First, let me apologize to my subscribers for the “false start” in publishing this post. In my haste to tend to my 11-month-old daughter, the ‘Publish’ button was mistaken for the ‘Save Draft’ button. I’m sorry. *cue inspirational music* I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any blogger in the entire country blog as hard as I will blog the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of his peers as hard as I will push everybody this season…
Okay, enough of that. As for the game, I’ll keep this short and sweet. First, the good.
- With the way that UNI’s first drive started, it was looking like it could be a long night for the Cyclone defense. But they buckled down when they needed to (a trademark of last year’s defense) and, for the most part, dictated the action from that point on. It was a tremendous performance against what Coach Burnham referred to as the fastest offense we have faced this season.
- Special teams made some spectacular plays. First there was the blocked FG attempt that set the tone for the rest of the night. Then there was a gutsy 4th down conversion on a fake FG to keep the one-and-only TD drive alive. Add to that a perfect night from Grant Mahoney, and the special teams were indeed special.
Now for the third phase of this Cyclone team, and the bad.
- A fair number of Cyclone fans had been clamouring for it, and they got to see it on Saturday. With Arnaud re-aggravating his left shoulder injury on the third play of the game, we got a heavy dose of Jerome Tiller as he went the rest of the way. Unfortunately, Iowa State would have its worst passing performance so far this season against what is likely the weakest team and pass defense on the schedule.
- Coming into the night, UNI’s pass defense was ranked 106th in the FCS. They had given up 247 passing yards to North Dakota State and 356 passing yards to Stephen F. Austin. Tiller was only able to muster 87 yards on 11-for-22 passing. UNI’s defensive performance was enough to bump their pass defense up 27 spots in the rankings, all the way to 79th.
- This is not meant to disparage Jerome Tiller. That’s a difficult spot for a back-up, and he deserves some credit for protecting the ball and playing within himself for most of the night. However, there is one key observation/lesson that I think we can all take from this game: The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and, 99 times out of 100, the coaches know best.
- Outside of the QB concerns, penalties continue to plague this offense, especially in the redzone. I was expecting to see this on the decline by now, so I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to worry.
- Finally, while there are certainly personnel limitations, I would love to see Coach Herman get more creative with this offense. Having said that, I acknowledge the irony in calling for more creativity when this offense is struggling with the basics. No doubt the offensive coaches are burning the midnight oil as I’m sure the fact that the offense was outscored by the defense is terribly embarrassing for them all.
It’s critical that this offense starts clicking in a hurry. With Texas Tech and Utah coming to Ames in back-to-back weeks, Iowa State has to find a way to win one of those games. And to win one of those games, the offense is going to have to put up some points. If not, you’re sitting at 2-4 and packing your bags for the roadtrips to Austin and Norman. That 2-4 record could quickly spiral into 2-6.
Whether you love him or loathe him, Cyclone fans should be hoping for a healthy Arnaud starting this Saturday. While limited in many facets of his game, he’s the best we’ve got. (Or, according to rumor, he’s the best we’ve got not wearing a redshirt.) Arnaud will continue to baffle fans as his performance fluctuates somewhere between inspiring and insulting. But the bottom line is he gives us the best chance to win in the Big 12, as frustrating as that may be.