As you probably noticed, I skipped a week. That was no accident. In my mind, there’s no point in breaking down a game when the final analysis is something along the lines of “get better at everything.” Iowa is a dang good team and flat-out took our manhood a couple of Saturdays ago.
Iowa State had their manhood tested again this Saturday, this time by Daniel Thomas. If it was up to me, his nickname would be Thomas “the Train” because he ran through our defense like a few hundred tons of steel. Iowa State had no answer for the man all day, as he racked up nearly 200 yards rushing.
I decided against watching the replay, at least for now, so what you will read below are my own memories and may not be razor-sharp in terms of accuracy. Here is what I saw:
- Let’s get right to it. Everyone wants to talk about Arnaud’s performance. I may be in the minority, but outside of Iowa State’s first possession, I thought Arnaud played reasonably well until leaving the game with an injury. Nothing spectacular, but he was managing the game well and doing what was asked of him. When he left the game as the 3rd quarter expired, he had just converted a tough third down and seemed to be gaining a lot of confidence.
- Clearly, Arnaud didn’t do what we all wanted him to at the end of the game, but there were plenty of failures to go around, which brings me to pass protection. Overall, I thought the pass protection was solid for most of the game. Unfortunately, it imploded on ISU’s do-or-die drive. The obvious culprit was at right tackle. On Arnaud’s overthrow deep to Robinson, Burris was beat, which forced Arnaud to step up to avoid the defender just as he released the ball. Certainly, this impacted the throw. Then, on the very next play, Burris was beat again with more dramatic consequences, as his defender reached Arnaud and forced the fumble that essentially ended the game.
- As for the rest of the team… The running game was respectable. Robinson had a solid average, but Woody’s performance may have stolen the show to some degree. I’m not sure he carried the ball for fewer than 6 yards on any of his attempts. I would have liked to have seen Herman test the KSU defense a bit more on the edges with the run as Robinson was able to successfully turn the corner on a few occasions.
- There was nothing special to speak of in the receiving game, but I thought they blocked fairly well when asked to do so, with the exception of one obvious play that Darks quit on. Had he held his downfield block a second longer, he may have sprung Arnaud for a TD run. I believe Iowa State settled for a FG on that drive.
- For the most part, the defense was punished play after play by the Kansas State ground attack. It was a three-part combination of poor positioning, poor tackling, and Daniel Thomas being that train I mentioned earlier.
- I’m not sure what to say about the D-line. Clearly they didn’t do much to slow Thomas, and I’m not sure I saw one of our defensive ends make an unassisted play all day. Parker looked lost at times.
- Speaking of looking lost, we have some veterans in the defensive backfield who have managed to look downright awful far too often this season. Given the liabilities in the front seven, this simply cannot happen.
- It was good to see Klein make another highlight play. The linebackers had their moments, especially considering the reshuffling that took place this week following the Tau’fo’ou injury. But I felt as if they often found themselves caught up in blocks due to their own over-aggressiveness. This should improve with experience.
- VanDerKamp boomed some punts today and has been pretty consistent in his first couple of games. After being a huge question mark following game one, this is shaping up to be a strength.
- Penalties. There were clearly too many of them, and many came at very critical points in the game. I don’t expect this to be an issue all season, but it was certainly costly today.
- In terms of playcalling, there were only a few obvious things that stood out to me, and one of them didn’t cost us in the end. With a 3rd and 3 near the K-State goal line, we elected to let the clock expire in the 1st quarter rather than running a play with plenty of time to do so against a defense that was back on their heels. The 2nd quarter started with a false start, leading me to believe my fears were valid, but Arnaud followed that up with a TD strike to Williams on the slant.
- The other offensive playcall that I felt was questionable was early in the 4th when Tiller had replaced Arnaud. Tiller and Woody had been moving the ball well on the ground, but faced a 3rd and 4 or 5 inside the KSU redzone. Rather than keeping Tiller’s first pass attempt simple and looking to move the chains, Herman opted to go for the jugular and went with the fade route into the endzone, which was overthrown. Iowa State would settle for the field goal.
- Defensively, I wish we would have been more aggressive in obvious passing situations. The one that stands out occurred on KSU’s first TD drive. Iowa State had stonewalled the Wildcats on their first two plays of the drive and forced a 3rd and 11. We chose to play it straight up, and gave up a wide-open reception for an easy first down. The drive continued, ended in 6, and set the tone for the game.
- Finally, I hate to be one who rags on the officials, but there was a game-changing non-call that occurred on KSU’s go-ahead TD drive in the 4th quarter. On a 2nd and long, Coffman connected deep, setting up the Wildcats deep in ISU territory. Replays showed that the KSU receiver clearly pushed off on Reeves, creating separation and allowing the completion. A 3rd and long from KSU territory became a 1st down in the ISU redzone.
Overall, it was a very frustrating game. It’s hard to watch your defense get run over like they were today. I have to keep reminding myself that we won’t see another back like Thomas all year. Unfortunately, we’ll see plenty of teams that are better than Kansas State as the season progresses, which is why I offer this warning: If you haven’t dialed back your expectations to pre-Insight Bowl levels, now would be a good time to do so.
After Chizik left Ames for Auburn, most Cyclone fans looked at 2009, 2010, and 2011 and saw nothing but football wilderness. Most were resigned to the fact that the idea of a bowl game shouldn’t even enter the mind of a Cyclone fan until 2012 at the earliest. Fortunately, Rhoads shocked most of us and brought us a bowl victory in his debut season.
While exciting, the 2009 season didn’t change the fact that the 2010 schedule is a bear and this team still possesses a lot of the weakness we were all worried about after losing the personnel that we did. What most of us saw as a 4 or 5-win season quickly became a 6 or 7-win season in many minds. I set my pre-season sights on 5 wins, but I won’t pretend as if I haven’t spent time thinking about number 6 and back-to-back bowls.
But that was before I was fully exposed to just how weak we are in some areas, particularly on defense. That doesn’t mean this team won’t improve. With this coaching staff (and it’s still a good one, despite the messageboard meltdowns), I expect that we will. But what is the ceiling for this group? I hope that it’s high enough to steal a game like we did against Nebraska in 2009. But if we lose another toss-up as we did today, we may have to steal more than one. That may be too much to ask of the 2010 Cyclones.