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Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones struggle early against Iowa, fall 20-13

Iowa+State%E2%80%99s+Rocco+Becht+runs+with+the+ball+during+the+first+half+of+the+Iowa+Corn+Cy-Hawk+Series+football+game+against+Iowa+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+9%2C+2023%2C+at+Jack+Trice+Stadium+in+Ames.
Daniel Jacobi II
Iowa State’s Rocco Becht runs with the ball during the first half of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series football game against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

AMES — The Iowa State football team saw an early deficit in its 20-13 loss at home against Iowa and couldn’t get the offense moving in the right moments to get themselves back in the game.

The Cyclones dropped their first loss of the season to their instate rival and struggled offensively throughout the game. While both defenses gave their respective teams chances to stay in the game, the Hawkeyes rode their early lead all the way to the end to reclaim the Cy-Hawk trophy.

While Iowa State made things interesting towards the end of the game, it could not execute and move the chains enough to pull off a comeback win at home. Here are the three big takeaways from Iowa State’s first loss of the season:

Uncharacteristic first-half defense
The Hawkeye’s offense put up a pair of scores on their first two drives to start the game thanks to big plays on each of those drives that the Cyclone’s defense gave up.

Iowa State looked like it had not missed a beat forcing a third and short on the Hawkeye’s first drive before giving up a 59-yard run to Jaziun Patterson to put them in the red zone. The Cyclone defense held Iowa to a field goal on that drive after a pair of pass breakups from Jeremiah Cooper and Ikenna Ezeogu.

It looked like that big play from the Hawkeyes was just a blunder and Iowa State’s defense was going to settle in. The next drive looked very similar with the Cyclones forcing another third down in Iowa’s territory but it was kept alive by a blatant pass interference call from Myles Purchase, followed by a 35-yard catch from Luke Lachey over Beau Freyler.

Patterson rushed the ball into the endzone three plays later to put the Hawkeyes up 10-0 early in the second quarter.

Freyler took responsibility for allowing that touchdown drive and his miscue against Lachey and was adamant about correcting the little mistakes in his game.

“I take the blame for some of those plays. I gotta be better with my eyes and just being consistent with that,” Freyler said.

Head coach Matt Campbell talked about those two big plays that Iowa salvaged against his defense and his optimism in that room moving forward.

“Both those plays come on critical situations in third and one and third and two, so you tip your hat to them, they made the play and we didn’t,” Campbell said. “We’ll only grow from it for sure.”

From there, the Cyclone defense allowed only three points and got back to their bend but didn’t break ways. Freyler talked about the way he and his teammates responded and the way they were able to keep the game close late.

“We cleaned up some of those mistakes and we just kept playing,” Freyler said.

Rocco Becht struggles in his second start
After an efficient first start from Becht against Northern Iowa, Campbell and offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase noticeably gave the redshirt sophomore many more opportunities against Iowa.

Becht led the Cyclones down the field with a 15-play, 57-yard drive on the Cyclone’s first possession, and although they weren’t able to walk away with any points the offense looked promising against a strong Hawkeye defense. Becht and the offense struggled after their promising start and totaled just 36 yards on 15 plays over the following four drives.

Coming off of a Jeremiah Cooper interception, his third of the season, the offense headed onto the field with a chance at trimming down their 10-point deficit going into halftime. Just two plays in, Becht misfired on an out route to running back Cartevious Norton and was intercepted by Sebastian Castro who took it to the endzone to put the Hawkeyes up 17-0.

Becht talked about the first interception of his career and his confidence for not only himself to learn from this loss, but the team as a whole.

“It was just a bad read by me, I should’ve been looking at the hook and curl behind it so I put that one on me,” Becht said. “Obviously there’s still a couple of throws that want back, that one especially, but I’m gonna move on and this team gonna move on and we’re gonna be better.”

Campbell talked about Becht’s performance against the Hawkeyes, and despite what he described as an inevitable mistake, was still impressed with how he performed.

“I really felt like that first drive of the game, the rhythm and completing third downs,” Campbell said. “I thought that Rocco really came into his own during the football game and I was really proud of him pick sixes are gonna happen.”

Becht for most of the game looked pressured by Iowa’s front seven and along with the pick-six had a lot of late throws where he either missed his receivers or turnover-worthy lobs into double coverage. At one point, he had completed less than 50% of his passes and started to look more like a liability for the Cyclones offense.

Cyclones late offensive spark is not enough
A 46-yard field goal from Chase Contreraz at the beginning of the fourth quarter gave the Cyclones a chance at a late-game comeback, cutting the Hawkeyes lead to just 14. Iowa State’s defense made that more of a reality after they forced their fifth punt of the game.

At this point, Becht had put his early blunder behind him and made throws to his receivers, most notably Jaylin Noel and Jayden Higgins, that he had been missing. This late surge from Becht and the offense culminated in a 16-yard touchdown throw to Higgins to put the Cyclones within one score.

Along with snagging his first score as a Cyclone, Higgins finished the game with eight catches for 95 yards and executed the gameplan that the offense had heading into the matchup, making up for missed opportunities against UNI.

“Week one we wanted to get him the ball and it didn’t happen, so we put a plan together and got him the ball a lot today,” Becht said. “I think we could’ve gotten him the ball more but that’s just gonna make him better and get his confidence up for the next 10 weeks.

Iowa State would get an opportunity to tie the game after the defense forced another punt and got the ball at their own 38-yard line with just under two minutes left.

With the game on the line and the Cyclones needing a conversion on fourth and one on their own 40, a run from Norton to the outside which was quickly blown up would seal their fate.

The late touchdown drive earlier in the fourth quarter took almost seven minutes off of the clock and it seemed like if the Cyclones had played with a bit more urgency, they could have had another shot at the ball.

Campbell was asked about the decision to play loose earlier in the quarter and what he took away from that decision.

“The fool is ‘Oh go fast and be wrong’ or how about do it right and give yourself a chance to win the game and that’s exactly what we did,” Campbell said. “I think the only thing there is that we had a couple of plays where we had a chance to maybe score a little bit earlier, and again we’ll learn and grow from it.”

The Cyclones will look to turn things around and head into their Big 12 schedule on a positive note. Their final non-conference game against Ohio is set to kick off at 11 a.m. at Sept. 16.

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    Larry Thomas | Sep 9, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    Gonna be a long season for the Cyclones.

    Reply