Cyclones look to “play sound ball” against rival Kansas State


Jacob Rice

MJ Anderson gets to Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels in 14-11 loss on Oct. 1.

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

After dropping the first two games of Big 12 play, the Cyclones are looking to get back on track when they take on Kansas State at home.

Iowa State kept the games close in both losses but couldn’t pull out a win in the end. The loss to Kansas shed light on the offensive struggles and special teams’ miscues that should be fixed going forward.

Although it’s still early in the season, wins will be tough to come by in the Big 12, so every game counts. The key to success will come down to growth and how the young team can bounce back from the losses.

“I’m trying to build that relationship and give trust to Hunter [Dekkers] to feel like he can count on me to make those big plays,” Iowa State wide receiver Dimitri Stanley said. “I feel like I’m starting to earn that trust.”

With Dekkers in his first year as a starter and many other fresh faces on the offense, some growing pains were expected. There were some struggles to start the season, but the more trust the offense has in each other, the more they will grow.

Early in the season, Dekkers favored Xavier Hutchinson on a majority of his throws, allowing the veteran receiver to be a major contributor. Now that defenses are keener on Hutchinson’s impact, Dekkers hasn’t been able to look his way as often.

However, with Hutchinson getting more attention from defenders, other receivers have the chance to break out.

“A lot of attention is on No. 8 at all times whenever he’s on the field,” Stanley said. “You just have to take advantage of those holes that they leave because of that and the opportunities that he helps open up.”

With Iowa State’s offense figuring itself out, another tough test is around the corner in Kansas State.

Kansas State’s defense is no joke. It rarely slips up and makes big plays constantly.

With how much the Iowa State offense struggled against other Big 12 defenses, such as Baylor and Kansas, another tough day could be looming ahead. 

“Man, they kind of run a similar defense to us, and as you can see, our defense is a monster on that field,” Stanley said. “Luckily, we have experience with it, but it’s definitely going to be a tough matchup this week.”

On the other side of the ball, the Iowa State defense is preparing for another explosive offense. The Wildcats haven’t had many issues putting up points against tough opponents, so the Cyclones have to find a way to slow them down.

“We have to be good in our jobs, our responsibilities,” Iowa State linebacker O’Rien Vance said. “Making sure that everyone’s where they need to be.”

The star of the show on Kansas State’s offense seems to be the run game. Most of the scores and yards in Kansas State’s wins came on the ground.

The Wildcats’ run game is elite thanks to the two-headed beast in quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Deuce Vaughn. The duo has rushed for over 1,000 yards so far on the year, with Martinez and Vaughn finding the end zone nine and three times, respectively.

The power both players have in the run game makes it difficult for defenses to stop. Iowa State may be coming into the game with the top-ranked run defense in the Big 12, but Kansas State could be a tough test.

“I just think overall the K-State running game is really elite and dominant,” Iowa State defensive lineman J.R. Singleton said.

When it comes down to it, the defense can only game plan so much. The true test will be when Iowa State hits the field.

The Cyclones have the chance to defend their home turf, where they haven’t lost to the Wildcats since 2016. In order to come out with a win, the Cyclones have to do their job and work as a unit.

“Honestly, it just comes down to doing your 1/11th. Doing your job and your job only,” Singleton said. “When you start to try to make plays, and you get out of your gap, that’s when you have problems.”

Every player on the defense showed they could do their job, which is why the Cyclones are still at the top of the Big 12 on the defensive side of the ball. The last thing left is to have trust in the offense. 

Iowa State only allowed 14 points in the loss to Kansas, putting the game well within reach for the Cyclones to come out on top. Although a loss like that is tough, if the defense can continue to put the team in a good position to win, close games should start to swing in the Cyclones’ favor.

Going forward, the Cyclones are focused on the job ahead. The loss in Lawrence, Kansas, gave the entire team good learning lessons on what it needs to do to win games in the Big 12.

“Play sound ball. Believe in what coach [Jon] Heacock preaches,” Singleton said. “Believe in the man next to you.”

The Cyclones will face off against Kansas State at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday in Ames. The game will be streamed on ESPNU.