Publisher's Note: This is the fifth in a 12-part series, projecting the outcome of the upcoming Iowa State football season. These are works of fiction, obviously, and all the information and quotes printed are figments of the writer's fertile imagination. However, they are also meant as analysis and prognostication. The schedule for the rest of the Monday Musings throughout the offseason are as follows:
May 2—Iowa State 38, Illinois State 3
May 9—Iowa State 23, Iowa 21
May 16—Iowa State 26, Army 14
May 23—Iowa State 27, Nebraska 20
June 6—at Missouri
June 13—Oklahoma State
June 20—at Texas A&M
June 27—Kansas State
July 11—at Kansas
July 25 (pending expected baby arrival)—2005 Preview
Jack Trice Stadium
Iowa State 35, Baylor 14
Ames, Iowa – Nothing was going to stop Iowa State this day. Not the damp pregame weather and the swirling winds it brought with it. Not some key players leaving the game with minor (hopefully) injuries. Not the potential for an emotional letdown after last week's big win at Nebraska. And certainly not the Baylor Bears.
Showing some resiliency, albeit against an overmatched opponent, the 16th-ranked Cyclones rolled to 5-0 for the first time in school history by pasting Baylor, 35-14, in front of a sellout crowd at Jack Trice Stadium. So much for Cyclone Nation only showing up in droves when the Huskers or Hawkeyes are in town.
"We knew we'd have a big crowd waiting for us after the big win last week and with this game not being on TV," ISU Coach Dan McCarney said. "But this was one of the best crowds I can ever remember for an unranked opponent."
A mid-morning storm system finished its assault on Ames about an hour or so before kickoff, leaving a wet and somewhat slick field for the 1 p.m. start time. However, that wasn't nearly as a big problem as were the swirling winds that gusted up to 30 miles per hour that it left behind. Successful passing and place kicking were rare accomplishments, except in limited quantities when the wind was rarely at your back. Thankfully, the ISU offense wasn't in need of either facet of the game very much. Instead, the Cyclones used a punishing ground game that racked up a season-high 327 yards rushing and accounted for four of ISU's five touchdowns.
"That was the best we've run the ball since I've been here," said tailback Stevie Hicks, who finished with a season-high 157 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. "Our line did a great job of opening up holes for us."
In fact, the starting offensive line (left to right) of Paul Fisher, Kory Pence, Scott Stephenson, Seth Zehr, and Aaron Brant were named the players of the game on their side of the ball. In the second half, Fabian Dodd, Johannes Egbers, and Scott Fisher played a lot of quality minutes as well.
"When I first came here we were kind of the question mark and were struggling," said Brant, a junior already in his third year as a starter. "It felt good to get out there today and make a statement against another Big 12 team."
The Bears' defensive front seven was simply overmatched the entire afternoon. Other than Hicks' breakout game, Bret Meyer rushed for 52 yards before leaving with a sprained ankle midway through the third quarter. In addition, Jason Scales had career highs in rushing attempts (18) and yards (81). Terrance Highsmith, who entered the game at quarterback when Meyer went out, added 18 yards rushing on five attempts and Greg Coleman saw his most meaningful action of the season thus far with six attempts for 20 yards.
"It was nice to get some other guys in there and get them some touches," McCarney said. "I was really impressed with what Jason did. He held on to the football, ran tough between the tackles, and showed some flash in there, as did Coleman."
Although the sun was out for most of the game, there was a cloud hanging over ISU's blowout victory. Unfortunately, Meyer wasn't the only Cyclone to leave the game early. Defensive tackle Brent Curvey hyper-extended his knee and linebacker Jamar Buchanan suffered what looked like a stinger in the second quarter.
Depth was a concern for ISU heading into the season, and now with the campaign half over it appears that depth will be tested next week when the undefeated Cyclones face a Missouri squad hungry to break a two-game losing streak. The Tigers are still looking for their first Big 12 victory after starting off 0-2 in league play following close losses to Texas at home and Oklahoma State on the road.
"Right now I'm told all of those guys will be back next week," McCarney said. "Meyer could've easily gone back in the game if it were still in doubt. Brent and Jamar probably won't practice much this week, and we've got several other players that are dinged up right now. That goes with the territory in a tough league like the Big 12 this time of year, no doubt about it."
ISU joins Texas Tech as the last remaining unbeatens in the conference. Who would've guessed that would be the case before the season started?
"We know we're going to get Missouri's best shot," McCarney said. "They're a
talented football team that has played two tough teams back-to-back. They beat
us up here last year with a lot on the line and I don't think we've forgotten
Against Baylor, Todd Blythe delivered the best shot despite what his pedestrian stat line of one catch for 14 yards might otherwise suggest.
Blythe set the tone early by blocking ISU's first punt of the year, taking the ball right off the foot of All-American punter Daniel Sepulveda. The ball was then scooped up by Caleb Berg, who it took it 17 yards to paydirt and a 7-0 lead for the Cyclones.
"I think that was a big play emotionally because we didn't do much on our first drive against that wind," Blythe said. "Coach (Terry) Allen is always talking about how a blocked kick changes momentum, particularly when you're at home."
The Cyclones would go on to score 21 more unanswered points in the first half while dominating the time of possession. Hicks had touchdown runs of 11 and 34 yards, while Meyer added a 4-yard scamper. Meanwhile, Baylor was unable to mount much of a sustained offense and got its only points on a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown from Willie Andrews.
"You hate to give back a big play on special teams after just getting one, but I was real pleased with the way our defense was playing in the first half," McCarney said.
The Bears had just 79 yards of offense – only 22 rushing – in the first half and six first downs.
"They just dominated us along the line of scrimmage," Baylor Coach Guy Morriss said. "Football is all about what happens in the trenches, and they were the better team up front by far."
ISU made the score 35-7 on a 13-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half. This time it was Scales turn to cap it off on an eight-yard touchdown run. It was on the next drive that Meyer turned his ankle and left the game. That gave the fans an extended look at Highsmith, who struggled to throw an accurate ball in the wind but did look light on his feet while he was in there.
"I think it was good to get some experience," Highsmith said. "I just wished we could've scored some more points."
Twice Highsmith led the Cyclones into Baylor territory, but Tony Yelk missed field goals both times. To be fair to Yelk, he was attempting to kick 46 and 43-yard field goals into a swirling wind.
Baylor scored the game's final points on an 18-yard touchdown run by Paul Mosley against ISU's backups in the fourth quarter. The Bears threatened again late but that drive was thwarted by Berg's interception in the end zone.
Iowa State 14-14-7-0=35
ISU—Berg 17 punt block return (Culbertson kick)
ISU—Hicks 11 run (Culbertson kick)
ISU—Hicks 34 run (Culbertson kick)
ISU—Meyer 4 run (Culbertson kick)
Baylor—Andrews 76 punt return (Havens kick)
ISU—Scales 8 run (Culbertson kick)
Baylor—Mosley 18 run (Havens kick)
Rushing—Baylor (117): Mosley 17-65, Whitaker 11-29, Bell 9-23; Iowa State (329); Hicks 26-157, Scales 18-81, Meyer 8-52, Coleman 6-21, Highsmith 5-18. Passing—Baylor (114): Bell 11-25-2-114; Iowa State (109): Meyer 7-12-89, Highsmith 2-7-18. Receiving—Baylor: Fields 4-36, Zeigler 4-30, Mosley 2-38, Miller 1-15; Iowa State: Davis 3-37, Flynn 3-26, Blythe 1-14, Nickel 1-12, Scales 1-13, Barkema 1-7. Sacks—Iowa State 3, Baylor 1. Attendance—49,209.
(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.)