Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I had one request for the ISU football team this last week. Don't make a maniac out of me. That's it. No 500 yard offensive explosion. No defensive shutout. Just one simple request. Play with heart and make me proud to be a Cyclone. ISU beating Texas in Austin would be the biggest theft since D.B. Cooper bought that $20 ticket to Seattle at the Portland Airport.

Was I expecting a win?  No, but hope lives on, right?  I always figure that when you play a big favorite, staying in the game gives you the ability to take advantage of mistakes and weird bounces of the football. 


I thought about going down to Austin for this game last year, but since I'm still making payments to my Visa bill for the motorcycle repairs, car rentals and an Amtrak ticket from Pittsburgh to Osceola, Iowa that last year's roadie to West Point gave me– I decided to let this opportunity go & maybe make the trek to Manhattan, KS or maybe Boulder, Col.  Besides, I should probably save my first Texas football experience for a trip to College Station in a couple of years.  I like Austin, but the atmosphere at A&M is more my speed anyway.  Our family's got a small cow-calf herd in addition to our family business, and my father and I decided that Saturday would be a great day to bring all of them in from the back pasture & sort the calves off for pre-conditioning.  Hogfarmer, our tailgating buddy with the bus, mentioned last weekend that he might be in the Austin area for business on Saturday, but I haven't heard yet if he made it to the game.  I can state with metaphysical certainty that the bus DID NOT make the trip from NE Iowa to Texas.  Because of the bus' "bye week", our mascot "Bobby" got the week off.  I hear he spent the weekend in front of the TV with, you guessed it, a bowl full of pork rinds and a case of Pig's Eye Pilsner.  That's cool, he'll need a week off, since we've got TWO night games at home coming up.


Since the game started at 2:30, I had a chance to listen to part of the Iowa game on WHO.  I say that I had the CHANCE to listen; much like I have the CHANCE to hit myself in the face with a tire iron every morning before I leave for work.  Yeah, I want to listen to "Flipper & Otis" rave about Iowa beating up on the hapless Illini.  NOT!  I pulled Johnny Cash's "American Recordings IV" disc up on the MP3 player/FM radio, and The Man in Black kept me company until game time.  The cattle were fairly well-mannered, and they came right up to the front lot & went through the gate with no major incidents.  We were done with 20 minutes to spare before kickoff.  John & Eric were going down the pre-game checklist with Brunsie, so instead of going back to town to watch the game on ABC, I decided to hop onto the 4020 and haul some big round hay bales in from the field. 


Normally, I can't say enough good things about the John Deere 4020 tractor.  It's a reliable model that's got plenty of power for the things we do on our farm.  Even though they're getting up there in years (the 4020 was made in the 60's and early 70's), I still think they're the ultimate tractor for small farm/ranch operations.   This particular tractor has a few "twitches" that make it harder to live with than your normal 4020; because the tranny has a couple of bad spots, the seat cushion is badly worn and gives you almost no shock absorption, and the front end is sorely in need of some weights to keep it from bouncing around when you pick up a bale.  As the game began, the beating my spine and neck were taking from all the gopher mounds in the back hayfield made me feel a little empathy for ISU's start against Texas.


Whooee coach, that was one UG-LEE way to start a game.   Two possessions and the best we can muster is a six-yard screen pass to Scales?   It's going to be a long day, and I forgot to bring my flask with me.  John hasn't gotten to the point where Pete Taylor was at before he was taken years before his time where you can tell how ISU's playing by the inflection of his voice, but he did sound like a man who's been asked to give play-by-play coverage of his own butt-kicking.  Just when I was ready to see if KGGO is playing "Kashmir" or "Baba O'Reilly" for the five-millionth time, Bret Meyer and the ISU offense decided to get up off the mat and get back in the fight.  A last-second shovel pass to Nickel and a couple of defensive stands later, ISU is in a position to get within 2 of Texas.  I don't know if the Texas DB got beat on the play or if he was playing the percentages and looking for the trademark "Meyer to Blythe End zone Corner Fade", but Blythe caught a fairly pedestrian pass in the end zone for his 100th catch as a Cyclone.  Now we're cooking with gas.  16-14 Texas with plenty of time left in the first half.  After one more Texas TD, we've got them held deep in their own territory when the momentum falters.  Parker makes a freshman mistake and a "three and out" possession for the Longhorns turns into another long touchdown drive, making the score 30-14.  Parker made a mistake, but I'm certain that nobody in our fan base realizes that more than Rashawn Parker does, so I'll cut the kid some slack.  If he makes the same mistake against UNI or Nebraska, I'll scream my freakin' head off at the kid, but this is his free pass.  ISU got the ball back late in the half, and made a valiant drive that was ended by a freakish interception on a Jon Davis reception that bounced off his foot (or maybe the foot of the first cornerback) and up into the hands of the second defensive back on the scene.  So ends the first half.  Texas 30, ISU 14.


