Now that was reminiscent of 2003.
Last week I wasn't willing to play that card. This week it's difficult not to.
Saturday's 34-3 loss to Texas A&M was a demoralizer, as many of the fans who quickly went home in the third quarter could tell you. It was so pitiful that the Aggies began substituting liberally when it was still just 27-3. Not 47-3 mind you but just 27-3.
You know it's a rough outing when the kicking game is the strongest facet for Iowa State.
I know as the publisher of this promotional enterprise I'm supposed to come out here 48 hours later and tell you to take a long-term viewpoint, be patient, and find the positives; like the fact ISU twice drove within Texas A&M's 10-yard line. Unfortunately, spinning is not my style. Heck, if you witnessed that slaughter in person, or anted up the chunk of change for the pay-per-view broadcast, you already know better anyway and not even a spin doctor supreme like Karl Rove or James Carville could convince you otherwise.
The word we're looking for here is outclassed.
With the exception of one offensive drive that led to ISU's only points, the Cyclones just didn't look like they belonged on the same field with Texas A&M when it was playing its regulars. Now, the Aggies are good, and much better than they were a year ago. But they're not the mid-1990s Aggies, and that's why they came into this game only a touchdown favorite.
A&M sent a message early against ISU's heretofore improved defense, not even trying to establish a running game. Quarterback Reggie McNeal cut a swath of destruction through ISU's secondary and he didn't hesitate to go after Ellis Hobbs, either. White shirts with maroon trim had squatter's rights downfield.
That left it to the ISU offense to establish momentum.
If Barney Cotton apologized on behalf of the offense for last week's effort at Oklahoma State, I'm not sure what conciliatory note Saturday night's total team loss calls for. If Cyclone Nation keeps trekking to Ames for more fall Saturdays like that one, those that pay to get in may demand reparations.
The only really crappy thing about what I am blessed to be able to do for a living is sometimes my job requires me to criticize the performance of people I like and respect. And there is nobody in the state of Iowa, outside of friends and family, that I have more respect for than Dan McCarney. He is not just a leader but a molder of men. His accomplishments paid for most of the numerous upgrades at ISU, not just for football but athletic-department wide. It's hard to argue that any one person has done more for the university as a whole in recent years than Mac.
Yet those of you that are season-ticket holders and subscribers to a website and magazine like ours expect me to give you an honest appraisal of the situation, so here it goes. ISU has now lost 12 straight Big 12 games, by a combined score of 522-115. That's an average margin of defeat of 33 points per game. For a school that doesn't have the greatest football tradition, it's the most anemic conference showing since the mid-1960s. I'm sorry, but if you're a paying customer at ISU you know that's simply not acceptable, and knowing Mac as well as I do I don't think he would tell you otherwise.
Why has this happened? How did we get here? Where do we go from here? I don't know, to be honest with you. Where is the toughness, tenacity, and determination in the first we saw in the first three non-conference games? I listened to Ben Bruns – our former football insider who is known for being a straight shooter – during the post-game radio show and he still sounded like he was filled with some hope. So maybe we're overreacting? Was the close loss to Iowa fools gold that offered a false sense of hope? Are the last two weeks just indicative of facing stronger competition?
That very well could be a factor.
Let's face it, the Big 12 North is flat-out terrible. I wouldn't be surprised if Missouri wins it with a 7-4 record, Nebraska finishes 6-5, and Kansas State misses a bowl game for the first time in 12 years. Either Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, or Texas A&M could finish fourth in the Big 12 South, yet each of those teams would win the North Division with ease. So far the South has rose again, going 6-1 against the North with Missouri's win over Baylor the lone blight.
Thankfully, that Big 12 North makes up the bulk of ISU's remaining schedule, along with Baylor.
Thus, it's not time to jump off the deep end quite yet. Actually, at 2-3 the Cyclones are exactly where I thought they would be at this juncture. However, a lot is riding on the next two games – at Colorado and at Baylor – for this program. Clearly these are teams ISU should be capable of contending with.
If the Cyclones fail to win one of them it may be too hard to hold the barbarians at the gate the rest of the way, given the current climate on the message boards. Speaking of the gate, if the doomsday scenario occurs the next two weeks attendance for the October 30th game versus Kansas could very well serve as a telling barometer for the current state of the Cyclone Nation.
The stat sheet
Statistics may be for assistant coaches and losers, as the old saying goes, but sometimes it's tough to run from the truth of cold, hard numbers.
About halfway through the season, here's where the Cyclones rank in several categories nationally:
Rushing offense: 88th
Passing offense: 87th
Passing efficiency: 91st
Total offense: 104th
Scoring offense: 104th
Pass efficiency defense: 105th
Total defense: 34th
Rushing defense: 38th
Scoring defense: 63rd
Net punting: 79th
Punt returns: 77th
Turnover margin: 73rd
It's fourth-and-goal for the Cyclones, trailing 27-3, at the seven-yard line of the Aggies.
To the collective befuddlement of the hearty souls still remaining at Jack Trice Stadium at the time, ISU sends out the field goal unit instead of going for it. Then comes a yellow flag. ISU is called for delay of game. The ball is moved back five yards.
Now on fourth-and-goal from the Texas A&M 12-yard line, the Cyclones call a fake field goal with third-string quarterback Cris Love, who fails to complete the effort. Turnover on downs.
If you can explain that sequence of events to me I'll pay for your MENSA membership next year.
My Top 25
If I had a vote in the Associated Press college football poll, this would have been my ballot:
2. Oklahoma (5-0)…Last week—2…This week—beat Texas, 12-0…Next week—at Kansas State (2-3).
8. California (3-1)…Last week—10…This week—lost to USC, 23-17…Next week—#25 UCLA (4-1).
10. Georgia (4-1)…Last week—3…This week—lost to Tennessee, 19-14…Next week—Vanderbilt (1-4).
12. Texas (4-1)…Last week—6…This week—lost to Oklahoma, 12-0…Next week—#24 Missouri (4-1).
13. Wisconsin (6-0)…Last week—18…This week—beat Ohio State, 24-13…Next week—at #5 Purdue (5-0).
15. Arizona State (5-0)…Last week—12…This week—idle…Next week—at #1 USC (5-0).
16. Oklahoma State (5-0)…Last week—20…This week—beat Colorado, 42-14…Next week—#22 Texas A&M (4-1).
17. Minnesota (5-1)…Last week—13…This week—lost to Michigan, 27-24…Next week—at Michigan State (3-3).
18. Louisville (4-0)…Last week—19…This idle…Next week—at #4 Miami, Fla. (4-0).
22. Texas A&M (4-1)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Iowa State, 34-3…Next week—at #16 Oklahoma State (5-0).
23. LSU (4-2)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Florida, 24-21…Next week—idle.
24. Missouri (4-1)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Baylor, 30-10…Next week—at #12 Texas (4-1).
25. UCLA (4-1)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Arizona, 37-17…Next week—at #8 California (3-1).
Handicapping the Heisman
Nobody stepped forward this week. In fact many of the top candidates had sub-par performances.
1. Kyle Orton (QB-Purdue)…Moves up, but really missed a chance to separate himself this week. Now faces two of the top defenses in the nation at home in back-to-back weeks.
2. Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)…Struggled mightily against Texas and kept the Longhorns in it with a couple of mistakes. Maybe we've got the wrong Sooner up here?
4. Vernand Morency (RB-Oklahoma State)…The nation's second-leading rusher hasn't had a game this season in which he averaged less than 5.1 yards per carry.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Iowa each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)