On Saturday evening (6:00 P.M., FSN), the #15 Missouri Tigers (8-2, 4-2) travel to Ames, IA to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (5-6, 3-4). The Cyclones are coming off of a 14-34 loss at Colorado, in which senior starting QB Austen Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury. Iowa State needs to win their final game of the season, in order to become bowl eligible for the second straight year.
Earlier this week, Iowa State Head Coach Paul Rhoads talked about this week's game.
"The season comes down to this," said Coach Rhoads. "One great big opportunity here at home against the fifteenth-ranked Missouri Tigers. A win, and we become bowl-eligible, with a .500 record, both overall, and in the conference, far exceeding most people's expectations before this season began. In order to do that, we're going to have to have a great week of focus in preparation, and even better execution come Saturday night, playing the fifteenth-ranked team in the country."
Taking over for the injured Arnaud is sophomore QB Jerome Tiller 6'2" 200, who has played in 6 games this year for the Cyclones. According to Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, Tiller has taken about 125 snaps thus far in his college career, which is equivalent to a little more than two games of experience. This season, Tiller has completed 51% of his pass attempts (26-51-0), for an average of 8 yards/completion, 1 TD, and a passer efficiency rating of 91.71. On the ground, Tiller has taken some sacks, which have resulted in an average per carry of 0.5 yards/carry on the season, but the elusive QB is a true dual threat. Because of his quickness, Tiller's probably a better runner than was Arnaud, but he definitely lacks Arnaud's extensive experience, which is especially evident in the passing game. It appears to me that Tiller is more effective in the passing game when he's throwing on the run, and outside of the pocket, he's a true dual threat.
"(Tiller's) a really good athlete," said Coach Pinkel. "He played the whole game against Northern Iowa, so we got to see that. He's similar to (Arnaud). He's just got a lot less experience.................... He's a good athlete. He runs well. He's got a good arm. I think he'll be a great player. There's no question about that."
The Cyclones are fairly balanced on offense, but I think that with a 55%-45% run-to-pass ratio, it's fair to say that the Cyclones lean a little more heavily on their running game. As a team, Iowa State ranks 11th in the Big 12 (100th NCAA) in total offense (316.1 yards/game). Their running game is respectable, though, at 142.4 yards/game (8th Big 12, 78th NCAA). But, the Cyclones' passing game ranks 94th in the country (9th Big 12), at 173.7 yards/game, and they're ranked 102th nationally (10th Big 12) in passing efficiency (112.04). Iowa State averages 23.64 points/game, which is 9th in the conference, and 86th in the country.
When Iowa State runs the football, they give it to senior RB Alexander Robinson 5'9" 191 (4.8 yards/carry, 9 rushing TDs) almost half of the time. One-fourth of the Cyclones' rushing attempts this season went to the sideline with Arnaud. Robinson is the 4th leading rusher in Iowa State's history, with 3,211 career rushing yards (4.7 yards/carry) and 26 rushing TDs for his career. He's also the Cyclone's 4th leading receiver this season, averaging 2.4 receptions/game (7.3 yards/reception, 1 TD). A pair of freshmen, RB Shontre Johnson 5'9" 182 (6.4 yards/carry, 2 TDs), who has shown some big play ability, and RB Jeff Woody (4.1 yards/carry, 1 TD), have emerged to take some of the load off of Robinson.
The Cyclone's leading receiver is senior TE Collin Franklin 6'5" 252 (4.6 receptions/game, 9.8 yards/reception, 3 TDs), who was listed on the Mackey Award Watch List. Senior WR Jake Williams 6'2" 203 (2.6 receptions/game, 10.4 yards/reception, 4 TDs), and junior WR Darius Darks 6'1" 189 (2.5 receptions/game, 11.9 yards/reception, 1 TD), are also quite capable.
