5 Questions: Iowa State

No.3 TCU hopes to put the finishing touches on a remarkable season this Saturday in their home and regular season finale against Iowa State. What should Frog fans watch for from the Cyclones? We visited with AllCyclones.com beat writer Alex Halsted to get some answers.

What's the mindset of the team as it travels to Ft. Worth to face the No. 3 team?

The general mindset of the Iowa State team appears to be that it has nothing to lose. The Cyclones are already 2-9, without a Big 12 win, and nobody expects them to beat the No. 3 team in the country on the road anyway. So many players have said they hope to use the spotlight as a springboard into next season.

Quarterback Sam Richardson said as much this week when he was getting into the matchup with the Horned Frogs: “It's an awesome opportunity. Just go out there and... What the hell? It's the No. 3 team in the nation, who really cares? We're 2-9, so obviously we don't have anything to lose and they’ve got pretty much everything to lose.”

The Cyclones have played some close games this season, what's been the biggest reason they've fallen in those games. Has it been an offensive or defensive struggle?

In recent seasons there seem to be a lot of ‘What ifs’ for the Iowa State program. This season the Cyclones have lost three games by less than one score. Kansas State beat them by four while Texas and Texas Tech each beat them by three.

The common thread has tended to be the depleted defense struggling to hold late leads and the offense at times disappearing. Against Kansas State, the Cyclones led by 15 with 26 seconds to play in the first half, but surrendered 19 unanswered points from there and the offense never scored again. In Austin, Texas, two big passes with less than a minute to play set up a game-winning field goal. Texas Tech drove downfield easily with four minutes to play and the ISU offense couldn’t respond.

Simply put: Iowa State is still trying to find a way to close games.

Speaking of close games, Iowa State played KSU very close and only lost by four points. What did they do in that game that almost resulted in a near upset?

There were two keys to sticking with Kansas State before eventually blowing the early-season upset win.

The Iowa State defense — which is now severely depleted — surrendered only 329 yards of total offense and 20 points until it broke down in the fourth quarter and gave up two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:30 to play.

Meanwhile, in a 15:13 span from the end of the first quarter to halftime, Iowa State scored four touchdowns (one punt return and three offensive). The problem, again, is consistency. The Cyclones didn’t score in the second half and the defense didn’t play a compete game.

Iowa State defeated TCU 37-23 two years ago when the Frogs were ranked No.15 in the nation. Do you think that gives them confidence leading up to this game?

It wouldn’t appear that that win will do much for this Iowa State team. The Cyclones have fallen since then, and this team is much different and younger, especially with 10 major season-ending injuries.

This game would seem to have some parallels to when Iowa State beat No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011 to knock them out of the BCS title picture, but coach Paul Rhoads said this week there is simply no comparison between that game and this game. That 2011 team, he said, was much better.

What will it take for the Cyclones to pull off a monumental upset?

Well, first, for Iowa State to have any chance it needs to play perfect football. That means no turnovers and the consistency of the offense and defense that it has had for a quarter here or there this season. That seems near-impossible with the defense it’s running out to the field (young and very inexperienced). Even after that, TCU would likely need to turn the ball over several times with the Cyclones capitalizing on each one.

“You’ve got to get some breaks whether it be turnovers, big plays, drops, things of that nature,” Rhoads said this week. “A lot has to go right.”

Really, something crazy would need to happen.

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