Still Down For the Count

Iowa State has seen plenty of lows during a seven-game losing streak, but it found a new one Saturday afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium against unranked Kansas State. The Wildcats shut out the Cyclones 45-0, marking the first time since 1958 that the team had been blanked in consecutive games. It also dashed any hopes of a fourth-consecutive trip to the postseason, as ISU fell to 2-7 overall and 0-5 in Big 12 play.

The offensive struggles were evident two weeks ago in a 28-0 drubbing at Nebraska, and were even more blatant on Saturday. A quarterback carousel of Waye Terry, who made his first career start, and Austin Flynn combined for just 101 yards passing and three interceptions on 11-of-29 completions. The Cyclones did get 69 yards on 15 carries from Stevie Hicks, but 31 of those came in the first quarter.

But an offense that will easily rank as the worst in McCarney's tenure as coach managed just 140 yards total on 58 plays, an average of just 2.4, and nine first downs.

"We have to have a good week of practice," said Lane Danielsen, whose first quarter catch to break ISU's all-time career receiving record was one of the few bright spots. "Offensively, we haven't been able to get any type of rhythm. We've been shuffling quarterbacks and trying different things. The offensive line has been beat up and shuffled around. We can't seem to get a rhythm between the quarterback and receivers, and we can't get a run game going."

Much as was the case two weeks ago in Lincoln, ISU's defense put together one good half of football. Only this time it came in the first half, as McCarney's team trailed just 14-0 going into the locker room.

But a 70-yard run by Darren Sproles on the opening play of the second half led to a downward spiral for the Cyclones, who would give up three touchdowns in a span of just five minutes and 31 seconds. Ell Roberson connected with James Terry for a 20-yard pass at the 10:25 mark, then handed off to Sproles for a 32-yard run just over a minute later.

"It was a complete domination in the second half by Kansas State," said McCarney. "I felt like, defensively, we did some real good things in the first half to give us a chance to hang in there, make a real good game of it and have a chance to win. That first play of the second half really hurt. That kind of set the tone for the second half for Kansas State, coming out and really controlling the ball and dominating the line of scrimmage."

Positives were few and far between for a downtrodden Cyclone team that found a new low. With concerns about his team's effort in upcoming weeks, McCarney said the focus shifts to his coaches and motivating a team reeling from seven straight defeats.

"It's important that they know the character of this program is still in place," he said. "We've got a lot of good players on this team that want to be coached, finish with their heads hung high and do good things.

"But it makes it hard when a number of these teams that we've played are really talented. Kansas State is an outstanding football team, standing on the sidelines and watching them. That's still the same team that was picked in the top five this preseason. It's my job to make sure everybody stays hungry and we keep good focus."

Finding a way to put points on the board will be the first item of business. Whether it would be Terry or Flynn taking the snaps against Colorado next Saturday remains to be seen.

"None of the quarterbacks in there were real effective," McCarney said. "We'll continue to evaluate who might be our starter next week. We don't like playing this quarterback carousel thing. We've got to find somebody who will be consistent and make more plays.

"But it sure isn't all our quarterback. We didn't protect as good as we needed to, and didn't make some plays when we had opportunities from the skill position. It's a very disappointing loss and offensive day not being able to put points on the board."

Flynn added, "We've got to keep moving on and find a way somehow to put points on the board. It's going to start on Monday. We're going to work hard. This isn't the end of it because we're not going to postseason play. We're really going to get after it and work hard this week."

Dropped balls continued to be a mainstay for an ISU receiving corps that has come under fire. Jamaul Montgomery, Lance Young, Lane Danielsen and Jack Whitver all had opportunities to make plays, but failed.

Still, McCarney wouldn't point any fingers.

"It's not any one guy," he said. "It's protection here. It's a dropped pass there. It's a route that maybe not have been where we wanted it there. It's Kansas State making a great play on a real good throw. It's a combination of those things."

ISU takes the field in Ames Saturday against Colorado at 1 p.m. in a game that won't be televised.

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