There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel for the offense, but after giving up a season-high 574 yards to an ISU offense ranked near the bottom of the Big 12, it's hard to see the light on defense. There were a few big plays, including four sacks and a fumble recovery by Von Miller. However between those few big plays were 26 completions for 401 passing yards, 173 yards on the ground, and four touchdowns, two field goals, and two missed field goals in 11 possessions. Seven Cyclone drives gained at least 50 yards. If not for several critical ISU receiver pass drops, the numbers would have been even worse, and the result may have been different. The one bright spot is that three starters are true freshmen, and five freshmen see significant playing time. Other than that, I don't see the light just yet. The defense has four weeks to show that improvement is definitely being made.
Defensive Line D
I like what I see from the freshman Tony Eddie who made a nice tackle-for-loss and also tipped a pass. Michael Bennett and Cyril Obiozor both had very critical sacks in the game that gave A&M just a room to breathe in the second half, but otherwise they were very quiet Saturday night in Ames. Lucas Patterson as well had a nice play at the line where he rolled and stopped the ISU QB as he was about to leave the pocket and scramble for some good yardage. Yes, there were good plays, but those plays were few and far in-between for a unit that should have been more active against a mediocre and injured Cyclone offensive line.
I'm bewildered at the play of the linebacking corps. Yes, there were some good stops here and there, but linebackers should be disrupting plays on a consistent basis and that's not happening. It appears that the unit just isn't playing with confidence, and without confidence players are hesitant and don't fly to the ball. And when linebackers are hesitant, that means they are slow to the ball and breakdown on the ball carrier versus driving through the ball carrier. The instincts just don't seem to be there, either in run support or pass coverage. In my opinion, this is the weakest link on the defense. The Aggies need playmakers here, and it starts with a headhunting middle linebacker.
Defensive Backs D
The numbers weren't good and the secondary allowed R.J. Sumrall to catch nine passes for 143 yards, but the defensive backs are better in coverage. Several passes were complete to ISU receivers that were draped by an A&M defender, but the Cyclones executed well and made the play. Other than some miscommunication in the red zone that led to an easy TD pass and a couple of crossing patterns over the middle that gained nice yardage, I thought the coverage was okay…certainly not great or even good. Defenders were in the area and contesting pass plays, though not disrupting plays which is the next step to being a good secondary. Trent Hunter continues to impress me, especially in run support. I thought Terrence Frederick and Alton Dixon missed a couple of crucial third down tackles that extended drives. Those plays are dreadful, especially for this defense where the opportunity to force the opponent to punt is so rare.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE D-
SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE B-
Justin Brantly had his best game of the year, knocking both punts inside the 20 yard line, including one that he kicked very high and allowed the A&M coverage to settle under it and kill the ball at the 3 yard-line. Randy Bullock continues to be accurate on field goals, but his kickoffs were generally short. The one negative was the 65-yard kickoff return. The coverage teams seem to give up at least one big return a game, and the defense could use all of the help they can get from special teams.
Hop's Defensive Grades: Iowa State
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