FB Insider: OSU Pre-Game

Football insider Jack Whitver takes a look at the Cyclones' Big 12 road battle with Oklahoma State Saturday, which will open the conference season. He believes Todd Blythe's ability to handle the extra pressure and a stellar Cowboy secondary will be a big key to ISU escapting Stillwater with a victory.

CN: Going off of your experience, what challenges could this team have playing a football game after a bye week?

The biggest problem with having a bye week is that you haven't played game speed competition in two weeks. Of course the team will practice more first string against first string, but it still isn't game speed.

The second problem, especially this year, is that we had some momentum going. We have played well the first three weeks, and are coming off of a big win. Hopefully an idle week does not slow or even stop that momentum.

CN: How were the Cyclones able to overcome any challenges they had when you were playing?

As I mentioned above, the coaching staff puts together practice so that there is very little scout-team work. It is 1's on 1's the whole practice, which makes it more competitive.

I have seen teams scrimmage during the bye week, but that is risky. The last thing you want to do is get a starter hurt during the bye week, like Chris Whitaker tearing up his knee the week of September 11 after the Iowa game was cancelled. I would be willing to bet that Coach did not do much scrimmaging this past week.

CN: Switching gears to Oklahoma State, give us your scouting report of All-Big 12 cornerback and punt return man Darrent Williams.

Darrent reminds me of the best cover corner I ever played against, Terrence Newman. Terrence played at Kansas State and is now starting for the Dallas Cowboys. The reason I say they are similar is that they can totally shut down a receiver, but they can also break open a game as a return man. They both have tremendous speed. Williams runs a sub 4.3 and Newman was a Big 12 sprint champion. He will present a problem for the young ISU receivers, but I think they will be ready for the challenge.

CN: Oklahoma State's defensive secondary as a whole presents a lot of problems for opponents. What specifically do they do in order to make it so difficult?

Oklahoma State plays mostly a nickel defense, which means they play with five defensive backs instead of four. The extra D-back replaces a linebacker, which means there is more athletic ability on the field. However, it also means that there are fewer guys to stop the running game. Hopefully, with only two linebackers, we can get our running game going.

Oklahoma State mixes up their coverages very well. They play many different zone concepts, trying to confuse the quarterbacks. They will play a little man-to-man, but mostly zone. Also, Oklahoma State will blitz some, which is something that the young quarterbacks will need to be ready for. Iowa didn't blitz hardly at all, so the quarterbacks have not seen a lot of that this year.

CN: How do you see the Cowboy defensive backs matching up against the ISU receiving corps? What will Todd Bltyhe need to do in order to be successful?

It will definitely be the biggest challenge of the year for Iowa State. They have an experienced secondary, but more than that, they are very good athletes. Knowing what type of attitude the young guys have, I know they will be looking forward to the challenge. They are extremely competitive, and they will not back down from anyone.

This will be a good test for Blythe also. He will be a targeted man now that he has got off to a great start. Todd will not be able to sneak up on anybody. The thing he will have to do is run great routes. He will not be able to run by a guy like Darrent Williams, so in order to get open, he will have to run good routes. It will be a different test, a test where the D-backs meet his athletic ability for the first time this year.

CN: What ways would you like to see Barney Cotton and the Cyclone offense go about attacking the Cowboys?

Obviously I would like to see us run the ball better. But eventually, you have to stop beating your head against the wall and focus on what you are good at. So far this year, the passing game has produced the majority of the big plays.

I don't expect us to abandon the running game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Coach Cotton loosen the reigns a little bit on the quarterbacks. They are both playmakers, and they both have experience now.

CN: Offensively, OSU reminds me a lot of Kansas State's system in recent years, and to maybe Nebraska's approach of a few seasons ago. What might be some similarities in your mind, and some differences?

Obviously by only throwing 13 passes in their first three games, that shows they are a run dominated offense. The thing that is tough to determine is if they can't throw the ball, or if they haven't had to throw the ball yet. With a new quarterback, that is a good question. In Seneca Wallace's first game as a Cyclone, we only threw about eight balls. It definitely wasn't because he couldn't throw; it was because we didn't have to. That is up to the coaches to decide – can they, or have they not had to.

I definitely think that Oklahoma State has the offensive system to throw the ball. They have been able to throw the ball for years. It is a matter of personnel.

CN: Which players on the defense will have to come up huge against such a run-oriented foe?

Once again, it is up to the front seven on Saturday. The two defensive tackles will have to play well. Nick Leaders and Brent Curvey have had good seasons, so you would expect that to continue.

Besides those two, the inside linebackers have to make plays. The defensive tackles are guys that are supposed to take up space, freeing the linebackers to make plays. If they are doing their jobs, the linebackers should be free to make a lot of tackles.

CN: Would you like to see any different wrinkles in the Cyclones, or should John Skladany attack OSU in a base defense?

I think the game plan this week is the same as the last three weeks. I feel like I am being repetitive every week, but the plan is the same. We are facing a young quarterback who is very unproven, much like the quarterbacks for Iowa and Northern Illinois.

I believe that the game plan will be very similar, putting all of the pressure on the quarterback. I expect to see many different looks, with an attacking style defense. If we are going to win, we must focus on shutting down the run and make the QB beat us.

CN: Finally, what are some of your keys to an ISU victory in Stillwater?

The first key to the game is stopping Vernand Morency. He is leading the nation in rushing and provides a large part of Oklahoma State's offense. Stopping him means greatly slowing down their whole offense. If he has a good game, it will be difficult for Iowa State to win.

The second key to the game is continuing to score, or set up scores with defense and special teams. I said last week that the Cyclones would need their defense and special teams to score, and they must have been listening. With Nik Moser and Matt Robertson both having touchdowns, as well as Ellis Hobbs blocking punts for a touchdown, the Cyclones were able to pull out the victory.

Without those three touchdowns, it would have been a whole different game. As we continue to face good offensive teams, the defense and special teams must help the offense get in a position to win. Until the offense gets rolling, which is hopefully sooner than later, this is a necessity to win.

The last thing is kicking. Hopefully somebody will step up and start hitting field goals. That is one of the toughest positions in football, but in order for the Cyclones to have the kind of year that we all hope for; we will need to make field goals and extra points. We do not have an explosive enough offense to blow people out, so we need all of the points we can get in close games.

I would expect the Cyclones to come out fighting, as their confidence has increased every week. They will do everything they can to stop Morency, which will make this a game for the quarterbacks. Whichever team gets the best play from their young quarterbacks will have the best chance to win.

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