Takeaways: Cyclones show weaknesses in sixth win

Iowa State fans cheer on the Cyclones during the game against Baylor on Nov. 10, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Bears 28-14.

Trevor Holbrook

The fight was ugly, and at times so was Iowa State’s play. The Cyclones didn’t always look smooth in their 28-14 win over Baylor, but they still managed to win by two touchdowns. 

Defense dominated outside the red zone

Iowa State’s defense has looked unstoppable at times this season. The Cyclones limited the Will Grier-led West Virginia Mountaineers to one offensive touchdown, and more recently, Iowa State shutdown the Kansas offense the week before its matchup with Baylor.

On Saturday, cracks emerged in the defense. Between the 20-yard lines, the Bears moved the ball with ease. Baylor clobbered the Cyclone rush defense with 146 yards on 32 attempts for a 4.6 average per carry.

Through the air, Charlie Brewer exposed the Iowa State secondary. Brewer went 29-of-48 for 359 yards. 

When things got condensed in the red zone, the Cyclone defense stiffened up, though. 

Baylor finished 2-of-7 in the red zone, including two missed field goals. The missed field goals helped bail out the Iowa State defense, but the stout unit still impressed with little yardage left to give.

If Iowa State wants to win at Texas next week, the Cyclones need to force more three and outs and limit the red zone trips — regardless of the success rate.

Connor Assalley

Lost in the shuffle of the eventful game was the special teams. Connor Assalley struggled lately entering Saturday’s game, but the walk-on got back on track against Baylor. 

To cap off a strong first half, Assalley nailed a 34-yard field goal to push Iowa State’s lead to 17-0. In the third quarter, shortly after the fight and ejections, Assalley cooly drilled a 37-yard field goal to carry the Cyclones’ momentum into the second half.

Outside of the field goals, Assalley converted all his extra point attempts. On the side of the field, Baylor felt the effects of a poor kicking game. Connor Martin missed a pair of chip-shot field goals in the first half that could’ve impacted the game later.

With Iowa State’s Big 12 Championship game aspirations and a game with the Longhorns looming, each facet of the game is important. Since freshman quarterback Brock Purdy sparked the Cyclone offense, special teams have been Iowa State’s weakest link.

Assalley’s performance against Baylor is a positive sign for a player who could potentially be the deciding factor between a win or a loss down the stretch.

Wide receivers

Hakeem Butler’s drawn a lot of attention nationwide for a handful of ridiculous catches. As a result, he’s also drawn a lot of attention from Big 12 secondaries. 

Butler caught three balls on four targets for 25 yards with a long of 10 yards. It was a quiet afternoon for the standout receiver, but the rest of the unit filled some of the void.

Deshaunte Jones snared all four of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown near the back of the end zone. Matthew Eaton battled some drops, but he snagged three passes for 61 yards, including a clutch 38-yard reception. David Montgomery chipped in three catches for 25 yards.

Tight end Charlie Kolar surprisingly didn’t catch a touchdown, but he grabbed three passes for 44 yards. Sheldon Croney Jr. caught a pass for 25 yards to help ice the game. Josh Johnson caught an 11-yard pass to push the line of scrimmage to the 1-yard line.

While Butler and Tarique Milton were kept in check, Purdy showcased his other weapons. With two games guaranteed in the regular season, Purdy will continue to use his wide array of receivers.