Iowa State isn’t so naïve to think it will stop the high-powered, fast-paced Baylor offense come Saturday night. Instead, the Cyclones are employing a different game plan, one that most other teams abide by — just slow it down.
The No. 7 Bears will arrive at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday with the top-ranked offense in the nation, averaging slightly more than 654 total yards of offense and nearly 60 points per contest. Iowa State knows well how that can end, coming up on the wrong side in a 71-7 drubbing a season ago in Waco, Texas.
What will it take to mount an upset of Baylor this year?
“Oh, 72 [points] I’d take right now if you’re asking,” coach Paul Rhoads said, before turning more serious. “A lot. You’ve got to score in this league, but against this particular team you’ve got to score points.”
Before the Cyclones can score, they must first solve the mystery that is the Baylor offense. Rhoads called Baylor’s spread ‘extremely unique’ in comparison to any other team in the country.
The Bears spread the field — sideline to sideline — and make in-play adjustments to throw off the defense. They show run to alter the defense’s package only to pass when the wrong personnel package is on the field. And they move fast, allowing little time for reflecting and even less for preparing.
“You have to literally get ready, put your hand down, get the call [and] be ready right away,” defensive end Cory Morrissey said. “You can’t stick around kind of messing with your stance. You’ve got to go.”
For the Iowa State offense, the key will be scoring. Lots and lots of scoring. The Cyclones didn’t put a number on it — aside from their coach’s joke — but upward of 50 points will likely be needed to knock off this Baylor team.
That means long drives to keep the Baylor offense off the field, but especially drives that ultimately lead to points.
“You want to try to get their offense off the field, try to get them off the field for as long as you can,” said quarterback Sam Richardson, who has become more comfortable behind center in recent weeks. “Putting up points is the main thing and trying to get their offense out of a groove by standing on the sideline too long and end [drives] in the end zone.”
Offensive coordinator Mark Mangino insists that Iowa State won’t worry about how long it takes to snap the ball or run plays. The key will be moving the ball and avoiding three-and-outs.
“We don’t think in those terms,” Mangino said of controlling the clock. “We need to get out on the field and we need to score. That’s our emphasis every week. We try to be patient [and] we always try to stay in our game plan no matter what is going on.”
And the Cyclones hope this year’s game plan will help them avoid what happened a season ago down south.
“This team is better than the team that beat us 71-7 a year ago,” Rhoads said. “This is an outstanding football team that we’re facing Saturday night, and if we don’t play our absolute best, we could be embarrassed again.”