Belinson: Cyclones’ defense gets lost in Morgantown


Jake Hummel talks with Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock against Kansas State on Oct. 16, 2021.

Matt Belinson

AMES — After one of biggest rejuvenations you could have asked for last Saturday in an upset win against Oklahoma State, the Cyclones’ just turned that promise into frustration after falling to the Mountaineers 38-31 on Saturday.

And it was anything but sweet.

Let’s get this one out of the way, blaming officiating is generally paired with dozens of mistakes surrounded calls by referees. This wasn’t a game won or lost by Breece Hall fumbling the ball right before the end-zone. It wasn’t when Brock Purdy was ruled short of the first-down marker on his impressive third down scramble as the clock wound down in the final drive.

Iowa State’s defense missed the mark and the Cyclones were never in control because of it.

We’ve seen this story before.

The Cyclones’ first loss of the Big 12 season in Waco, Texas, to Baylor may have included less yardage and points on the board for the Bears, but a rare lack of execution put Iowa State in a hole early. From there, Baylor could play with the wind at its sails and play aggressive. 

West Virginia took that to an extreme. The Mountaineers finished with nearly 500 — yes, 500 — yards of offense and torched all levels of the Cyclones defense all afternoon. The Mountaineers officially ended the day with 492 yards of offense, the most the Cyclones have allowed this season.

West Virginia scored on six of its 13 total drives and it’s the most points Iowa State’s allowed since it lost to Oklahoma on Nov. 9, 2019 in Norman, Oklahoma, in a 42-41 loss. The 492 yards is the most given up since the Cyclones won against TCU on Sept. 26, 2020, giving up 498 yards.

It was bad out there Saturday. There’s no other way to say it.

Mike Rose not playing on Saturday hurts. There’s no doubting that. But the drop-off without him was bigger than I, or anyone else, should have expected. Jake Hummel had his best game as a Cyclone, but it wasn’t enough to slow down West Virginia on the day.

West Virginia’s skill players were praised ahead of Saturday, but the amount of broken tackles and a lack of pressure on a young and experienced offensive line was head-scratching. And West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege had his way because of it.

Iowa State registered zero sacks against a line with two juniors and the rest being sophomores or younger. 

Doege attacked down field all day, throwing for a career-high 370 passing yards, along with three touchdowns. 

Even on 4th and 3 as the fourth quarter began, Doege didn’t look like he wanted to run the play at first. But when the ball was snapped, he knew where he wanted to attack. And it worked.

The Mountaineers tied it at 31-all, taking advantage of secondary members Datrone Young, T.J. Tampa and Kym-Mani King on the scoring drive.

After it tied it up 31-31, Iowa State punted and put its defense back on the field. And West Virginia took the lead in less than three minutes. And that was that.

Officials are one thing, but allowing career-days to average-at-best skill players can’t happen if this team wants to sniff a chance of making it back to Arlington. The Cyclones have four games left to respond, and plenty of scoreboard watching to do, if a redemption arc in the Big 12 Championship is the goal.