Three Keys to Victory: Iowa

Iowa State travels east for a Saturday showdown at Kinnick Stadium with in-state rival Iowa. CycloneNation.com's senior writer offers up his three keys to a Cyclone victory.

Don't make the first big mistake:

Last season it was the Cyclones who made a huge mistake first – giving up a blocked punt for a touchdown on special teams – and that provided Iowa with all the momentum it needed for a 40-21 victory. Especially in hostile territory, a young Iowa State cannot afford to have similar events play out in 2004.

The special teams were solid in the first game, giving up no blocks of any kind and playing a role in the decisive edge in time of possession. The quarterback position was very stable with Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn each throwing for touchdowns and not turning the ball over. Those two areas can't make big mistakes in Iowa City on Saturday.

At the same time, a defense that dropped two would-be interceptions and didn't account for any turnovers against UNI, must come up big. Like Meyer, Iowa's Drew Tate will be making his second collegiate start, and has yet to get a real defensive test. An interception return for touchdown or sack and forced fumble could swing the momentum early.

Give quarterback(s) time in the pocket:

Iowa will come at the Cyclones with their base defense, which will likely not involve as much all-out blitzing as Northern Iowa. But Kirk Ferentz's defense can also provide pressure with its front four, which allows for the base front.

The Hawkeyes are a very physical front with four seniors along the defensive line, including prolific end Matt Roth. Cyclone offensive tackle Aaron Brant will likely get the chore of keeping Roth under wraps, but Stevie Hicks must follow all of his assignments as a blocker as well. Iowa is also very solid up the middle – with Tyler Luebke, Jonathan Babineaux, and Abdul Hodge – and that could provide some headaches for ISU.

Hicks and company could struggle moving the ball on the ground, and that means Meyer and Flynn must make plays. The offensive front did a solid job of protecting the two in the season opener, allowing two sacks for minus-seven yards, and must continue to improve this weekend against the Hawkeyes.

Get pressure on Drew Tate:

For the most part, Tate had all the time he needed to pick apart the Kent State defense. The sophomore from Baytown (Texas) Lee completed 13-of-22 of his pass attempts for 136 yards, including a pair of scoring strikes to Matt Melloy. The 6-footer was picked off once, however, and had the pass was returned 100 yards for a touchdown.

ISU must get some pressure with its front seven against a young quarterback behind an offensive line still searching for itself. Compared to the last two units Ferentz has had in Iowa City, this group is clearly not yet as dominant, and surrendered four sacks in the season opener.


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