Bass shines in first half of opener

Pat Brown

Think J.J. Bass’ 133 rushing yards solved Iowa State’s tailback shuffle?

Think again.

Bass became the first ISU player since 1989 to rush for more than 100 yards in his first-ever game as a Cyclone, but Thursday’s 23-14 loss to Kent State left plenty of questions with a team that has yet to find its identity.

Iowa State finished the game with 158 yards on the ground, 10 more than it had through the air.

Not good enough, though, said first-year coach Gene Chizik.

“I would have liked to run the ball better than we did tonight,” Chizik said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near where we need to be. I thought J.J. did show some flashes of some good things.”

Those good things mostly came in the first half, however, in which Bass rushed for 106 yards on just 14 carries, including a 22-yard scamper that proved to be the longest of his day.

That momentum faded in the second half, as Kent State held Bass to just 27 yards.

Freshman Alexander Robinson actually started the game at tailback and netted a respectable 21 yards on five carries.

Bass came in the game for the second series, however, and never relinquished the role.

“I definitely want to be the guy,” Bass said. “I feel I can help this team, but that’s in the coaching staff’s hands, and whatever they do, I’m happy with that.”

The Cyclones consistently moved the ball well in the first half but never had a big breakout play, as their drives either ended in a turnover or fizzled out as they neared field goal range.

Iowa State’s inability to move the football effectively in the second half could be attributed to its youth, but Bass thought it was simply first-game rust.

“This wasn’t growing pains,” he said. “It was the first game, and we had a lot of first-game mistakes that we’ve got to get corrected.”

The mistakes came in the form of penalties, turnovers or botched plays.

One thing everyone agreed on, however, is that the team’s inability to capitalize on the good drives in the first half ultimately doomed the Cyclones.

“It seemed like it worked in the first half,” Bass said. “We got a lot out of the runs, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Bass showed plenty of stability on the field, consistently bouncing off tacklers while keeping his legs churning.

Individually, Bass’ 133 yards are the best by any first-year Cyclone since Blaise Bryant ran for 213 yards on 27 carries against Ohio on Sept. 9, 1989.

It was a convincing show from the junior, and any 100-plus yard performance is usually enough to solidify a starting spot at tailback.

However, even Bass knows the outcome of the game overshadowed a commendable individual performance.

Even so, wouldn’t it only make sense for him to get the nod in next week’s game against Northern Iowa?

“I can’t really comment on that,” Bass said. “It was a pretty down game . if the outcome was a little bit better, then I could comment on that.”