Glancing at the stat sheet one would think that the Cyclones blew the Toledo Rockets out at The Glass Bowl. The Cyclones appeared to have control on offense accumulating 481 yards (Toledo only had 309) and a surprisingly effective rushing attack that totaled 207 yards on 49 carries. Redshirt freshman running back Mike Warren got the starting nod and gained 126 yards on 21 carries. Quarterback Sam Richardson was also efficient going 25-42 for 269 yards and 1 TD.
Anyone who watched the game, however, will tell you that this was far uglier than the stat sheet indicated. In the first half the offense stalled and, at times, was painfully agonizing to watch. Poor blocking by the offensive line, running backs missing holes, and miscommunication on a pass route all contributed to a frustrating display of the Cyclone offense. Thanks to the Cyclone defense, a blocked Cyclone punt inside their own 10 yard line luckily only led to a field goal for Toledo. Penalties—14 to be exact—killed Iowa State the entire game, giving Toledo first downs on silly offside calls and personal fouls. The offense was just as guilty with false starts frequently occurring after crossing the 50 yard line.
The offensive line continues to struggle protecting the quarterback. Richardson was sacked 5 times, including the last play of game in double-overtime. On the other side of the ball, the 3-4 defense continues to impress. It is clear that there are simply better (and more) athletes on the field for ISU than in recent seasons. Hopefully this will translate to success come conference play.
This was a game that Iowa State absolutely needed to win and could not afford otherwise. After losing to Iowa last week, any dreams of even sniffing bowl-eligibility started with beating Toledo on the road. ISU couldn’t get the job done. It’s tough not to question Iowa State’s decision to run the ball to the left side of the field for Cole Netten to end regulation. Certainly Netten would have had a better chance at making a straightly aligned 32-yard field goal if the Cyclones took a knee or kept the ball in the middle of the field and called timeout before the attempt. After Netten’s field goal went wide left, 100 percent of the blame should not be put on Netten as he wasn’t exactly setup for success.
Now if the Cyclones want to go bowling they are going to have win at least 5 Big 12 games—a feat that has not been accomplished at Iowa State since 2000. Sage Rosenfels was the quarterback. Seem like a daunting task? It is. There have been only been a handful of truly resilient Cyclone teams in the past and the 2004 squad highlights that bunch. That team began the season 2-4 (0-3 in conference play) and was on verge of losing out after blowout scores of 36-7 and 34-3. Miraculously, ISU won 4 straight games (highlighted by a 7-point win over Nebraska) to become bowl-eligible and clinch a share of the Big 12 North title. The 2015 Cyclones need to mimic the 2004 team as best they can. The 2004 Cyclones won largely in part because of their defense. It forced turnovers when it needed to and even scored touchdowns to help the offense out. Coach Dan McCarney capped the season off with a 17-13 win over Miami (OH) in the Independence Bowl. These are the elements that are needed if the 2015 Cyclones want to go bowling.
In the past two seasons, Iowa State has rolled over and given up and it definitely has shown in the win-loss record (2014: 2-10, 0-9 Big 12 play). Paul Rhoads’ seat is getting warmer with each passing week. If his team has a brutal Big 12 season for the second straight season, that seat should be on fire next off season.
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