FOOTBALL: Iowa State preps for annual rivalry

Iowa States running-back Alexander Robinson rushes through the North Dakota defense during Iowa States first offensive series at Jack Trice Stadium on Thursday, September 3, 2009. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Shing Kai Chan

Iowa State’s running-back Alexander Robinson rushes through the North Dakota defense during Iowa State’s first offensive series at Jack Trice Stadium on Thursday, September 3, 2009. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Jake Lovett

After opening the season with a 34–17 victory against North Dakota State, head coach Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones are now preparing for their annual matchup against archrival Iowa this Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. The game kicks off at 11:05 a.m.

Drop from the Poll

Iowa had to survive to beat Northern Iowa 17–16 last Saturday, and its struggles were reflected in the most recent Associated Press poll released Monday.

The previously 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes fell completely from the top 25, and only received 24 total votes, meaning that for the third-straight season, neither Iowa State nor Iowa will be ranked in the AP’s top 25 for the game.

In Monday’s press conference, Rhoads mentioned several times that the Hawkeyes were a “well-deserving” nationally ranked team, but the voters were clearly unimpressed by the one-point victory at home to the Panthers of the FCS. Rhoads insisted, however, that the Hawkeye’s national status wouldn’t affect the outcome of the game.

“These kids play them every year, they know how physical Iowa is, they know Iowa’s tradition of winning,” Rhoads said. “The fact the Northern Iowa-Iowa game was so close in score will have no effect on what they expect coming into this football game.”

Ground Game

Last week, Iowa State compiled 217 yards between quarterback Austen Arnaud and running backs Alexander Robinson and Jeremiah Schwartz. Robinson had 77 yards in the first half on 13 carries (5.2 yards per carry), but he only had eight yards in the second half on three carries.

“[The flow of the offense] was part of it, but at the same time, North Dakota State made some great adjustments to stop the run at halftime,” Robinson said. “We just tried to take what they gave us and not try to do anything spectacular or anything like that.”

Rhoads said he expects to see Robinson — a junior from Minneapolis — be more aggressive in the coming weeks than he was against the Bison.

This week’s opponent, Iowa, only gave up 84 yards on the ground last week against Northern Iowa, though.

“I’ll get the ball here and there, whenever it calls for it, I’ll run the ball,” Robinson said. “I was just trying to execute what was called and trying to not make a mistake, and I’m going to try and do that better than I did in week one.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Cyclones gave up 210 rushing yards to the Bison, including a career-high 146 yards to NDSU’s Pat Paschall.

The Hawkeyes struggled running the ball against Northern Iowa in the wake of losing pre-season starter Jewel Hampton, but will likely try to establish the run this week with redshirt freshman Adam Robinson and junior Paki O’Meara.

“Anytime a team gives you two guys in the backfield, you’ve got to pack an extra guy in the box, as coaches like to say,” said Rhoads. “The dangerous item with all of that is play-action pass and misdirection pass and the opportunity to give up the big play.”

“Go-to” guy

Coming into the 2009 season, it was asked who would shoulder the load for the Cyclones in their new spread-style offense. However, one game in that question may not be answered, yet.

Senior Marquis Hamilton had four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns against North Dakota State. Meanwhile, newcomer Darius Reynolds had six catches for 53 yards, and Robinson made three catches for 36 yards through the air.

“I don’t know that we have a go-to guy, and I don’t know that we’ll ever have a go-to guy,” Rhoads said. “With this offense you’ve got to have so many targets that if you start limiting yourself, you put yourself in a position to be defended.”

Other options for Arnaud will be sophomores Sedrick Johnson and Darius Darks, provided they remain healthy and on the field. Johnson missed all but two series in the season opener after spraining an ankle, and Darks was slowed throughout by a lingering hamstring injury.

“Everybody’s role is going to change week by week, based on what the defense presents to us,” said offensive coordinator Tom Herman. “I’m not sure we’re at the point offensively where we need to force feed the ball to anybody, which is a good thing.”

Welcome Back

Rhoads will be the head coach against his school’s archrival for the first time, but this is far from his first trip around the block.

While coaching under Dan McCarney, Rhoads faced Iowa five times and helped the Cyclones win twice in 1998 and 1999.

“I don’t know if I can separate them being that it is my sixth game in this rivalry,” Rhoads said. “The fact that it’s my home state, the fact that I’ve been a part of it before makes it that much more special, and we’ll be looking forward to 11:10 Saturday morning.”

The coach isn’t the only one with experience against the Hawkeyes, as Robinson will be one of many players facing the rivals from the east again.

Robinson has 75 yards on the ground in his two previous matchups with Iowa, as well as getting 42 yards through the air in last season’s loss.

“It’s just a great atmosphere,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely a big game with the emotions that go through you when you get out there.”