Football Insider: Baylor Post-game

With time to reflect on and review the Cyclones disheartening loss to Baylor, former offensive lineman Luke Vander Sanden evaluates the ISU effort against the Bears.

Luke Vander Sanden was an offensive lineman on the ISU football team from 2000-2004. The Inwood native was a two-time academic all-Big 12 first team performer and won the ISU all-around Academic Achievement Award in 2003. On the grid iron, Vander Sanden was an honorable mention all-Big 12 selection his senior season and was one of Iowa State's four team captains on the 2004 Independence Bowl championship squad.



First of all start with some overall comments from the Baylor game.


What a disheartening loss on Saturday!  Hats off to Baylor.  They are a much improved football team from a year ago.  I am searching for answers like many Cyclone fans are.  I did not see many bright spots from Saturday.  I would think that the Clones would have used the Big 12 Conference road streak as a motivation to not let the Bears beat them.  I am sure many of Mac's players had that in the back of their minds, though we did not make plays when we needed them the most.  A fumble on the goaline when we are going into score, a fumble by a receiver, pass blocking that flushed Bret Meyer out of the pocket.  You can point your fingers at anyone, but this is the GREATEST team sport.  Everyone works together to accomplish a goal each and every play. 


I was rather disappointed in our fans.  I was sitting on the visitor sideline and tuned into the game.  Let's backtrack to the Iowa State/Iowa game.  The crowd is into it the whole game.  It is loud the whole game when Iowa has the ball.  Why can't the fans be loud every game?  Is there something that I am missing?  I encourage that Jack Trice be louder, more energized than ever when Oklahoma State comes to town!  Is that too much to ask??  When the fans are into the game, it makes it that much harder for the opposing offense.


I was also aggravated by comments from fans.  I am sure you hear it at any contest that fans go to, but it was unreal.  Fans saying, "10 years is enough for Mac.  We need someone else."  Fans saying, "I could call plays better than Cotton."  Fans saying, "Go for it on 4th and 3 in the first quarter."  Let's take the points when we can get them!!  There is so much preparation that goes into a football game.  It is a game of inches.  Not a game of big plays each and every play.



Last season Baylor was a turning point in the season, it looks as if this Baylor game was once again a turning point. How does Iowa State keep this loss from spiraling them out of control?


This game is a tough one to swallow.  It is a game that you correct and learn from.  As from any loss, you go back to the drawing board, you go back to meetings, and you go back to practice with a greater drive, a greater passion, and a will to win. 


I am a year out, and I guarantee that the players and coaches are sick to their stomachs.  I am not sure if this was a turning point of this year's season.  It was the most important game of the year because it was the next game of the season.  I am starting to ponder the thought if the Cyclones are getting hung up on the Iowa game.  It was such an emotional win that it seems as if the Cyclones are riding on a roller coaster. 


Looking to next week, the Cyclones play a real good Missouri squad at Missouri.  Missouri is a tough place to play.  Players need to say enough is enough and get back on the mountain and start their climb to the top.  Players need to step up, and leaders need to emerge more than ever.



Emotionally where is this teams mental psyche? How hard is it to overcome a game like this? We saw last season how the squad gained confidence on the final drive for the TD and win, but this loss is just devastating.


I think any loss just eats at you.  I talked earlier about the mental psyche from Iowa State's win over Iowa.  Any loss is devastating.  Good teams don't dwell on disheartening losses like the one last Saturday versus Baylor.  They overcome adversity and say enough is enough.  Players and coaches alike emerge the next game.  Any time you dwell on a loss and keep talking about it, that's when the next game comes up on you and you see another L on the W-L column.  Sure, this loss is devastating, but good teams overcome it.  I hope Iowa State can overcome such an adversity like the one on Saturday.



What's going on with this defensive unit, giving up 13 points to the Bears in the second half and letting Baylor go 80 yards down the field on the final drive?


The defense is playing solid football.  Is it playing like the best in Coach Mac's era?  I don't think so.  I really don't see the defense getting much help from the offense up to this point of the season.  Saturday, it seemed like the defense was out on the field the whole game.  That wasn't the case.  Iowa State won the time of possession with 31 minutes and some change.  Iowa State's defense only gave up 276 total yards.  What hurt is the field position the defense was put in.  Minus the last drive of the game, Baylor played with a short field the whole game.  The percentages of an offense putting points on the board are really good when that is the case. 



The defense has only forced two turnovers in the last two games, what needs to starting happening for that stat to improve?


