Powell: It’s not about how you start…?

Iowa State football players huddle together before their game against the University of Texas on Nov. 6.

James Powell

AMES- Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Missed tackles early and often. Getting consistently burned in the secondary that was supposed to be veteran-led. A stagnant offense leading to lots of time on defense.

You’ve seen this movie before. It had its first showing in Morgantown when Iowa State went down 17-14 in the second quarter, but went into half tied at 17 hoping for a better final 30 minutes.

The second showing was in Lubbock on Saturday. It was much more gory and hard to watch. It took the form of a 31-14 deficit going into the locker room on the road.

None of the first half stats were pretty. They gave up 326 yards, the aforementioned 31 points and anything the Red Raiders wanted.

The more puzzling part? It came against a redshirt freshman in Donovan Smith that hadn’t started a game in college yet.

He completed 14 of his 18 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns and looked entirely comfortable all half.

It was a bad combination of poor tackling, failing to break up a pass in the secondary and not being able to get any stops on third down.

As far as the offense goes, the story was that Breece Hall only had nine rushes for 27 yards. Yes, he had two touchdowns, but it was tough sledding outside of those two runs.

All these stats and all of the pitfalls that the Cyclones had in the first half meant that they had a deep and long hill to climb in the final 30 minutes.

The consistent stuck-points in the first halves haven’t come against powerhouses such as Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, it’s been the sub-.500 teams with something to prove.

Iowa State had to travel to their home turfs, and the Cyclones coming out slow meant the home teams were able to put the hammer down early against a team that came into the season ranked seventh in the nation.

Regardless of what eventually occurred in the second half, it’s a trend that a team with sky-high expectations needed to shake as early in the season as possible. Iowa State has always been a team that peaked at the right time. Their head coach has said it over and over.

They’ve been a team that champions themselves in winning in the margins, and making the little plays here and there to make a difference in every game.

Too often this season, however, it’s been big plays in the first half given up by the defense, followed by a furious attempt at a rally in the second half that teams don’t tend to fare too well in throughout the season.

It’s not like Iowa State is a bad team. They’ve been touted often as one of the more well-rounded, well-coached and complete teams in the nation. 

But the results of the first half and the matchup against West Virginia tell a story that the Cyclones would’ve rather gone unwritten.

Iowa State doesn’t match the energy set forth of teams trying to reach them in the Big 12 standings, and the offense isn’t set up to come from behind often enough to steal a game.

They had to abandon the run in favor of Brock Purdy taking over the game, and it worked for them for a while.

Specifically the lethal Purdy-to-Kolar connection that accounted for eight catches, 76 yards and two scores in the second half to pull close.

It’s certainly tough to lose on a 62-yard field goal as time expired, but it was a culmination of moments throughout the game that put them in that situation.

The furious rallies set forth by the Cyclones don’t set them up well for success, certainly, but it speaks to a larger theme.

Teams they ran over last season came in hungry for redemption this season. West Virginia, Baylor and Texas Tech all have made it stressful for Iowa State and their fans.

The Cyclones aren’t surprising anyone anymore. They’ve arrived at national recognition as a tough team to beat. But they aren’t invincible, and subpar first halves in consecutive road games proved that.

They came all the way back, and Iowa State was almost able to pull out a surprising, come-from-behind victory. But it was all set up by a less-than-admirable first half that made for a tough, and eventually failed, comeback.