After halftime, ISU allowed Texas to get into the end zone one more time, but they never managed to put together a full drive on offense in the second half.  I had high hopes for them when they came back from the weather delay and converted on a third and long right out of the box, but that drive ended with another bad bounce dropping into the hands of a UT defensive back. By this time, I had finished hauling hay bales and returned to Winterset for dinner, the rest of the game was a blur of disappointment.


My overall grade for ISU this weekend is a D+.  Since they lost, I can't go with the C- I wanted to give them, but their comeback from the awful start to the game means that I can't give them an F.  Meyer had a pretty good game, considering that he was running for his life most of the game.  The 24 of 43 line on his game included a LOT of passes to the chain gang & press corps because of the pressure on Meyer, but he did manage to get 274 yards on his completions for the day (for an average of 11.4 yards per completion, or 6.4 yards per attempt).  Meyer seemed to do a good job of distributing the ball to the entire team, with all the usual suspects along with Hicks, Scales & Hamilton getting catches.  Kock even managed to pick up a catch on the fake punt, and his 28 yard run on that play is about as far as I've ever seen him go without having to get on CyRide.  Kockie, I'm not saying you're slow, but Marv Seiler called and said that you're not exactly the second coming of Tim Dwight. Brent Curvey chimed in to say that you really need to pick it up out there.  Hicks, Kock and Scales all had flashes of brilliance against the stifling Texas defensive front, but our rushing total was only 21 yards after you figure in the 26 yards lost on the muffed snap on the early punt & Meyer's 26 yards worth of losses. 


          I've only got a few bullet points this week.


  1. Special teams? This is the second time we've had a snap go awry on a punt or an extra point, and our kickoff coverage leaves a little to be desired.  We did look better than we did against Iowa, but when you're lining up against the defending national champion, "a little better than last week" ain't gonna cut it, Tex.  Hopefully we take the opportunity of playing UNI to shake up the kick/punt coverage and see what happens.


  1. Kock continues to impress me.  He's money on short yardage, even against the monsters on Texas' D-line, and while I kid him about his slow running on that pass play, he did make a couple guys miss while making that run.


  1. The defense showed improvement, and now if the offense can keep from putting them in peril, they should shape up into a pretty salty unit.  Smith is due back soon, and he'll be welcome at safety.  Parker's mistake has gotten enough press that you'd think Zapruder himself rose from the grave and caught the whole thing on his Super 8 camera.  Our defense did move up to play tighter coverage on the Texas receivers, which resulted in several big breakups and one BIG gain that I remember.  All in all, I'd say we're still sub par on that side of the ball, but things are looking up.


  1. Hicks and Scales both ran hard into nice holes.  I've been hard on Scales so far this year, but it's not personal.  I hope he puts all his injuries behind him and goes on to have a great career at ISU; I was just concerned that our staff seemed to put him in positions to play when maybe it would be better to hand the ball to Kock or Hicks.  This concern will pass as he shakes off the rust from his extended layoff, and I think he'll make a great change of pace for our running game.


  1. Brandtner had a 40-yard average on his five punts, and he's getting pretty good hang time to boot.  While watching him against Iowa, I thought his mechanics were good, but he seemed to have a half step delay after making the catch and starting his kick.  Maybe he's still rattled after his drop against UNLV, but for a red-shirt freshman, he's doing a very good job out there.


  1. The coaching staff made some good adjustments this week.  The blocking adjustments on Meyer's rollout passes (mentioned by Ben Bruns on the radio show) helped keep Meyer from finishing the game prone on a stretcher.  The fake punt may have been "too little too late", but it was very well executed.  Maybe it didn't help us beat Texas, but it might keep Nebraska or Oklahoma's punt rush guessing.


Next up, Northern Iowa.  Iowa State has had trouble with UNI in the past, but this should be a victory.  UNI is a well coached team, with talented players who were within a hair of winning the 1AA championship last fall, but I refuse to believe that Iowa State will allow a team that recently lost to a Division II team to come into our house and win the game.  A 2-2 Iowa State had better know better than to overlook ANY opponent, but I'm going to go ahead and start calling us a 3-2 team.  A night game against UNI should give us the opportunity to stretch our tailgating muscles before the big Nebraska night game, and I'm looking forward to having a beer or seven with "Bobby" and the rest of the bus gang.


Go Cyclones, and I'll see you out in the lots, Clone Fans.

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