After sitting through ISU's first two games I feel like I lost five years off my life. My voice takes two days to get back to normal, and my heart rate takes a good 24 hours. I think I speak for everyone when I say that it is nice winning the close game (unlike how the 2005 Cyclones couldn't win an OT game to save their collective lives), but I hope that this isn't a weekly thing. I really want a win that I can sit there and say "yeah, this is in the bag" after halftime! I wouldn't counter on it this week though.
Before we get down to the numbers, I want to rant for a second (bear with me). I am so glad that Dan McCarney has some class because the ending of the UNLV was some of the worst sportsmanship I have ever seen. As a head coach, Mr. Sanford is suppose to be teaching these young men life lessons (such as losing with honor) as well as football. That was no way to teach young 18-23 year old men how to act. If you think there is a bad call, talk to the referees and let your team go to the locker room. If they won't listen, talk about how you don't agree with the call at the press conference. I mean seriously, what kind of message does this send to kids watching the game? "If you don't get your way, make sure to make a scene and kick and scream as loud as possible!" It was a sad display of college football and I feel sorry for UNLV to have someone represent them like that. I am extremely pleased with how the Cyclone football team responded. They left the field and let the referees take care of it. Shoot, Coach McCarney even tried to shake hands with Coach Sanford but couldn't track him down. It is nice to know that no matter what happens, Dan will make sure his team shows some class, even if they think they deserve the win. Alright, enough of my rant, let's see what kind of stats the Cyclones put up against a rambunctious Rebel team.
Cyclones Statistical Breakdown
Well, the Cyclones did improve from week 1 to week 2…kind of. It is kind of two steps forward, two steps back in my opinion. The defense stepped up and only allowed 10 points. That ain't too shabby. How about this for you; they only allowed 289 yards with only 71 yards rushing. I'll take that every day! Now, the defense took two steps forward and made the plays to win the game, but that is the good news. The bad news is that the offense took two steps back. The rushing game got a shot in the arm due to Stevie Hicks going off for 109 yards on 23 carries (4.7 yards per carry). The weird thing about Stevie is he gets these yards so quietly. His longest run was for 12 yards! 12! The pass offense is what really took a hit this week. Bret Meyer threw for 203 yards on 14 of 21 attempts (66.7%). That isn't too bad, but what is bad is the fact he had zero TDs (rushing and passing) and threw a pick. These numbers don't sound too bad but when it comes down to it, Iowa State needs more production. This is a supremely talented offensive team and if ISU is going to keep its winning ways going the offense needs to have more than three plays in the fourth quarter (yeah, you read that right). If this team is going to win against some better teams the offense is going to have to give the defense a break and score some points in the fourth quarter. The three points that the offense scored after halftime will not be able to stand up to the Cyclones' next opponent.
If you are reading this going "who is ISU playing next?" then I feel sorry for you. Everyone has had this game circled on their calendar since the 23-3 win over the Hawkeyes last year. Yeah, yeah, I know this is supposed to be our Super Bowl or something but I don't buy it. The Hawkeyes are going to want a piece of us after the whooping they received in Jack Trice last year. I also know all the baloney you are all receiving from our Hawkeye brethren (my sister and brother-in-law went to Iowa). Something about "I'd rather lose to ISU and beat Michigan" or "Yeah, well we went to four January bowls in a row" or maybe "If Drew Tate wasn't so competitive he wouldn't have gotten injured last year and we would've won!" Yeah, well to that last one I say if Drew Tate wouldn't have transformed into the human cannonball and concussed himself maybe he would've been able to stick around and throw a few more picks! I know, this really isn't very number heavy but I don't want to bore you with numbers you already know (6 out of last 8 were ISU victories, 1 out of last 2 at Kinnick Stadium, ect.) so let's dig right in to the Iowa offence, shall we?
