On Campus: Running Wins Games

Six days later and I am still trying to catch my breath. The one thing you can say is that we definitely got our money's worth. Iowa State and Toledo easily played the most exciting game of the entire weekend. 88 points, three overtimes, and a couple cases of Tums later, Iowa State finally emerged victorious.

I'll be honest, while I sat in the Cyclone Radio Network studio watching Toledo come back to send the game to overtime, I felt like Tom Cruise in a room full of psychologists. I wasn't exactly looking forward to some of the calls that would surely come if the good guys didn't pull it out. Fortunately, they made big plays when it mattered. Unfortunately, the calls still came.


"We need to be more aggressive."


"Throw the ball to Blythe."


"We didn't deserve to win."


I know some criticism is warranted after every game. By no means is the ISU coaching perfect. And it did seem the Cyclones hit the deceleration button when they led 20-8. Blythe needs to have more than zero catches in a half. But, I believe there were a ton more positives to take from the game than negatives.


First, let's discuss this idea that Iowa State needs to throw the ball significantly more to "step on the throat" of their opponent. It seems like an easy solution. Iowa State has an All-Big 12 Quarterback, some of the best receivers in the nation, and the running game hasn't been Cyclone-like in the past few years. Plus, Todd Blythe is as automatic as Tiger Woods on a Sunday. Easy right?


Not exactly.


Iowa State has never been an aerial-minded team under McCarney, but there have been times when the Cyclones went almost exclusively to the air. The results were less than stellar.


There have been 34 games under Dan McCarney in which the Cyclones have had more passing attempts than rushing attempts. The results?


The Cyclones are 3-31. Yes, that stat is correct. Iowa State is 3-31 under McCarney in games they pass more than run. Now, before you go on and on about how Iowa State was losing bunches of games anyway, it didn't matter what offensive attack they used consider this:


In 2000 Iowa State went 9-3. In all three losses they passed more than they ran.


In 2001 Iowa State went 7-5. In four of the five losses they passed more than they ran.


It's the same story for the last few years as well. A perfect example was the Nebraska game in Lincoln last season. Bret Meyer set a career record for attempts (41) and third best in yards (317) in that game. How many points did the Cyclones score in regulation? 13.    


Passing more may not be the cure-all some think it is.


Now, it can be argued the Cyclones were pass-heavy in some games because they fell behind early and needed to score quickly. And the talent Iowa State has on its roster is much improved over previous years in the passing department. These are certainly valid stances, but it remains clear, Iowa State needs to run the football to win.  


It's often not the prettiest and most entertaining thing to watch, but it gets the job done. 


In the three game stretch last year (Texas A&M, Oklahoma St., K-State) where ISU averaged over 40 points a game (their most potent 3-game conference stretch in history) the Cyclones ran the ball 147 times and passed 75 times. I'm not very good mathematically, but that's a 2-1 run-pass ratio. And it worked.


Now if we could only get Todd Blythe to run the ball, everyone would be happy.  


Other Noteworthy Observations.


-It is well documented that this was ISU's first ever OT win. Oddly enough, it came almost 10 years to the day from their first OT loss against Wyoming on September 7, 1996. The game against Wyoming was also the first ever OT game in D-1 history as the rule was implemented that year.


-Other OT fun facts: Iowa State has lost the OT coin toss 4 of 6 times. Thursday was the first time ISU played 3 OT's. Iowa State has scored only four TDs in their OT history, three of them coming against Toledo. Todd Blythe made ISU's first and second ever OT TD catches. Iowa State has started on offense 5 of the 6 times they have played in OT (the lone exception-Missouri, 2004.)  


-Iowa State made a concerted effort to involve Bret Meyer in the run game. Meyer ran 18 times for 70 yards and 3 TDs. The three TDs triples Meyer's rushing TD output from a year ago. The three rushing TDs were the most of any QB in the nation in week one and tied for best at any position. If you throw in Meyer's two TD passes, he accounted for more points than anybody else in the country. No word yet on Iowa State's plans to buy a billboard in New York City to push the, "Meyer for Heisman" campaign.


-Iowa State's #1 concern going into the Toledo game was the rush defense. Toledo was 11th in the nation last year in rush offense and returned four offensive lineman and some good backs. All the young ISU D-line did was hold Toledo to 45 yards on 27 carries. That's good enough for the 13th best rush D in the nation.


-The pass defense, on the other hand…is dead last in the nation.


-Iowa State only gave up 2 sacks. They gave up three or more sacks in 10 games a year ago, including six to TCU and seven to Nebraska. 


-The Cyclones only committed three penalties for 18 yards. In fact, there were only nine penalties in the entire game. That's the lowest total of all of the games that were played over the Labor day weekend. (Yes, I looked up the penalties for each of the 75 games. I need some help. Anybody have Dr. Phil's number on speed dial.)


-My final fun fact of all fun facts: When ISU hosted UNLV in 1995, the Cyclones finished second in the record books for most yards gained in school history with 648 yards. The crazy part is; they threw seven passes. The Cyclones ran the ball a ridiculous 70 times for 586 yards and eight TDs. Graston Norris' 92 yard gallop in that game remains the longest run in Jack Trice Stadium history.


I wouldn't object to a repeat performance on Saturday.  


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