Mauren: These are not the Clones you are looking for

Columnist Jacob Mauren analyzes the Saturday Cy-Hawk game. 

Jacob Mauren

A veteran team full of experienced leaders ready to lead the Cyclones on a flagship season. That’s what we were expecting heading into the season. While the defense has held true, the offense currently looks like a group of freshmen just hanging on for their dear lives. 

The stat sheet for the Iowa game may be the most backwards recap you will ever see. Iowa State gained nearly twice as many yards and first downs as Hawkeyes. Iowa averaged just 1.7 yards per run and could only muster 4 first downs on 15 third-down scenarios. In fact, Iowa gained a total of just 19 yards in the second half of the game, according to ESPN’s play-by-play, 19. Yet they managed to finish up 27-17. How could this happen?

The answer is the offensive collapse that occurred Saturday afternoon. While the 339 yards may hint at a decent outing, the 4 turnovers and quarterback Brock Purdys 16.9 QBR tell the real story. Despite the defense giving them repeated chances, the offense was never able to play a competent game. 

Last week, I predicted that Campbell would open up the playbook, and I would argue that I was right. However, the open playbook only provided more ways for the offense to drop balls, throw picks and fall flat. While some receivers struggled to hold on to passes, the main culprit was senior Brock Purdy. As a fourth-year quarterback, you would expect him to be calm and collected in the pocket, yet Purdy looked jittery and indecisive. 

There were multiple occurrences where the QB seemed to get happy feet at the first sign of pressure and would begin a mad scramble that ended in a pass out of bounds. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, plays where he had nearly 5 seconds of clean pocket but would neither throw nor scramble. Purdy’s indecisiveness would lead to three interceptions. Interceptions I would struggle to blame on incredible defense.

Early in the fourth quarter, second-string freshman QB Hunter Dekkers took over the reins for an unspecified reason. While it was reported that Purdy was receiving some attention on his leg, it would not be a wild thing to say he was pulled for his performance. While the last thing this team needed and expected was a QB controversy, Dekkers played objectively better football during his single quarter of play.

Preseason All-American Breece Hall also failed to produce a memorable afternoon. Running for a mediocre 69 yards, Hall’s biggest highlight was for the other team when he coughed up the football in the Cyclones’ own red zone, which allowed an Iowa scoop and score. Two plays later, Purdy would throw his second interception of the day, effectively sucking all of the air out of Jack Trice stadium. 

Special teams also struggled. Poor punts with poor punt coverage gave Iowa a favorable field position too often. As a power five team that is trying to maintain top 25 status, it is ridiculous that we do not have a dedicated special teams coach. 

The sole redeeming factor of this team was the defense. Despite dealing with the offense’s four turnovers, the Hawks were held to just 173 yards and 20 offensive points. Iowa averaged 1.7 yards per carry, and their quarterback Spencer Petras only threw for 106 yards. Had the special teams unit or offense pulled any weight, Iowa would have been stuck in the mud. 

Now, all we can do is look ahead. Iowa State has the framework to be a great team. The senior talent is still here. The elite defense is still here. All we need is some offensive rhythm to really seize the potential this team has. If Purdy can regain control of the team, there is no reason to think that a conference championship and new year’s bowl game are out of the picture. But it takes a complete team to be great.