Special Team Mishaps Cripple ISU

It's probably just as well that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't track his team's statistics very closely, because if he did then the Hawkeyes probably wouldn't have had much of a shot against the Cyclones Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.

But two offensive turnovers from Austin Flynn and a pair of blocked punts deep in its own territory annulled any Iowa State advantage in total yards, passing yardage, first downs, time of possession, or anything other mark, for that matter. As a result, Iowa ended a five-game losing streak in the series with a 40-21 victory and re-took possession of the Cy-Hawk Trophy in dominating fashion.

"I've never worried too much about statistics," said Ferentz, who won his first game against the Cyclones in four opportunities. "I worry about the scoreboard. I'm extremely pleased. We played extremely hard."

In addition to timely turnovers and knocking down a pair of Troy Blankenship punts, Iowa's offense took advantage of short fields for a majority of its scores. In a decisive third quarter, the Hawkeyes pulled away with short field goals from Nate Kaeding which came on scoring drives of two and three yards.

Iowa turned Flynn's first turnover of the game, a first-quarter fumble, into its first touchdown of the contest. Nathan Chandler found Maurice Brown in the corner of the end zone from 17 yards out to make it 10-0 with 6:16 left in the opening quarter. The drive spanned just 40 yards over four plays.

Although he would throw for 239 yards on 24-of-41 completions in his third start, Flynn's day didn't get much better. He faced a constant rush and made decisions typical of a redshirt freshman quarterback. One of those plays came at the end of the first half when ISU blew a golden scoring opportunity. As time ticked down, Flynn found Young for seven yards, setting up what would have been a chip shot for Adam Benike, only to watch time tick off with the Cyclones out of timeouts.

"It was poor execution by me," said Flynn, referring to the drive. "I should have thrown that ball away and learned from it happening in the first game. That's my fault and probably hurt us a little with momentum. We didn't get any points out of it.

"There were a lot ups and downs in the game, and maybe a few more downs than I should have had, especially on the two turnovers. It's unfortunate and inexcusable. Some series we were getting into a rhythm and others we weren't. There were a lot of ups and downs, but credit their defense. They caught us off guard. They backed off when we thought they were going to blitz. The coaches had a good gameplan."

The 40-point afternoon for the Hawkeyes was not indicative of the defense played by their opponent. With the game slowly slipping away, the ISU defense held Iowa to field goals twice in the third quarter when turnovers and special teams put them at a disadvantage.

Fred Russell, the defense's nemesis one season ago in Iowa City, managed just 75 rushing yards on 26 carries. Meanwhile, first-year starter Nathan Chandler tallied 72 yards through the air on 7-of-14 passing. Not a spectacular offensive day for the Hawks, but it was enough to beat mistake-prone ISU.

"I feel bad about our defense," said Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney, who lost to the Hawks for the first time since 1997. "Holding a team to 243 yards usually doesn't compute to 40 points. But we had two turnovers and two blocked punts, and that really made a big difference in the game. We didn't force as many turnovers as we needed and protect the ball as well as we needed. Iowa's just a better football team."

Losing to a ‘better' Iowa team was a bitter pill to swallow for a squad lacking one player that had ever lost to the instate rival.

"It's pretty sad," said JaMaine Billups, who tallied four tackles and one stop for a loss. "We worked too hard to let that game go. We let down the past five years of seniors and classes. It's a pretty sad atmosphere. It was a big game, but we've got to keep moving forward. We've got a long season ahead. We're not going to look back. We want to keep going forward. It's in the past now."

McCarney added, "We really wanted to win this game. I'm sorry for the kids. They put a lot into this and wanted to win the game. Everybody in our program is sick to their stomachs. They don't like losing. If I find one coach or one player that accepts what happens today, and everything is cool and fine, then we've got a problem on this team. I don't think that will happen. Everybody will be sick for a while, but we'll evaluate, critique, make decisions and move onto the next one. I will not let this team get divided."

The Cyclones were playing their third consecutive game without the services of All-Big 12 offensive guard Bob Montgomery, and went without injured kicker and punter Tony Yelk who sat out with a knee injury. Matthew Robertson, Johnny Smith and Anthony Forrest have also been stuck on the sidelines the past three weeks.

"We've got a chance to get some guys back hopefully by the next game – Matt Robertson, Tony Yelk possibly, Bob Montgomery we don't know about yet, Johnny Smith and Henry Poullard," McCarney said. "But that had nothing to do with our punt team today. It had something to do with kickoffs and Tony Yelk not punting, because he's got one of the strongest legs around. But that's no excuse for losing this game."

ISU will be given time to reflect, as a bye week awaits before the season's first road trip to Northern Illinois on Sept. 27. "We need to improve all around," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs. "There were plenty of things wrong on offense, defense and special teams. The measure of a champion is how you can overcome being knocked down. You can lay down for the ten count or you can get back up fighting. I believe we're going to come back swinging."


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