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Early offensive struggles end up costing the Cyclones in 28-21 loss to Kansas

Benjamin+Brahmer+trying+to+catch+a+contested+pass+during+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Kansas+match%2C+Jack+Trice+Stadium%2C+Nov.+4%2C+2023.
Matteo Bender
Benjamin Brahmer trying to catch a contested pass during the Iowa State vs. Kansas match, Jack Trice Stadium, Nov. 4, 2023.

AMES— A sluggish start from the Iowa State offense resulted in an early deficit that was too much to come back from against Kansas despite turning things around in the second half.

Right out the gate, the Cyclone offense could not get the chains moving whether it was through the air or on the ground. Their first three drives ended in punts, and their struggles on first and second down were the overarching problem in the first half as the offense could not find a rhythm in any facet.

“Just a lack of precision to detail,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “When you don’t get first downs it’s hard to open up the offense and it’s hard to get into a flow.”

Down 7-0 five minutes into the second quarter, Iowa State had a shot to put its first three drives behind them and get things going the rest of the way, but that is not what happened.

On the first play of their fourth drive, Becht dropped back with his eyes on wide receiver Jayden Higgins the whole time and threw the ball in the wrong spot, right to Kansas corner back Ra’Mello Dotson who took the ball back 50 yards to the endzone.

That was Bechts’ third pick-six of the season and what Campbell ultimately described as a miscommunication between him and Higgins.

“Those things happen and you gotta live and learn from it,” Campbell said. “I think he did run a hitch, was open, and Rocco thought he was gonna run something else. Part of the growth process for sure.”

Along with the interception, Becht placed a lot of the blame on himself for the Cyclones’ slow start in the first half. While he was completing passes here and there, he failed to make plays on third down and complete plays that his receivers were setting up for him.

“I feel like that just starts with me,” Becht said. “I couldn’t make the plays that were there but if those were to happen it probably would’ve been different so I’ll put that on me just not coming out fast.”

The Cyclone offense tallied 121 yards of offense in the first half with a majority of those yards coming from their promising seven-play 50-yard final drive of the half. Becht accounted for all of those yards with his arm and connected with his receivers on three of his five attempts on that drive, which was highlighted by a 24-yard toss to Dimitri Stanley which put the Cyclones into comfortable field goal range.

Chase Contreraz connected on a 35-yard attempt, his 16th make of the season, which put Iowa State on the board but still trailing by two scores, going into halftime down 14-3.

After falling behind 21-3 after Kansas marched down the field on its first drive of the second half, the Cyclone offense would need to turn things around in the second half to give themselves a chance.

Becht and the rest of the offense found their groove in the second half, resulting in a pair of back-to-back touchdown drives and giving hope that Iowa State could eventually take the lead.

Matteo Bender

Running back Eli Sanders scored the first of those touchdown drives, rushing for his third score of the season, followed by an electric run to the outside on the two-point conversion to bring the Cyclones within 10.

Sanders gave a lot of credit to the whole offense for stepping up on that drive and praised Becht for his ability to put the pick-six behind him and his focus on leading the offense in the second half.

“He never put his head down and we kept him up,” Sanders said. “The whole offense believes in him, the whole team believes in him, so when he did that we got behind his back, picked him up and just kept it going and never put our heads down.”

Becht played a significant role in turning the offense around in the second half. He had 127 yards and completed all but one of his 11 passing attempts, and finished the game with 216 passing yards completing 20 of his 26 attempts. He was finding his receivers more efficiently and finished off plays that he failed to do in the first half.

Both of the Cyclones’ opening scoring drives of the second half were 75 plus yards long, highlighted by a 12-play 90-yard drive which was led by a trick play involving a 42-yard connection between Jaylin Noel and Higgins and culminated in a run up the middle from Becht into the endzone which cut the Kansas lead to three.

The problem with the Cyclones’ scoring drives in the second half was they took too long to develop. The touchdown drives combined took nearly 13 minutes off the clock, and when Iowa State gave up another touchdown to the Jayhawks which extended the deficit back to 10 and eight minutes left on the clock, both time and momentum was not in favor for the Cyclones.

Noel sounded off on the early struggles in the first half and how although they ended up getting things together, relying on late efforts is not how they are built to win games.

“Our detail has to be there to win games and it wasn’t there at first and we started to pick it up but time ran out,” Noel said.

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