For the sixth time in the past seven years, Farmageddon was decided by eight points or less. Unfortunately, none of those games have gone Iowa State’s way. The Cyclones’ close battle with Kansas State proved to be another frustrating loss for a team that was already demoralized from losing to FCS power North Dakota State to open the season. Reality is, barring a win against the Wildcats, this is about as good as game as Iowa State could have hoped for after the beating it took from the Bison.
So, what does this mean for the program? The Cyclones are 0-2 for the second consecutive year, and are in the midst of trying to establish an offensive identity under first year coordinator Mark Mangino. At the same time, they are trying to keep Defensive Coordinator Wally Burnham’s philosophy of “bend don’t break”—with a relatively inexperienced unit. It sounds like the ingredients to another long season in Ames. Don’t worry Cyclone fans, there is still hope. The offense showed some flashes of potential against Kansas State. The defense played with intensity and enthusiasm, before getting wore down in the fourth quarter. The special teams unit is a strength that the Cyclones can, and need, to take advantage of as the season goes on. These are all positive signs from Saturday that the program must continue to keep build on.
Now, the priority for Cyclone fans is to keep your chins up. The Cyclones still have winnable games on the schedule this season. It begins this Saturday with the in-state rivalry game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes struggled with a pesky Ball State squad last week, needing a couple fourth quarter touchdowns to gain the lead and escape with a victory. One of the few downsides, the game is in Iowa City.
Offensively, Junior Quarterback Sam Richardson has been more consistent this season, completing 67 percent of his throws. But, he has only averaged 5.5 yards per completion. It is imperative that this number increases if the Cyclones want to be successful on offense. Through two weeks, the short passing game has been used as somewhat of a substitute to the running game—which also must improve if the Cyclones want to grab a win this season. Running backs Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy have combined for only 119 yards so far this season. Wimberly and Nealy are both quick and explosive, and the offense needs to get them more involved. One of the bright spots against Kansas State came in the second quarter when the offense was clicking. It showed how dangerous the offense COULD be. If Iowa State can consistently duplicate that second quarter, there will be a handful of upset opportunities this season. The key is consistently, as the Cyclones have not scored in the second half yet in either game.
Defensively, after the debacle against North Dakota State, I was expecting Kansas State to score at least 50 points after scoring 10 in the first five minutes of the game. However, the Cyclone defense responded extremely well and kept Iowa State in the game until the offense finally woke up. One of the biggest frustrations through two games is the Cyclones’ inability to force a turnover. Turnovers help any defense, but can be an enormous confidence boost to a young unit.
Heading into week two, Kansas State was primed to blow the Cyclones out at home. Iowa State looked like a different team than it did in week 1 against the Bison. They took a few steps forward, corrected some of their errors, and competed against the 20th ranked team in the land. Don’t panic yet Cyclone fans. The season is still young, and the verdict is still out on the 2014 team.