I will be the first to tell anyone that listens that the game Iowa played last week (double OT versus a BAD Syracuse) is NOT the game they will bring next Saturday. Everyone that watched that game saw how important Drew Tate is to this football team. I will admit that I had my doubts as to how much of a leader Mr. Tate was (he has a tendency to lose his cool at times) but after seeing the Syrause game there is no doubt who leads this team. Tate is a great QB who has high completion percentages (62.1% in 04 and 62.2% in 50) and after throwing for 2828 yards in 2005 he still had 22 Touchdowns with only 7 interceptions! Those are solid, but what about his wide receivers? Well, so far no one receiver has step up as "The Man" and Tate (and Manson for the 'Cuse game) have been having to spread out the ball. Only two receivers have gotten numerous receptions. Andy Brodell (74 yards) and starter Herb Grigsby (56 yards, did not play versus Montana) both have three receptions total after the first two games. The main targets thus far have been TE and RB, which is no surprise. The TE spot is a good one with old faithful Scott Chandler having a team high ten receptions for 109 yards (10.9 yard per catch) and two TDs.
The running back position was a strong one last year, and this year is going to be better. Albert Young is a stud that had 1334 yards last year (averaging 5.4 per carry!!!) but he only scored eight TDs. This year he is picking up where he left off. Young had 151 yards in the first two games (4.6 yards/carry) and already has two scores. Ferentz isn't afraid to rotate in RBs either. Damian Sims, backup running back, already has 90 yards of his own and is looking to gain more. All these yards are due to the big guys up front. Iowa is well known for its dominant O-line and this year is no exception. Three of the starters are seniors with starting experience, with OG Seth Olsen and OT Dace Richardson being sophomores who have seen some playtime. This O-line only allowed Tate to be sacked 16 times. As long as this O-line can keep defenders out of the backfield (and they can), this two-headed monster of an offense will be able to put up some impressive numbers.
This is a pretty stout defense, and it doesn't get any better than the four returning starters up front. Defensive ends Ken Iwebema (48 tackles, 7 sacks) and Bryan Mattison (46 tackles, 4 sacks) are as good as they come. Tackles Matt Kroul (48 tackles, 2 sacks) and Mitch King (60 tackles, 2 sacks) ain't no slouches either! In fact, these four account for 39 of Iowa's total 145 tackles (26.8%) in the first two games of the season, and that is without Iwebema playing against Montana! That isn't too shabby, but don't think they are by themselves. The line backing corps was suppose to take a step back after Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway left for the NFL but apparently no body gave this year's group that memo. Edmond Miles, Mike Klinkenborg, and Mike Humpal accounted for 36 tackles in the first two games (24.8% of total tackles). Klinkenborg actually has a team high 23 tackles thus far, which is sick. That all adds up to one tough rush defense.
The passing defense isn't going to be quite as stout as the rushing defense, but they aren't going to be terribly weak either. FS Marcus Paschal and SS Miguel Merrick are returning starters but both corners have to be replaced. CBs Charles Godfrey and Adam Shada take over and both saw playtime in 2005 (actually, Shada tied the team in interceptions with three). This secondary has given up a total of 344 yards and two TDs in the first two games, which isn't terrible but they weren't exactly playing Payton and Elli Manning either.
The special teams should continue to be a solid spot for the Hawkeyes. Both kickers are returning for their senior campaigns. Place-kicker Kyle Schlicher is 17-21 on his career and 43 of 44 PAT (his longest FG is 52-yards). The punter, Andy Fenstermaker, is solid and averages 38.5 yards on 49 punts (21 inside the 20 yard line). The kicking isn't going to be a problem, but the return game will be. Shonn Greene and Damian Sims have been doing kick returns thus far and have only been averaging 20.0 yards/return, which isn't exactly stellar. The punt return duties have been taken over by Andy Brodell who has a dismal 8.6 yards/return.
Alright ladies and gentlemen, let's recap! The offense is going to be good with a great QB/RB combo. The only question as far the offense is concerned is who is going to be the deep threat, being that TE Chandler and the RB corps have been reliable with the short passes. The rush defense is shaping up to be ridiculously good, while the pass defense has struggled a bit (hm...sounds vaguely familiar). The kicking game will be solid as ever, but the kick returns are going to be somewhat lacking. All in all, this is by far the hardest challenge the Cyclones have faced yet and they have to do it on the road too. If we are looking at the numbers, then it appears that Iowa has the advantage but since this is a rivalry game, that doesn't mean much. Dan McCarney has continued to show that he has the power to motivate the Cyclones to play out-of-their-minds against their rivals to the east. Here is hoping that McCarney still has something hidden up his sleeve!