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Game-talk Tuesdays: Breaking down the Cy-Hawk game

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Daniel Jacobi II
From left: Iowa State’s Myles Purchase (5), Jeremiah Cooper (4), Jack Sadowsky V (33), and Beau Freyler (17), celebrate after forcing a fourth down during the second half of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series football game against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

The Cyclones were handed yet another Cy-Hawk loss under Matt Campbell as the Hawkeyes stormed Ames to take the trophy with a 20-13 victory.

Although the loss could leave a bad taste in the team’s mouth going forward, there were positives throughout the game. There were also some glaring issues that needed to be addressed before Big 12 play.

The quarterback situation

The storyline of Iowa State’s season so far has been about which quarterback will lead the team successfully going forward.

Week one was a good indication of who will take the reins for most of the season. Rocco Becht did a great job playing efficiently in Iowa State’s 30-9 win over Northern Iowa.

JJ Kohl got some reps, but really only showed off his mobility. Going into the Cy-Hawk game, it was expected that both quarterbacks would see the field again.

However, Kohl never took a snap throughout the day. He warmed up his arm a little on the sideline in the third quarter, but never put his helmet on.

When Iowa State was down 17-0, Becht still took the field. A question buzzing around throughout the day was which drive would Campbell switch things up and toss out Kohl. However, that time never came.

Becht finished the day with a decently efficient game. Other than the one pick-six he threw, his other throws were where they needed to be.

Becht started the first quarter by driving down the field and putting the Cyclones in field-goal range. However, he struggled to get the offense moving until the final drive of the half, where he answered his pick-six with a drive for a successful field goal.

The Cyclones had seven drives in the first half for 139 yards. The first and last drive of the half accounted for 108 of those yards and only resulted in three points.

Those struggling drives are what stand out, because once Big 12 play rolls around, they will be more detrimental.

Becht showed promise late in the game with back-to-back scoring drives highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown drive. However, it was too little too late.

Becht looks to be the main option going forward, but the stubbornness not to throw in Kohl once makes things interesting going forward. That says a lot about the trust the team already has in Becht.

Defense sputters

The defense had an uncharacteristic start to the day Saturday, opening the door to Iowa scoring 20 points (13 against the defense).

Three drives stick out as places for the team to clean up. The first and the second Hawkeye drive accounted for 150 yards and 10 points.

Although the defense gave up a large amount of yards in the opening minutes of the game, it came down to two big plays. The first was a nearly 60-yard run by Jaziun Patterson.

A miscommunication of what the play was caused the run to break out. The Cyclones were expecting a run or even a quarterback sneak, so no defensive backs were deep. When Patterson broke out of the initial containment, T.J. Tampa had to backpedal and chase him down to prevent a touchdown.

One drive later, another slip-up cost the defense another chunk of yards. Set up by a pass interference on third down to extend Iowa’s drive, Luke Lachey broke past Beau Freyler to haul in a 35-yard catch in the middle of the field.

Other than those two big plays, the only other big drive the Hawkeyes had all day was in the third quarter as they drove 69 yards down the field for three points.

Throughout the rest of the game, Iowa State’s defense played airtight. Those few plays do continue to stick out because of how Big 12 competition will pounce on plays like that going forward.

Iowa State’s schedule does not get any easier. The quarterbacks in the Big 12 are going to pose a lot more threat than Cade McNamara’s 12-22 for 123 yards performance did. Plenty of Big 12 teams will be salivating at the opportunity to find cracks in Iowa State’s elite defense.

Narrowing down the running back room

Starting the season with five running backs as potential starters seemed a little optimistic for the Cyclones.

Two weeks in, it is clear that the top dogs in the room are starting to separate themselves.

The names at the top, Cartevious Norton and Abu Sama, both had some powerful runs that showed what they are capable of. However, the final stat line does not show the same story.

Norton averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and finished with 59 yards, while Sama finished with 3.0 yards per carry and 24 yards. However, that was against a stout Iowa defense that is stingy on the ground.

Both running backs had jaw-dropping runs throughout the game but were forced into a role of short-yard pickups because of the playcalling. With Nate Scheelhaase still figuring out his opponents and the best way to run Iowa State’s growing offense, hiccups are expected.

The flashes of greatness from both backs, especially when it came to creativity on broken plays, is a good sign going forward. The defenses in the Big 12 are close to the level of Iowa’s defense, although Iowa may have an edge. Seeing that Iowa State’s run game can succeed at times is promising going forward.

Jayden Higgins flashes potential

Higgins was the man to watch on Saturday, hauling in eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

The only receiver that came close to his production was Jaylin Noel, who caught eight balls for 50 yards. Higgins even got more targets than Noel, who is supposed to be the bell-cow receiver.

In a game as big as the Cy-Hawk matchup, Noel’s production was underwhelming. Especially when looking at one drive where he dropped back-to-back first-down catches to set the Cyclones up for a punt.

If Noel struggles to get moving when Big 12 play rolls around, Higgins might be the answer in the air. Becht has been loving his tight ends early in the season, but Higgins looks to be the big playmaker the offense needs.

Saturday was just a glimpse of what he brings. The catch in the end zone was somehow better than the throw.

If the Cyclones can rediscover what they found on the 80-yard touchdown drive against the Hawkeyes, there is no telling what the offense can do.

Tyler Perkins has a cannon for a leg

Going into the Cy-Hawk matchup, the only punter that was really expected to be talked about was Tory Taylor.

However, it would be a shame to let Perkins’ first two weeks of the season go unnoted. Every single time Perkins stepped on the field, someone’s jaw would drop as he rocketed the ball off his leg.

Perkins even started the UNI game with a 70-yard punt. That turned bad field position into an easy defensive stop for the Cyclones.

Against Iowa, Perkins outperformed Taylor. Both punters had the same amount of punts, but Perkins finished with 33 more yards. He averaged nearly 52 yards a punt to Taylor’s 46.

Not only that, Perkins booted a ball 63 yards deep into Iowa territory. In a game where field position mattered, Perkins did his best to keep the Cyclones in it.

Perkins also was not just kicking the ball far. He was accurate. Perkins finished with three punts inside the 20, while Taylor had none.

Special teams were a factor in the Cy-Hawk game and will play a huge role in the outcome against Big 12 opponents. If Perkins can keep up his hot streak, the Cyclones could focus all their energy on figuring out the offense instead of correcting the special team’s mistakes.

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