September 4, 2008

Cyclones snapshot

Kent State returns to the scene of its biggest win of the 2007 season Saturday night looking for two straight wins against Iowa State. This time around, the Cyclones will be ready for the Golden Flashes. publisher Paul Clark answered five questions about the Cyclones and their 44-17 season-opening win over South Dakota State last week.

1. What was your overall take on the South Dakota State game, beyond the final score?

I was impressed with Iowa State's positioning and pursuit on defense, showing that they are thinking less and at the same time, knowing earlier and quicker where to be and what to do. A year ago at this time, you could see the ISU defenders being a step slow on a lot of plays because they had to think about what they were doing before they did it. Most of that noise is out of their heads now and they are just playing the game faster and with more abandon. They may even need to ratchet that down a bit as the tackling was a little suspect against South Dakota State, but no one could say they weren't around the football and in position to make a lot of plays. Offensively, the quarterback tandem of Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates had a rating of 177.45 for the game, a very nice number for two sophomores who were each getting the most extensive playing time of their respective college careers.

2. Did any newcomers step up and play well for Iowa State last week?

The Cyclones used 11 true freshmen in the game and several other players saw their first significant playing time as well. The receiving duo of Sedrick Johnson and Darius Darks started fast as each caught a touchdown pass in his first college game. Freshman kicker Grant Mahoney made three field goals and kicked five extra points and averaged over 66 yards on six kickoffs. Freshman cornerback Leonard Johnson was second on the team in tackles with six and he also had a 26-yard kickoff return. Iowa State is certainly a young team and its newcomers will have to contribute all year long for the team to meet its objectives for a successful year.

3. What does Iowa State like to do offensively and who are the individual standouts?

The Cyclones showed more diversity on offense in game one than they did last season in terms of formations and motion and other nuances. But at the end of the day, it's still a team that wants to run the football first and foremost. ISU had 42 rush attempts against SDSU and threw just 19 passes, in part due to having a comfortable lead and in part because that's what it wants to be offensively. Iowa State will use one back most of the time with either three wide outs and one tight end or two wide outs and two tight ends. The tight ends are active before the snap, often going in motion and sometimes lining up at fullback. If the Cyclones can run the ball 60-percent of the time or more, it's probably a game that's going their way. Individually on offense, Alexander Robinson is the feature back and gained 74 yards on 15 carries in the opener. Receiver R.J. Sumrall led the team with four catches. Senior tackle Doug Dedrick anchors the line.

4. What does Iowa State like to do defensively and who are the individual standouts?

The Cyclones keep it fairly basic on defense and just try to do what they do very well. ISU runs a 4-3 and plays a lot of cover two and some cover three. It will go with nickel and dime packages as warranted, something it couldn't do much last year due to a dearth of available corners in 2007. Iowa State will blitz and gets more production out of interior blitzes than a lot of teams. The Cyclones played their corners tight against South Dakota State and it will be interesting to see if they are that aggressive against Kent State as well. Individually, SAM linebacker Michael Bibbs led the team in tackles last week with nine. Defensive end Kurtis Taylor, linebacker Jesse Smith and safety James Smith are other key players on defense.

5. What are the keys to this game from a Iowa State perspective?

The Cyclones have to contain Julian Edelman in scramble situations and they have to tackle better than last week vs. SDSU and better than last year vs. Kent State. Edelman really hurt the Cyclones when flushed and time and time again, he would break a tackle or simply elude one and get the yardage needed for a first down. Tackling Eugene Jarvis is also a major focal point, ISU can't allow him to get loose very much or very often. On offense, Iowa State has to protect the football and not be afraid to play field position and let its defense do its job. Departed quarterback Bret Meyer had one of his worst career games last year against the Flashes in his first live action in a new offensive system. Arnaud and Bates have to play within themselves and not turn the ball over. Had ISU gotten even an OK game out of Meyer last season, it may not have lost the game. It needs Arnaud and Bates to be better than okay to win this time around.

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