Takeaways: Cyclones fell short in multiple facets against Baylor

(From left to right) Iowa State defensive lineman J.R. Singleton, Will McDonald and Eyioma Uwazurike look at Iowa State’s sideline for a play call against Northern Iowa on Sept. 4, 2021.

Sam Stuve

After Saturday’s 31-29 upset loss to Baylor, Iowa State is off to an 0-1 start of conference play. 

The Cyclones struggled in all three phases in Waco, Texas, up to the now No. 21 Baylor Bears.

Defense falters early

Coming into Saturday’s game, Iowa State’s defense had yet to allow its opponents to score more than 20 points. However, midway through the second quarter Saturday, Baylor had already eclipsed that magic number. 

Baylor’s first three drives resulted in a touchdown, the first of which came on an eight-yard run by quarterback Gerry Bohanon late in the first quarter. 

After taking over possession of the ball near midfield, Baylor drove the ball into Iowa State territory and scored on a 21-yard pass from Bohanon to wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, just seconds into the second quarter. 

Baylor’s third touchdown came on a 33-yard pass from Bohanon to Ben Sims, putting Baylor up 21-10 with 5:37 left in the second quarter.

Although, from there on out, Iowa State’s defense made the stops it needed to. Their defense kept the game close and helped Iowa State nearly win the game. 

Baylor had just 78 yards of offense in the second half, scored zero touchdowns and fumbled the ball once.

The offense scored only three points in the second half, but that was enough to hold on and beat Iowa State by two. 

Baylor’s touchdown pass from Bohanon to Sims in the latter half of the second quarter was the last offensive touchdown, but Baylor scored 10 more points partly due to Iowa State’s special teams’ mistakes.

Special teams haunt Cyclones

In the second half, Iowa State allowed one touchdown, and its defense didn’t surrender it.

Instead, it was the kickoff team that gave it up.

After Andrew Mevis made a field goal, Baylor running back Trestan Ebner returned a 98-yard kickoff to the house that put the Bears up 28-16 with 6:59 left in the third quarter.

This return wasn’t the first, nor the last, that scored points. 

Leading 28-23 midway through the fourth quarter, Iowa State punter Corey Dunn kicked a 41-yard line drive punt received by Ebner at Baylor’s 43-yard line and returned all the way inside Iowa State’s red zone to the 16-yard line.

This then set up a short 34-yard field goal by Baylor kicker Isaiah Hankins, which put Baylor up 31-23 with 5:36 left and would ultimately be the final point maker in the game.

The Bears also benefited from a Dunn punt that went haywire earlier in the game. 

Tied at seven late in the first quarter, Dunn’s first punt of the game went just 16 yards and gave Baylor the ball at their own 44-yard line. Baylor’s Al Walcott was credited with the punt block, which would set up the game’s second touchdown for the Bears.

While these mistakes hurt the Cyclones significantly, not finishing drives hurt as well.

Equal amount of field goals and touchdowns

Three field goals and three touchdowns. That’s Iowa State’s scoring breakdown from Saturday. 

The Cyclones moved the ball really well Saturday, nearly gaining 500 yards of offense against the Bears.

But finishing drives with touchdowns is where the Cyclones faltered. 

In eight of the Cyclones’ 11 drives, they crossed the 50-yard line and had the ball in Bears’ territory. But just three of those eight drives resulted in a touchdown. 

Out of those eight drives, three of them resulted in a touchdown, three made field goals, one missed field goal attempt and one costly interception that was tipped at the line of scrimmage midway through the fourth quarter. 

If one of the field goals had been a touchdown, or if the missed field goal or interception resulted in any points, the Cyclones would have potentially been able to flip the result. 

The Cyclones were able to put up a bunch of yards, 479 in fact, despite consistent penetration by the Bear’s defensive line. 

However, despite gaining nearly 500 yards of offense, the Cyclones had just three touchdowns to show for it. 

Finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals has been a bit of a problem in three of the Cyclones’ four games this season.

Excluding the game against UNLV (who hasn’t won a game since 2019), Iowa State has made seven field goals and six touchdowns, which is not a good thing.