Iowa and Iowa State meet Saturday, renewing a rivalry that's been intense and competitive for the last decade and a half. To get the inside scoop on the Cyclones, we reached out to our Scout.com ISU site publisher.
AllCyclones.com's Alex Halsted fielded four questions from Hawkeye Insider. Here they are with his answers:
Hawkeye Insider: Kirk Ferentz said he believes ISU took huge positive steps from Week 1 to Week 2. Would you agree and what were the key areas of improvement?
Alex Halsted: After the offense failed to click and the defense struggled to limit yards during Week 1, Iowa State definitely appeared to take a step forward against No. 20 Kansas State last week.
For the offense, the key improvement was sustaining drives. After going three-and-out on its first two drives, the offense did so only once over the game’s final 10 drives. Meanwhile, the defense limited the big plays it allowed in Week 1 and a very young secondary learned from a bevy of early mistakes.
HI: Iowa faced a hobbled Sam Richardson last season, making him really only a threat with his arm. How has he looked through two weeks and can he put pressure on the Hawkeyes with his legs?
AH: Coach Paul Rhoads called Richardson’s first two starts the best string of consecutive starts in his young career. He is beginning to better grasp offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense, and one key is that he is sitting in the pocket longer and going through his progressions rather than acting quickly and making mistakes.
Richardson has become more of a pass-first quarterback, but he rushed 15 times in Week 1, which Rhoads placed on a lack of open targets. While the Cyclones’ running game has been iffy, Richardson has 90 of 207 net yards and double-figure carries in both games, so he’ll likely use his legs Saturday.
HI: Iowa battled the Cyclones for commitments for Jake Campos and Allen Lazard. How did they look last week in their first college starts and how do you feel they'll hold up in their road contest in a hostile environment?
AH: Campos was quickly thrust into the starting right tackle role after Jacob Gannon suddenly left the team, and while Rhoads said he didn’t grade-out great, coaches were very happy with the way he handled an All-Big 12 defensive end in his debut. Meanwhile, Lazard has taken on a bigger load after top target Quenton Bundrage tore his ACL. Lazard has shown his playmaker ability with two long catches (29 and 48 yards) and with a leaping sideline catch with the help of his long frame.
Talking to the media Wednesday, Campos said playing in front of 70,000-plus fans is an exciting proposition, and he’s been to Kinnick for trips before much like Lazard. The one way the atmosphere could get to them, though, is if the Iowa State offense struggles early.
HI: If the Hawkeyes want to keep the CyHawk Trophy in Iowa City, they need to ______?
AH: It sounds simple enough, but one key would appear to be keeping the Iowa State defense on the field. When the Cyclones were bruised in the time of possession numbers Week 1 and the defense was put on the field over and over again, it began to break down. In the season-opener, Iowa State surrendered 34 unanswered points and 503 yards of total offense.
From a defensive standpoint, getting pressure on Richardson could do the trick. The ISU running game is still finding its way, so forcing Richardson’s hand could prove big.