I agree that the defense needs to start getting some more turnovers.  How do they do that?  You have 11 guys that fly to the ball.  I know that Coach Mac and Coach Skladany will address that.  When you have 11 guys flying to the football, that allows two or three to get in there and rip and strip.  The turnovers will come, and they better come soon.  I am not sure why our defensive backs play off the ball so much.  It seems like they are almost 10 yards off the receivers on the line of scrimmage.  I am not sure if we are cautious of getting beat deep or if it is a scheme thing.  Iowa State's secondary in Greedy Paris and Nik Moser are good enough to cover the back end of the defense.  I think that DeAndre Jackson and LaMarcus Hicks are good enough to play receivers tight on the line of scrimmage.  If we do this, I would think it would make it tougher for the opposing quarterbacks to get the ball to the receivers. 



Once again this season the offense stalls when we get into the redzone. This was also a problem last year when you were on the offensive line. What was happening then and what is going on now? Is it something that's in the players heads? Play calling?


I remember last year when we had this problem too!  It was extremely frustrating.  The offense last year stepped up and developed an attitude when we got into the redzone.  The coaches emphasized it a great deal in practice last year.  I would never point the finger at the play calling of Coach Cotton.  He is one of the best in the business.  I promise you that.  He is a blue collar coach.  It was a privilege playing for him.  Love him to death. 


I think that thing that needs to happen is the offense needs to develop an identity.  They need to develop a ferocious attitude that everytime they are in the redzone, they are going to get 6.  They need to start knocking down the door like we had to last year.  And it all starts with the offensive line.  When the offensive line goes, the offense goes. 



When Stevie Hicks is healthy he gets a lot of grief from the fans for not being having break away speed, etc. but now when he's gone we can see how much he impacts other parts of the game, his blocking, ball security, etc. From a former players perspective how reassuring is it for you to have him in the game and what happens to the ISU running attack if he's not able to play for a few more weeks?


I talked about Stevie's presence on offense definitely makes us a better unit.  There is so much more than running the football in the running back's job.  You look at pass blocking, reading holes, reading defenses, reading blocking first pass route second.  I really hope Stevie gets healthy and gets back on the field soon. 


I was impressed with Greg Coleman on Saturday minus the fumble on the goaline.  I don't blame him one bit though.  You look at the replay and you will see him fighting for more yards.  He was trying to make something happen, put six on the board.  Coleman had 22 rushes for 91 yards.  It seems like teams are keying big time on our pass game, and I don't blame them.  When you are down to your 3rd string running back, it allows a defense to prepare more on Iowa State's passing game.  When Stevie gets back on the field, I think things will change.  Iowa State's offense won't rely on Bret Meyer's arm.  It won't be 1-dimensional.



There was a lot of pressure and expectations put on this team prior to the season, is this team just too young to be expecting so much?


I don't think the team feels a burden to live up to anything.  It's a new year with new faces.  It's a new team that develops its own identity, its own legacy.  I wouldn't say this team is too young either.  Look at last year's team.  The make-up of the team was full of the same faces from last year.  Last year's team graduated 12 seniors, of which six were starters.  That tells you that there is a lot of experience back from last year's squad.  They know how to win.  They know what success is like.  They know what they need to do.  They just need to develop a ferocious will to win attitude and their own identity. 


Do you think this team is lacking leadership? Obviously Ellis Hobbs was the ultimate leader for the squad last year and nobody can replace him, but to do you think the captains and seniors are having a hard time taking on that leadership role?


It's hard to say if the team is lacking leadership.  Ellis was a one-of-a-kind leader last year.  I am sure it is every coach's dream to have a leader like Hobbs.  Ellis as a leader can be replaced.  Like I said earlier, it's a new team with new faces.  Leaders need to emerge in the toughest times.  It's always easy to lead when there is glory or when everything is going good or when you are winning ball games.  There also are all different kinds of leaders in the game of football.  There are leaders that lead by example with their play.  There are leaders that lead through their vocal talents.  There are leaders that lead with their work ethic. 


Being out of the program, I am not sure if it a lack of leadership by the captains or seniors.  I know that the senior class is full of leader-type guys.  So I wouldn't place it on them.  Last year we talked about everyone is a leader on the team.  It wasn't just going to be the captains that lead, or the seniors that lead.  Everyone can be a leader no matter if you are the best man on the squad or the 137th guy on the squad.

What needs to happen for this team to turn its season around because it won't be easy heading down to Missouri next weekend.


I think a lot needs to happen.  The game versus Mizzou this coming Saturday could be a pivotal game on what kind of season is in store for the Cyclones.  Will it be a sit at home for the holiday season or a go somewhere warm for the holiday season?  The game versus Mizzou will be a game of gut-checking.  How bad do we want it?  I know the players and coaches want to win more than ever.  All the ball bearings are there to win any game on the schedule.  It's all about executing.  It's all about willing yourself to win.  It's all about looking in the mirror and asking yourself, "Did I do what I needed to do to help the team win?"  It's all about not letting yourself, your teammates, or your coaches down.  Best of luck to the Cyclones this week against Mizzou!!

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