FOOTBALL: Youth plays big role on both sides

Iowa States Leonard Johnson celebrates after recovering a fumble against Nebraska on Saturday, at Jack Trice Stadium. Photo: Dan McClanahan/Iowa State Daily


Iowa State’s Leonard Johnson celebrates after recovering a fumble against Nebraska on Saturday, at Jack Trice Stadium. Photo: Dan McClanahan/Iowa State Daily

Luke Plansky

Two young football teams will battle for their first Big 12 wins in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday night.

Iowa State and Texas A&M have identical 2-5 records but completely different momentum heading into this weekend’s Homecoming game.

The Aggies (2-5, 0-3 Big 12) led seventh-ranked Texas Tech at halftime Saturday and appear to be coming together for first-year coach Mike Sherman. Conversely, the Cyclones (2-5, 0-3) have disintegrated after squandering a 20-point first-half lead against Kansas three weeks ago.

“Momentum is big in college football,” said ISU coach Gene Chizik. “I think momentum is huge for the psyche of teams and young guys.”

Five straight losses have battered the psyche of Iowa State’s young team. The Cyclones have suffered through two straight 28-point losses to Baylor and Nebraska, trailing 21-0 at the end of each first half.

Texas A&M played like one of the worst teams in the conference through the first half of the season, but has started to “really come on,” Chizik said.

“Don’t ever mistake that Texas A&M doesn’t have a lot of good football players — they do,” he said. “Again, it’s a coaching transition and … they’re starting to get it. Offensively, they are starting to click, they are starting to move the ball, they are starting to have confidence, and I think it is very visible.”

Meanwhile, Iowa State’s offense has taken “a step backwards” over the last few games, Chizik said.

The Cyclones’ running game has been “non-existent,” Chizik said, which has undermined the chances of success of first-year starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and the passing game.

Iowa State ranks tenth in the conference in rushing yards, averaging 128 per game.

“Anytime you can’t run the football, and then all of the sudden you make yourself a one-dimensional football team, you got issues. I mean, major issues,” Chizik said. “If everyone in our league knows we can only throw it — think about that right now. That’s scary.”

For that reason, Chizik said the team will still have to “find ways to run the ball.” The Aggies have struggled to stop the run this season, allowing an average of Big 12-worst 207.3 rushing yards per game.

They have been unable to establish their own ground game as well, averaging a Big 12-worst 110.6 yards per game.

The Aggies’ leading rusher, Mike Goodson, sprained the MCL in his left knee against Texas Tech this weekend. His status is questionable for Saturday’s game.

Six-foot-5 Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson sprained his right knee on the second possession of last week’s loss but is expected to play this weekend, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Texas A&M called just one run in the second half against the Red Raiders. The Aggies have played 20 first-year players this season, while Iowa State has played 11 true freshman and six redshirt freshman.

Chizik said he has noticed a lot the mistakes being made by the Cyclones come from young players, saying that’s the reality of “where we are at.”

“You’re dealing with all of those variables right now,” he said. “It’s still a young guy, an 18-year-old playing against a 22-year-old defensive lineman, and he may get whooped on a block. I mean, there are all kinds of issues in there.”

Despite the youth, Chizik said he expects perfection from his players.

“I know I’m not going to get it, but I expect it,” he said. “And when I see a guy out of his gap, or when I see a guard getting whooped on a run play, I expect more than that. If they are on the field playing in the Big 12, I expect more out of them.”