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2018 Season

Breaking Down Iowa State’s Loss To Iowa

Despite a valiant effort by the defense, the Cyclones couldn’t get it done against the Hawkeyes. Here’s some thoughts on the game and on the Cyclones moving forward.



Getty Images - Matthew Holst

It wasn’t particularly exciting, and it wasn’t particularly great for the Cyclones. After what had been a defensive stalemate through most of the game, Iowa was able to pull away from Iowa State on a late touchdown and secure their fourth straight CY-Hawk trophy.

For most of the game the Hawkeyes held onto a 6-3 lead over the Cyclones with neither offense able to put together meaningful drives. You could tell that at some point something had to give and unfortunately for the Cardinal and Gold, it was Iowa State’s defense.

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With 4:47 left in the fourth quarter, Mekhi Sargent capped off a 13-play, 87-yard drive by punching in a 2-yard touchdown run to give Iowa a 13-3 lead over Iowa State. For a team that struggled to score just 3 points up to that point, the touchdown was a dagger.

Prior to that drive, the Iowa State’s defense preformed well, holding Iowa to just two field goals.

This should be a silver lining for Cyclone fans. If this defense can continue to improve and keep games close, they will have an opportunity to win a lot of games this year.

One item for concern is the health of Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt, who left the game with a lower left leg injury after throwing for 126 yards. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell describe the injury as a ‘ding’ to his MCL in his left knee. All reports are that this isn’t a season ending injury, so there is optimism about his return.

Iowa State’s Defense is LEGIT

I’ve already touched on this above, but seriously, Iowa State’s defense could not have done more to try and win that game. Time and time again they were sent onto the field tasked with keeping the Cyclones in the game, and for much of the game, they did just that. Even when turnovers gave the ball to the Hawkeyes in scoring position, the Cyclone defense held. Overall, Iowa State held Iowa to 6 of 17 on third down and 271 yards of total offense.

True freshman Mike Rose showed that he can be a difference maker by earning 11 total tackles.

With a void to fill in the middle of the conference behind the contenders, there is no reason to think that the Cyclones can’t rise to the top of that group and finish in the top half of the conference.

Where Was The Cyclone Offense?

Going into this game I expected big things from Iowa State running back David Montgomery. However, as I watched the game, I waited play after play for him to break a big run, but it never came. It was obvious Iowa was keying on him and with good reason. In last year’s Cy-Hawk game Montgomery ran all over the Hawkeye defense, tallying 112 yards on the ground and adding a touchdown. This year, Iowa’s defense showed to be much improved. The Hawkeyes held Montgomery to just 44 yards on 17 carries.

“At the line of scrimmage, where games are still won in this sport, they dominated. And we didn’t respond,” Matt Campbell said after the game.

Iowa turned Iowa State into a one dimensional team, stuffing the run and forcing Iowa State to try and and beat them through the air. You can bet that other teams will take the Hawkeye’s lead, and try to do the same. Starting with Oklahoma on Saturday.

Kyle Kempt Update

The Cyclones are going to have make teams respect their passing attack moving forward. The good news is that they have one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference in Kyle Kempt. The bad news is that he went down in the fourth quarter and is officially day-to-day.

“I think we’re all (breathing a) deep sigh of relief here,” Campbell said. “His availability for this week I think is still up in question a little bit. But I think it’s a lot better than what we thought the outcome was going to be.”

That’s great news, but right now it seems like Kempt’s status is questionable for Saturday against the Sooners. If Kempt is unable to go, the Cyclones will rely on sophomore Zeb Nolan.

Iowa State Play Calling

In Iowa State’s opening drive of the game, it seemed like they were off and rolling. They took the ball 66 yards all the way down to the Hawkeye 1 yard line. And then the inexplicable happened. As I watched Iowa State attempt to throw the ball into the end zone on third and goal from the 1 yard line, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the Patriots-Seahawks Superbowl XLIX debacle.

With the game on the line and arguably the best running back in the NFL in the backfield, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll elected to throw the ball into the end zone on 3rd and goal. It didn’t work out and Carroll faced heavy criticism for the decision. That same criticism is now pointed at coach Campbell.

Now, I understand that Iowa vs Iowa State is far from the Super Bowl, but I cant help but draw the comparison. If Matt Campbell gives the ball to David Montgomery — one of the best running backs in the country — instead of electing to throw it, the game may have taken on a whole different look and feel. After all, Montgomery had just picked up a yard on second and goal from the two yard line.

There is one key difference between the two situations, though. Carroll’s blunder took place at the end of the game. Campbell’s and the very beginning. And I’m sure that Campbell wasn’t anticipating that it would be the only time his offense got inside the 20 yard line. Still, confidence and momentum are intangible things in football, but they are as real as the football itself. If the Cyclones score here they may have taken the lead and never looked back.

For Iowa State to have any hope of pulling off the upset they will need to put the Cy-Hawk game behind them and move on quickly.

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