Another week, another loss by Iowa State to a ranked foe.
Despite some sloppy play at times, the Longhorns still rolled to a 27-0 halftime lead with nearly a 300-yard advantage in total offense. The anemic play of ISU's offense was a large reason why the Cyclones dug themselves another hole. At times it was ugly.
One possession in particular painted the picture. Cris Love goes back to pass, but instead of a big play he makes like Dorothy on the yellow-brick road and clicks his heels before falling down on his own for a big loss. On second down, a miscommunication with a wide receiver leads to Love overthrowing his teammate by about 30 yards. Then on third down Love gets sacked.
I think the right move was made in starting Love. He kick-started the offense, which had hit a wall with Austin Flynn at the controls, against Texas Tech and deserved to get a shot. Based on what we saw Saturday, barring injury to Flynn, it may be the only shot Love gets.
However, in the second half Cyclone Nation got a glimpse of why I maintain fans should be excited about the future – if not necessarily the present – state of ISU football.
I'm not one for moral victories, but when you've lost five straight games – and all five by a wide margin – you take any solace you can find and cuddle with it. With that said, you had to like the way Flynn came roaring out in the second half after Love was benched. He showed his two best attributes: athleticism and attitude.
He clearly didn't like watching, and took it as an insult. That's good. He came right out and engineered two scoring drives, as much with his legs as he did his arm. Also, we fans finally got a chance to see the Stevie Hicks that drew rave reviews during spring ball. The shallow cuts and yards-after-contact had been missing from the ISU tailback arsenal ever since Hiawatha Rutland sprained his ankle in mid-2002.
The offensive line just didn't suddenly get better when Hicks came in the game. He made it better. He showed excellent vision and ran with authority.
Plus, I thought the overall effort was there throughout the game, regardless of the score. Despite all the injuries, adversity, and struggles, the Cyclones are still playing hard for Dan McCarney. Of course, they're also missing blocks and tackles at an alarming rate, but young teams lacking physical development will do that. Even the Texas players pointed out afterwards how impressed they were with the Cyclones' effort. If Mack Brown could get his kids to play that hard for him he might have at least one win over Oklahoma by now.
Defensively, you have to like Jason Berryman and Brent Curvey. When Curvey committed last year, we had no idea who he was and the folks at Rivals suggested he might struggle to just make the two-deep before his junior year. Nope, this kid is another James Reed in the making. Berryman might already be Iowa State's most physically gifted player on that side of the ball. His motor is impressive, and he even makes plays down the field away from the line of scrimmage with regularity. Other youngsters – like Domonique Flower, Ron Prelow, DeAndre Jackson, Matthew Scherbring, and Caleb Berg – provide promise as well.
Patience, it's a four-letter word to a sports fan. Lord knows that I'm probably the last person in sports media that should be preaching patience. However, we've seen Mac take this program from literally sludge to respectability already. Therefore, there's no reason to believe that he can't overcome a rebuilding year or two and take it to the next level as well.
Hey, we could be Colorado. Trying going from back-to-back Big 12 North Division titles to losing to Baylor. The bottom line is that there are very few programs in college football that don't suffer rebuilding seasons. Unfortunately, the Cyclones seem to keep playing those teams every week.
Cyclone Tip-off Observations
Here's what I posted on our premium message board on Saturday night following the preseason hoops tip-off at Hilton Coliseum:
- Let's lead off with physical appearances first. The reports of Jared Homan's hard work are not exaggerated. He's all man. Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock looked like juniors physically, not freshmen. Damion Staple is ripped as well. However, perhaps the most chiseled Cyclone was Adam Schaper. He clearly used his time away from the court to hit the weights.
- Reggie George is going to be a good player at ISU, but probably not yet. He's smooth, runs the court exceedingly well, and is a quick-leaper. He just needs time to add bulk.
- Blalock is as advertised. He easily won the slam-dunk competition and has excellent court vision and quickness in the open floor. An added plus was his outside shooting, he nailed two deep three-pointers.
- Stinson reminds me of Jamaal Tinsley. He's got the dribble on a string, his head on a swivel, makes up for his lack of quickness with heady play and long strides, and he plays with that same sly look on his face. He's a little careless with the ball at times, but he'll be an excellent floor leader before he's done.
- Jake Sullivan is still the team's best player, and with Blalock and Stinson he'll rank among the leaders in scoring in the Big 12.
A note on Jackson Vroman
After talking to a few folks up in Ames on Saturday, I would be mildly surprised if Vroman is outright dismissed from the team.
Vroman, I'm sure you recall, was arrested for OWI at 2:22 a.m. on Thursday morning after he was caught driving on the wrong side of the street in Ames. There's an interesting aspect to the story, which you'll find on our premium board by clicking here:http://insiders1.ezboard.com/fiowastatefrm3.showMessage?topicID=1369.topic
This arrest is on the heels of a marijuana possession charge back in July. Plus, ISU recently filed a successful appeal on Vroman's behalf with the Big 12 in order to make him academically eligible for the first semester.
What a way for Vroman to pay back the athletic department for getting him a second chance he may not have deserved.
I would like to see the university tell Vroman that he can keep his scholarship – since they can't give it to anyone else this year anyway – and earn his degree. But, due to his irresponsibility, he has lost the privilege of representing ISU basketball. He's lost the right to sign autographs, be adored by Cyclone fans, and play basketball on national television.