Defensively, Iowa State has struggled against the run, yielding 191 yards/game (10th Big 12, 94th NCAA) on the ground. The Cyclones have performed better defending the pass, surrendering 226.5 yards/game (7th Big 12, 78th NCAA) through the air. That's 417.6 yards/game of total offense the Cylcones are surrendering each game, which ranks 9th in the conference, and 92nd in the country. Iowa State ranks about the same in scoring defense (10th Big 12, 88th NCAA), giving up 30.2 points/game.
The Cyclones' defense is led by a pair of outstanding LBs. WLB Jake Knott 6'2" 240 leads the Big 12 (10th NCAA) with 119 tackles (10.82 tackles/game, 5 TFLs, 4 forced fumbles, 4 INTs, 5 PBUs), and sophomore SLB A.J. Klein 6'1" 240 is 5th in the conference, with 103 tackles (9.4 tackles/game, 5.5 TFLs, 3 INTs) on the season.
Iowa State's secondary features junior CB Leonard Johnson 5'10" 195 (61 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 5 PBUs), senior SS David Sims 5'9" 204 (90 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBUs), and sophomore CB Jeremy Reeves 5'7" 168 (54 tackles, 2 INTs, 6 PBUs)
Junior DE Jacob Lattimer 6'2" 245 (38 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) leads the Cyclones in QB sacks.
The Iowa State defense has forced 23 turnovers on the season, which ranks 12th nationally. The Cyclones rank 25th nationally in turnover margin (+0.64 turnovers/game).
Iowa State's special teams feature a couple of dangerous kick returners in Shontrelle Johnson (23.6 yards/return) and David Sims (22.3 yards/return), and one of the conference's top punt return men in sophomore Josh Lenz 6'0" 188 (10.8 yards/return, 1 TD). The Cyclone's freshman punter, Kirby Van Der Kamp 6'3" 195, averages over 45 yards/punt.
"(Iowa State) does good things in the kicking game," said Coach Pinkel. "They're very well coached."
Earlier this week, Coach Rhoads announced that Jerome Tiller would not be available to the media preceeding this week's game. It's clear that he's trying to create a bunker mentality within his team, while emphasizing their underdog status. He indicated that playing Tiller, instead of Arnaud, doesn't really change what they will do.
"They present the same skills," said Coach Rhoads, explaining why they won't need to change their offensive scheme. "They just accomplish them in a little bit different fashion. Austen runs hard. He's a physical runner. He drops his shoulder. Jerome likes to make people miss."
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
411.00 [40th]___ Total Offense__ 316.09 [100th]
160.30 [54th]___Rushing Offense__ 142.36 [78th]
20___________TDs Rushing__________ 15
250.70 [38th]___Passing Offense__ 173.73 [94th]
127.81 [67th]__ Passing Efficiency_ 112.56 [102nd]
15___________TDs Passing___________ 14
31.50 [37th]____Scoring Offense____ 23.64 [86th]
373.50 [62nd]___ Total Defense___ 417.55 [92nd]
151.50 [60th]__ Rushing Defense__ 191.09 [94th]
9_________ TDs Allowed Rushing________ 18
222.00 [73rd]___Passing Defense__ 226.45 [78th]
115.47 [26th]__ Pass Effic. Defense__ 135.28 [84th]
13________ TDs Allowed Passing________ 19
17.50 [T-10th]___Scoring Defense___ 30.18 [88th]
+0.90 [12th]__ Turnover Margin__ +0.64 [25th]
16 / 8_ ______ Fumbles/Lost_______ 14 / 6
6_________ Interceptions Thrown________ 10
13________ Interceptions Gained________ 13
22.04 [57th]___Kickoff Return Avg.__ 22.16 [56th]
6.48 [86th]____ Punt Return Avg.____9.93 [37th]
39.98 [8th]____ Net Punting Avg.___ 38.16 [30th]
3.00 [6th]_______Sacks By____ 1.00 [T-113th]
1.60 [43rd]_____ Sacks Allowed____ 2.73 [100th]
28:26 [95th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 28:34 [91st]
34.8% [99th]___3rd Down Conv.__ 36.4% [89th]
44.4% [T-82nd]__4th Down Conv._ 44.4% [T-82nd]