ISU offense hitting on all cylinders

Jeff Stell

ISU offensive coordinator Steve Loney may be putting it lightly when he describes his offense as one that “presents a problem for defensive coordinators.” The Cyclone offense has been a nightmare for opposing teams so far this season. In their first three games, the offensive unit has eclipsed the 400-yard plateau in total offense and has set a school record in the process. Balance has been the driving force behind the early season success, as the Cyclones have hurt teams on the ground and through the air. The rushing and passing numbers were almost identical in the Cyclones’ wins over University of Ohio and intrastate rival Iowa. The Cyclones are averaging 239.6 passing yards per game and 200.6 rushing. “Our balance puts us in a position where if teams are bound and determined to stop the run, we can hurt them through the air and vice versa,” ISU offensive coordinator Steve Loney said. “They’ve been around 10 yards of each other in rushing and throwing in the Ohio and Iowa games, and that’s probably been the closest I’ve ever seen.” ISU quarterback Sage Rosenfels points out that one reason for the balance in the offense is because of the different formations they run. “We run inside, outside and we run some option. We do a lot of different things that can mess up a defense so there’s a lot to prepare for,” Rosenfels said. “I think if I was a defensive coordinator about to play Iowa State, I’d have a lot of things to try and stop.” While the Cyclones have found success moving the ball down the field, they’ve had their share of problems in the red zone. The Cyclones had two drives stall inside the 20-yard line against Iowa and come away with nothing as Mike McKnight missed two field goals. “We do wish we had better productivity in the red zone,” Rosenfels said. “Just scoring more touchdowns and not leaving it up to Mike to get us three, we’d rather go get six or seven. I think we have done a good job moving the ball down the field and not just getting one or two first downs.” The Cyclone ground attack has been led by junior Ennis Haywood. Haywood has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first three games, including a season high 159 yards against University of Ohio. Haywood averages 4.7 yards per carry and has been a key to the Cyclones being able to grind out scoring drives. “I feel all right, I’m getting a couple of my goals,” Haywood said. “The big thing is that I’m helping the offense move the ball. I’m doing my part.” The Cyclones receiving corp of J.J. Moses and Chris Anthony have made several big plays but the biggest impact has come from the tight end position. Filling the tight end position are junior Mike Banks and sophomore Kyle Knock. Both have come up with several key catches. Banks has 11 catches, after only catching nine balls all of last year, and Knock has four receptions with an average of 17.8 yards per catch. “Those guys are big targets and they’re running well after the catch,” Rosenfels said. “They’re also great blockers so you want to reward them for doing so good. One thing that has helped is that we’re running the ball so well and that opens them up on the bootleg play we like to run.” Making Rosenfels job easier is that he’s had great protection from his offensive line, as he has yet to be sacked this season. Veterans Ben Bruns, Ben Beaudet and Marcel Howard are starters on the line with newcomers Andy Stensrud and Lorenzo White. Before moving to the line, Stensrud was a three-year letterwinner at tight end. “New guys have come in and stepped up, like Andy Stensrud and Lorenzo White,” Rosenfels said. “Then you have veterans likes Ben Bruns, Ben Beaudet and Marcel Howard. They’ve been doing a good job up front of protecting me and making holes for Ennis.” Haywood agrees that the offensive line is coming through big. “They’re opening up holes for me and handling their business everyday. My big boys are taking care of me,” Haywood said. The Cyclones showed versatility in the play calling in the victory over Iowa. On the first play of the game, the Cyclones scored on a 58-yard reverse by J.J. Moses, and ran a halfback pass with Haywood later in the game. Loney had been crafting the reverse for days before the game and had a feeling the play would work. “To be honest with you, it was kind of a gut feeling on my part,” Loney said. “I was lying in bed Wednesday night thinking about it and we went over it Thursday and Friday in practice. I knew Iowa’s defense would come out fired up and be flying to the ball so we tried to take advantage of that.” Haywood completed his first pass of the Cyclone career for an 11-yard gain. Haywood threw a quick pass that Banks made a leaping catch for a first down. “We threw a couple in practice over the years, but that was my first one in a game,” Haywood said. “I still had my gloves on so I just kind of put it out there the best I could. I kind of overthrew it but Mike made a good catch. He made me look gorgeous.”