have four three-and-outs on their first offensive possessions. Twice they went six-and-out. Only once have they made a legitimate drive on their opening possession.
It's a combination of things. Against the Cowboys it was missed blocks and then miscommunication on a passing route over the middle. Iowa State's defense can't continue to defend such a short field, but that's what happens when an offense takes over on its 25-yard-line and has to punt. On the road, it's doubly important the Cyclones get something going on their opening possession.
2. Limit the whiffs. If 17 sounds like a lot of missed tackles, that's because it is. The Cyclones were money in bringing the ball-carrier down against Iowa and Tulsa, with missed tackles in the single digits. That's phenomenal. But in the big loss to Oklahoma State the Cyclones played their gaps poorly, in part because the loss of two starting front-seven players (Willie Scott and Luke Knott) led to some communication lapses. Doing things like that leads to players being out of position, which leads to poor angles, which lead to, yes, missed tackles.Iowa State knows what's coming this weekend. Kansas State will run, run, run. The key to stopping that will be staying patient and — like a broken record — keep plugging those gaps, but weak side linebacker Jevohn Miller must keep containment against Daniel Sams and his tendency to cut against the grain on his quarterback keeps.
3. Dink and dunk, all day long. The Wildcats play their defensive backs far off the line of scrimmage to discourage opposing quarterbacks from going deep. In doing so, they live with giving up short passing plays.
This is similar to what Iowa State does defensively, so Sam Richardson and the offense should be used to seeing it in practice. On the short routes, it's all about timing. The Cyclones have been inconsistent in that regard. Take, for instance, Richardson's pick-six last weekend, when a throw to the sideline to Quenton Bundrage was way, way late (it didn't help Bundrage's route wasn't sharp).
|Matchup Preview | November 2, 2013|
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-6, 1-2 Away)
|Kansas State Wildcats|
(3-4, 3-2 Home)