While the special teams problems were not limited to the Iowa game – Dan McCarney's team had two punts blocked six weeks later at Nebraska – the problems against their bitter rivals from the East were magnified by the game's intensity. Special teams coach Marty Fine, who also coached the offensive line, was replaced at season's end.
With Terry Allen and DeMontie Cross heading it up this season, the Cyclones are hoping to put an end to the special teams woes that have plagued them in the recent past. This weekend's trip to Iowa City presents the biggest test to date.
"We clearly lost that part of the game and the rest of the game didn't seem to be quite a mismatch," said McCarney. "We had more yards, more first downs, and more time of possession. But all of that goes for naught when you just get your tail kicked in special teams. We were embarrassing.
"They blocked a punt the first time and came right back and did the exact same things on the second one. That's a real poor reflection on me, my staff, and the coaches, when you can't make an adjustment and fix that on the sideline. That's exactly how we approach it."
ISU got its first live action in the punt coverage and other special teams units on Saturday against UNI. All systems are go heading into this weekend's tilt.
"It's hard to practice special teams," said Nik Moser, a junior who participates in three special teams. "You can't go all out in special teams (in practice), and it's hard to scrimmage it full speed. You can scrimmage offense and defense, but you're not going to get a real feel for special teams until you get into a real game."
Moser was a part of the punt team that gave up the two blocked punts against Iowa last season, and says nothing fueled he and his teammates' fire more than that debacle.
"Special teams are huge in any game, and especially in this one with what happened to us last year in that department," he said. "You don't want a repeat performance of what happened last year in special teams. It was one of the biggest turning points in the game. Coach Allen and Coach Cross have emphasized special teams throughout camp and the season. It's been a real point we've hit on."
What are some of the reasons for ISU's early strides? McCarney says it's everything from improved techniques to solid play by first-year deep snapper Landon Schrage.
"We met with a lot of college teams and NFL people trying to upgrade schemes, ideas, adjustments, practices, and drills so that we can be better," McCarney said. "We didn't get off to a great start, but we still won seven of 10 goals that we set Saturday. We did a lot of real good things.
"Landon Schrage is another guy that nobody talks about. That was his first game that he ever played, and he was back there firing them out as well as any (deep) snapper that I've had. It's one of the toughest jobs on any football team, but I'm really proud of him. It helps your protection and punter when you can get that snap back there real fast. We're going to have to do that this week."
Coming up big…more frequently
Against an Iowa defense that doesn't give up a lot of yardage, ISU will need to take advantage of any big play opportunities. But the Cyclones did not get off to as good of a start as McCarney would have liked Saturday.
Stevie Hicks's 39-yard run in the second half accounted for the game's longest play from scrimmage, but that was the only offensive play that went for more than 25 yards. The speedy Tyease Thompson was also on the verge of some big runs, but couldn't break free.
"There were some times Saturday that we had chances at some longer runs and bigger runs," McCarney said. "One big play over 25 yards, run or pass, is not acceptable. We talked to the kids yesterday about that. We're looking for more big plays. We think we have some players, ability, and potential to make more than one big play offensively. It's going to be hard this week."
McCarney addressed some questions about the status of a few players, namely Bobby Chalk and Greg Coleman. Chalk made big progress in preseason practice and drew plenty of praise for McCarney, but sat out the UNI game after being suspended early in camp. Coleman, meanwhile, had climbed to second-team status late in camp only to see three other tailbacks play ahead of him Saturday.
ISU's head coach said he expects Chalk to play against the Hawkeyes, but didn't say the same for Coleman.
"Bobby Chalk will play this week," McCarney said. "All along we saw through the month of preseason that he would help our football team. He sat out one game because of an error in judgement, and he'll be back on the field this week. He will be on special teams and possibly in the secondary.
"Right now we're going to try to redshirt (Coleman). There is no question he's a quality football player. We really worked him a lot on special teams and at running back during camp, but part of that reason was because Jason Scales missed a lot of practices during camp. That gave Greg more opportunities and more carries. Right now we'd go Stevie Hicks, Tyease Thompson, Jason Scales, and then Greg would be our next guy. Barring injuries we'll hold him and redshirt him."