If not for its first fumble recoveries of the season last weekend in Waco, Iowa State might not have come away with a victory. Tyson Smith came up with a big forced fumble, and defensive lineman Brent Curvey scored a rare touchdown against the Bears.
The Cyclone defense has been very inconsistent of late, and last weekend gave up a wealth of yardage but made big plays to overcome any lapses. They will need to continue to force their opponent into mistakes. Meanwhile, KU has displayed the tendency to put the ball on the ground, losing five fumbles this season.
Standing tall in secondary
In games where ISU has given up big chunks of yards, opponents have taken advantage of weak secondary play. Texas A&M and Baylor racked up a combined 568 yards passing and five touchdowns against a secondary anchored by cornerbacks Ellis Hobbs and DeAndre Jackson.
Last weekend's effort should come as a big concern, as two unheralded Baylor quarterbacks completed 31-of-39 passes for 310 yards. The Cyclones were unable to come up with an interception. Just as the overall defense has looked very good at times, so has the secondary. In between porous efforts against Texas A&M and Baylor, it intercepted three Colorado passes and held the Buffs to 163 yards through the air on 16-of-33 completions.
In order to take pressure off of the defensive backs, ISU must put together a better pass rush and get first-year starter Adam Barmann out of his comfort level.
Redshirt freshman Bret Meyer has been very efficient in recent weeks as the Cyclones' full-time quarterback. Against a ball-hawking KU defense, he must continue taking care of the ball. The first-year starter has thrown just one pick to three touchdowns in the last four games while completing 55 percent of his passes.
The Jayhawks have already intercepted 12 passes this season to equal their season totals of the past three seasons combined. Eight different players have picked off passes, including sophomore cornerback Charles Gordon who has a team-high three.
If Kansas matches Gordon up against the Cyclones' playmaking receiver Todd Blythe, other wideouts like Jon Davis and Todd Miller will need to give Meyer good targets and make plays.