I hold grudges. Not so much in real life, but definitely in sports. Because of that I will never forgive Iowa State for beating TCU back in 2012 in the Frogs’ first ever Big 12 game in the newly renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium. It was supposed to be a great day of celebration and boastfulness, and instead it ended up being a day of humility and perspective.
That stuff builds character. I appreciate that. None of us want to be like some other schools in Texas, who act like they’ve won the national championship every year whether they’re 8-5 or 5-7. But that doesn’t mean that I have to thank Iowa State for handing us the loss. It’s a bitter pill, and I’ll always resent them for it. So, I’ll welcome them to Fort Worth tomorrow, and hope that they leave with an extra measure of character.
A New Storm Brewing
A lot has changed up in Ames this offseason. The Cyclones have a new quarterback (kind of) in Joel Lanning, an almost completely new offensive line, and a new head coach in Matt Campbell. Campbell is traditionally a run-first coach who came to Iowa State from Toledo, where he coached from 2011-2015, compiling a 35-15 record (24-8 in MAC).
It’s an impressive record, as has been his career overall, but things have not gone well for Campbell since he took the reigns in Ames. They started their season with a 25-20 loss to Northern Iowa, a good FCS team that went 9-5 and lost in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs to the eventual national champion, North Dakota State. They went on the next week to get absolutely crushed to the tune of 42-3 by their in-state rival Iowa. That game featured lots of this...
...and also lots of this.
He scored, and that about catches us up on Iowa State’s season so far this year.
Campbell likes to operate his offense through a power run-based spread attack. While things haven’t gone according to plan, with the Cyclones scoring 23 points combined in their first two games, they have the tools at the skill positions to make it work. Preseason 1st team All Big 12 running back Mike Warren is back for his sophomore season after racking up 1,339 rushing yards last year as a freshman. He has the ability to lead this thing on the ground.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning started the last five games of the season for the Cyclones last year, and he beat out senior Sam Richardson to do it. In those five games he put up 1,247 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Then there’s Allen Lazard, the 6’6”, 223 lbs wide receiver, who just so happened to also be named a Preseason 1st team All Big 12 player for the Cyclones. He put up 808 yards on 56 catches with six touchdowns last year. So yeah, these guys are all pretty good.
So with all these guys who are so good, how has Iowa State’s offense manages to be so bad so far this year? Well, it’s mostly due to the fact that they came into the season with the task of replacing four of their five starters on the offensive line. It hasn’t gone well. In their two games in 2016 they have totaled just 598 yards and three touchdowns. They’ve managed just 223 total rushing yards and Mike Warren hasn’t rushed for over 30 yards in a games. Allen Lazard, managing over 100 yards receiving in both of those games is the lone bright spot, but he needs to start getting help from the rest of the offense soon.
The Cyclones have a lot of returning players in the defensive front seven, but few proven playmakers. Defensive tackle Demond Tucker is one of those few. He returns as a senior after recording 23 tackles (13 for a loss) and six sacks last season. Tucker has some good size around him in guys like J.D. Waggoner, Gabe Luna and Pierre Aka, but this group has yet to show how much they can really contribute.
Willie Harvey is the most proven linebacker for the Cyclones, coming into this year at WLB with 45 tackles (3 for loss) and two sacks. It will also be interesting to see how redshirt freshman Bobby McMillen III performs on the other side as the Sam.
The Iowa State secondary might be the most talented group for them on the defensive side. Both starting cornerbacks from last year, Brian Peavy and Jomal Wiltz are returning and Nigel Tribune will also be returning from suspension for the TCU game, giving the Cyclones added depth. At safety they have Kamari Cotton-Moya back, who missed the last half of the 2015 season with a hamstring injury. But in 2014 when he played the whole season, he was named a First-Team Freshman All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Through their first two games, they’ve allowed 809 yards and nine touchdowns. The yardage isn’t all that bad, but they have had a lot of trouble stopping the run. Opponents have managed 468 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground. With TCU’s talented stable of running backs, the Frogs should be able to have success there too.
Starting the year off with three straight home games is nice, and TCU is in a great position to show that they learned from their mistakes last week with a strong performance against a team that has struggled. But don’t forget about that 2012 Iowa State game. I’m sure that Patterson has reminded the team. Frog fans, and the players themselves, have as much reason to get up for this game as any other.