FOOTBALL: Avoiding a Hawkeye hangover

Iowa States Marquis Hamilton dives after a fumble against Iowa on Saturday. The Cyclones now travel to Ohio to face Kent State, hoping to end their 17-game road losing streak. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Shing Kai Chan

Iowa State’s Marquis Hamilton dives after a fumble against Iowa on Saturday. The Cyclones now travel to Ohio to face Kent State, hoping to end their 17-game road losing streak. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Chris Cuellar —

College football season stretches from early September to Thanksgiving, a grand total of 12 games and typically six or seven games for your fan base to gather and celebrate the occasion of home-field advantage.

In those 12 games, there is no time for wallowing in defeat, and while Iowa State was ecstatic coming off of an opening win and the snapping of a ten game losing streak, and the Iowa State coaching staff will do everything in its power to turn losing into victory over seven days.

“The bottom line is, there’s room for improvement in every phase of our program, and that is and will remain the number one expectation in the first season as we’ve taken over.”

That’s what Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said on September 7, a preparation afternoon five days before the Cyclones 35-3 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes for in-state pride. After the game, that ideal is not about to change.

The losing hangover can’t last long in college football and the young Cyclones will need to learn this over the next five days, looking at a rubber match for the last two years against the Kent State Golden Flashes.

“I don’t think this team will dwell on this loss,” quarterback and team captain Austen Arnaud said. “It happened early to us. We definitely got put in our place and we’ve got to be able to make quick decisions on the run and focus at all times.”

Arnaud played what he and most fans called the worst game of his career, and the statistics can prove his statement. A career 66.5-percent passer, with an average of 221 yards per game as a starter, his 10-for-22 and 79 yards with four interceptions against the Hawkeyes didn’t reflect the work he has done wearing Cardinal and Gold.

Rhoads said prior to the game that while it was important as an Iowan and now coach to get a victory over the rival Hawks, life and death were not the outcome of the game.

“It would be a nice shot in the arm. I don’t think it’s going to hold us back in our recruiting efforts, I don’t necessarily think it’s going to put us over the hump, as far as that goes either.”

While the loss won’t be easy to get over for ticket holders, the fact remains that the Cyclones are 1-1, and have ten games left on the schedule.

The offensive performance left a lot for the Cyclones to work on in practice, with five interceptions and a fumble signaling an ultimate failure in execution. In offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s spread offense, execution and focus are keys to win, and the Hawkeyes were able to shake up everything Iowa State wanted to do going in.

On defense, the linebacker Jesse Smith and safety David Sims have split 40 tackles total in the first two games of the season, and Sims has collected three interceptions, but the loss to Iowa is what sticks out.

The Hawkeye offense didn’t pick apart what was last year’s 116th-ranked secondary the way many critics thought they would, but when stuck in the short field, the defense gave up five touchdowns on six visits to the redzone.

“It’s done and over with. We lost, yeah, we lost to Iowa, but from this point forward we’re just thinking about our next opponent,” cornerback Leonard Johnson said.

With the team ready to look ahead, Kent State is ready on Saturday for the Cyclones, sitting at 1-1 after an 18-0 win over FCS opponent Coastal Carolina, and a 34-7 loss to ACC-foe Boston College. The Golden Flashes didn’t score on BC until there was 2:15 left in the game, and the offense only accumulated 179 yards of total offense. The Cyclones won’t be taking that lack of productivity for lack of talent, even though 5-foot-5 Eugene Jarvis is out for the season at running back for KSU. Jarvis had totaled 252 rushing yards against Iowa State the last two seasons, but was pronounced out for the season with a  kidney injury after the loss at Boston College last week.

The focus stays on execution, and worrying about what the Cyclones can do to control the game, not about the opponents’ impact on Iowa State’s learning process.

“If we maintain our focus on preparation, eliminating mistakes and executing well, eventually this road-losing streak will come to an end and we’ll take care of it that way. We addressed it hard in the offseason. The players are painfully aware of the streak. We will move forward by work and won’t dwell on it,” Rhoads said during his weekly Big 12 teleconference.