However, I've got a sneaking suspicion you'll still see Vroman in an ISU uniform this season, even though he was not in attendance at Hilton on Saturday nor was he introduced to the crowd as a member of the 2003-04 squad. If I were a betting man, I would bet you'll see Vroman suspended for the first semester.
My Top 25
Ranking the top teams in college football this week.
- Oklahoma (7-0)… Continues to roll on and next faces a rebuilding Colorado team in Boulder. Will the Sooners get caught looking ahead to the November 1st clash against Oklahoma State? No.
- Miami, Fla. (7-0)… Hurricanes have a bye week next before travelling to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech in what's setting up to be the game of the season.
- Virginia Tech (6-0)… Morgantown is always a tough place to play, and West Virginia showed against Miami that it's a dangerous club despite it's 2-4 record. Upset alert? Yep.
- Georgia (6-1)… The ‘Dawgs struggled against Vanderbilt, but should have another breather this week against Alabama-Birmingham before consecutive rivalry games against Florida and Auburn.
- USC (6-1)… Looked very impressive on the road against a Notre Dame squad that had some momentum after upsetting Pittsburgh. Next up is a trip to Husky Stadium, which is never easy. If the Trojans don't lose this week, they probably won't lose again in 2003.
- Washington State (6-1)… The Cougars played so-so against Stanford coming off a bye, but they'll get a test this week from a desperate Oregon State team needing a win to stay in the Pac-10 race.
- Michigan State (7-1)… Something special is brewing in East Lansing, and quarterback Jeff Smoker has to be considered a legitimate Heisman candidate now. The Spartans get two weeks to prepare for a visit from Michigan.
- Ohio State (6-1)… Nice win over Iowa, but that offense has to get on track if the Buckeyes are going to repeat as Big Ten champions.
- Florida State (6-1)… Despite losing to Miami the Seminoles will still be in the BCS because they're clearly the class of the ACC. At least until the Hurricanes and Hokies arrive in 2004.
- LSU (6-1)… Posted a solid bounce-back win on the road at South Carolina and now hosts Auburn in what could turn out to be the game that decides the SEC West Division title.
- Northern Illinois (7-0)… Huskies were on upset alert last week at Western Michigan, but they didn't lose focus. If they escape Bowling Green with a victory on Saturday they'll run the table.
- Purdue (6-1)… It's always nice to come away from Madison with a win, but before we award the Boilermakers the Big Ten title let's remember they still have to play Michigan and Ohio State on the road.
- Auburn (5-2)… Give the Tigers credit for coming back and making something out of their season following a horrific start. But they still face LSU and Georgia on the road, so they've got a difficult path to the SEC crown.
- Nebraska (6-1)… No hangover from the tough loss at Missouri, and now the Huskers will be looking for revenge this week when they host a struggling Iowa State.
- Iowa (5-2)… Tough to win on the road in the Big Ten when you don't score an offensive touchdown. Hawkeyes are now on upset alert this week against Penn State, a game everyone expects them to win easily.
- Oklahoma State (6-1)… Back-to-back big wins at home against Kansas State and Texas Tech the past two weeks. However, the Cowboys will be tested the next two weeks on the road at Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
- Michigan (6-2)…Wolverines now control their own destiny in the Big Ten with the Hawkeyes and Badgers losing. They also face conference co-leaders Purdue and Michigan State the next two weeks in a row.
- Wisconsin (6-2)…After two physical slugfests against Ohio State and Purdue, a road date with Northwestern should be just what the beat up Badgers need.
- Bowling Green (6-1)…The Falcons will upset Northern Illinois at home this weekend and knock the Huskies from the ranks of the undefeated.
- TCU (7-0)…The Horned Frogs came back against UAB, but should be on upset alert this weekend against underrated Houston on the road.
- Arkansas (4-2)…Two weeks ago the Razorbacks were ranked #8 in the country. Two weeks – and two home-losses later to unranked foes – Houston Nutt's team is nearly out of the SEC race.
- Texas (5-2)…The talented Longhorns continue their march towards another Cotton/Holiday Bowl berth, unless Oklahoma somehow loses twice.
- Missouri (5-2)…This week's game against Texas Tech is a must win if the Tigers want to remain in the Big 12 North Division title race.
- Mississippi (5-2)…Eli Manning's team is quietly 3-0 in the SEC with two straight conference home games in a row coming up next. After a poor start, the Rebels will be a factor after all.
- Utah (6-1)…It turns out Urban Meyer wasn't just a flash in the pan at Bowling Green. In his first season in Salt Lake City he's got the Utes in control of the Mountain West.
My Heisman ballot
Ranking the top five candidates this week for college football's most coveted individual award.
- Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)… Overcoming personal adversity (two serious knee injuries) + Statistics + Guiding the nation's top-ranked team almost always = Heisman Trophy. Yes, that is what I wrote last week as well.
- B.J. Symons (QB-Texas Tech)… He's not the reason the Red Raiders narrowly lost at Oklahoma State. His numbers are still astronomical.
- Jeff Smoker (QB-Michigan State)… Last year at this time he was a pariah on a team going nowhere. Now he's living a Rudyesque movie script for the first place team in the Big Ten.
- Larry Fitzgerald (WR-Pittsburgh)… Had over 200 yards receiving against Rutgers, but nobody knows it because the Panthers have fallen out of the rankings.
- Chris Perry (RB-Michigan)… Leading the nation in rushing and ranks second in scoring. But he needs big numbers the next two weeks against Purdue and Michigan State to get back in the race.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)