It has taken a full 24 hours to come back down after witnessing such a thrilling game. That was just down-right fun and it made the cold temps nothing more than an afterthought (for most of us, anyway). It’s hard to sit down and put together a set of well-formed observations after such an action-packed, frenetic game, but I’ll do my best.
- A couple of trivial beefs before we get to the game action: Seriously, who is in charge of our pre-game routine? Maybe the people who settle into their seats just after kick off are simply trying to avoid the buzz kill that precedes the game. It screams of too many cooks in the kitchen. And in this case, none of the cooks know the recipe for getting fans fired up for a football game. Amateurish.
- One final beef: If you leave a game like Saturday’s at halftime and don’t return, why bother coming? I know there are special circumstances, but there aren’t several thousand of them. We all knew it was going to be cold, so I’m not buying that excuse. And if drinking in the parking lot is more enjoyable that watching Iowa State beat a solid Big 12 opponent in very exciting fashion, then I would question your fandom.
- As for the game, there was one obvious storyline that stood out to me. That was the fact that we came out swinging, inflicted some major damage on our opponent, and then withstood a surprising and staggering knockdown blow. It’s been said a thousand times since the clock went to :00, but that was a game that Iowa State loses nine times out of ten under previous coaches. The times they are a-changin’.
- I’ve heard a handful of fans refer to this win as a ‘fluke’. Wrong. Last season’s win over Nebraska was a fluke. When you’re the beneficiary of nearly as many turnovers as you have fingers to count them, that’s fluky. Iowa State just outplayed Texas Tech on Saturday and was the better team.
- I enjoyed watching the coaches on the sideline this game. The emotion and excitement were overflowing, and you could see it in their body language. Those guys were having a blast, and I was having a blast right along with them.
- The fake punt call in the 1st quarter on 4th-and-9 from our own 32 took some huge stones. Some around me thought it was improvisation on the part of VanDerKamp, pulling the ball down and running with the rush bearing down on him. We’ve learned since the game that it was called from the sideline and that the play was actually designed to allow pressure up the middle, I assume to create the over-pursuit that allowed VDK to turn the corner and get the 1st down. Regardless, this staff has shown a tremendous ability scout weaknesses in opponents’ special teams and exploit them with well-timed surprise plays.
- It seems as if this defense feeds off of its own attack. When they were allowed to bring pressure, it seemed as if the energy really ramped up with the entire unit. There was hard hitting, swarm tackling, and loads of enthusiasm. The crowd really fed off of this at times as well. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Wally start to loosen the reigns on his defense more and more.
- It was great to see Arnaud perform so well after being knocked out of UNI game on the first series. I thought the most obvious improvement was the touch on his deep throws. The TD strike to Franklin in the 4th, which regained the lead, was a work of art. Hopefully Arnaud can carry some of this progress forward over the next few weeks, because Iowa State will need it if they’re going to steal one of the next three games.
- While Arnaud’s passing improved, I thought his decision-making on when to tuck and run seemed a little off. That said, there may have been some tentativeness due to the shoulder injury, so it’s probably not worth worrying about at this point.
- The failure just before halftime was partially the result of poor specials teams execution, obviously, but it was also the result of poor pass protection and decision-making. The errant snap that got away from VanDerKamp is seared in the minds of everyone who witnessed the game, but most forget that Arnaud was sacked twice in the three plays that led to the punt attempt. Given how well Iowa State played most of the night, it’s amazing to think that this single 3-and-out series turned momentum in favor of Texas Tech for over a quarter and nearly had a devastating effect on the outcome of the game.
- The fumble by the Texas Tech WR at the end of the 3rd quarter was a fortunate play as the game was still knotted at 24. Watching live, it wasn’t crystal clear that the catch was secured prior to the ball coming out. As a result, it was aggravating that the offense didn’t make much of an effort to get a quick play off before the review. There appeared to be plenty of time to do so and, had the call been overturned, it would have been an unfortunate and inexplicable failure.
- After Texas Tech tied the game at 24, it was hugely encouraging to see Iowa State score TDs on two of their next three possessions. Frankly, it was a very un-Cyclone-like response to getting punched in the mouth, but a response that I could get used to.
- Shontrelle Johnson showed some electric athletic ability, and it’s easy to see how he earned the nickname ‘Rabbit’. Given Johnson’s performance and how Rhoads has raved about his young o-linemen, it’s hard not to get excited about the future of Iowa State’s rush offense.
- Texas Tech would later pull back to within seven at 31-38, but Iowa State would again answer the bell with a 12-play, 80-yard, manhood-testing drive. The drive included a heavy dose of Woody with six consecutive carries that took the ball to the Texas Tech 7-yard line. The Cyclones would cap that drive with a well-called and beautifully-executed play to Hammerschmidt, who came in motion and was wide open as he drifted into the right side of the endzone.
- How fitting was it to see A.J. Klein (AK47) make a big play and end the game with a pick? Before long, the stat keepers will be spotting Klein an interception prior to kickoff just to save themselves some pencil work later in the game.
I mentioned last week that Iowa State had to win one of the two upcoming games against Texas Tech and Utah. The pressure is off, in a sense, with the win Saturday night. I’m hoping that this and a newfound confidence on the offensive side of the ball lead to a loose and confident team heading into the Utah game. I’m also hoping that the fans show up and fill the stadium on Saturday. This team is improving and the program is growing, so there is no reason not to get out and show our support.