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Royston: The run game was bad, the loss was not

Joseph Dicklin
Jaylan Ford of Texas celebrating after his sack of Rocco Becht on Nov. 18, 2023 in Jack Trice Stadium during the Iowa State vs. Texas football game.

AMES — A 10-point loss to the No. 1 team in the Big 12 is not bad. Especially for Iowa State, who dropped its game to Oklahoma by 30 points.

However, the stat that sticks out the most to me is the rushing yards in Iowa State’s 26-16 loss to Texas. Nine rushing yards is bad.

To be fair, Texas’ defensive line is tough to get by. The front seven the Longhorns boast has a lot of size and power which is daunting for a running back to face.

Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht said it best when he described the line he was up against all night.

“It was hard to run the ball,” Becht said. “They got dudes up front there.”

They do in fact have “dudes up front.” Going into the game, it was expected that Texas would be a tough defense to get by.

The Longhorns sit at the top of the Big 12 in run defense. They allow less than 100 yards per game, which is 20 less than the next closest: Iowa State.

“They’re really good,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “They’re big and physical on the defensive line.”

However, nine yards is far from 90, which is what Texas allows on average. That nine total rushing yard stat is something I will go back to constantly, because it is by far the worst rushing performance Iowa State has had all season.

Throughout the year, it has felt as though Iowa State has lived and died by the big plays. Every game, the Cyclones search for big run plays, which end up building momentum for the offense as a whole.

That was truer than ever against BYU, as true freshman Abu Sama ripped off two huge rushing touchdowns. That was a big reason I wanted to see more of Sama, since big plays could have fueled Iowa State throughout the loss to Texas.

“The defense they play, they’re trying to limit the big plays and keep everything in front of them,” Jayden Higgins said.

However, we did actually see more of Sama, but it did not help. He nearly led the room in average yards per attempt with a measly 1.6. Eli Sanders was just ahead averaging 1.7.

The average yards per attempt were at a season low, which showed through in the lack of production on the ground.

However, the nine rushing yards is a little misleading, I will admit. Without Becht’s -14, the room ended with 23 on 16 attempts. Still not great.

Joseph Dicklin

The biggest issue with the running game was not necessarily the lack of production even. It was the stubbornness late in the game. I agree that there is a benefit in getting the running game going, but at a point, the Cyclones needed to give it up and go to the air.

“You have to sometimes try to get that run game going,” Becht said. “You know, we tried today, and it just didn’t work out for us.”

It did not work out early, and it really did not work out late. The running game never found footing all night.

Campbell talked about the flow after the game, and how the Cyclones never really got into the flow of the game. Whether or not establishing a run game would have helped Iowa State’s flow, one thing was obvious: the Cyclones needed some spark.

“[It] felt like if we could get a rhythm, we could give ourselves the ability to kinda loosen things up in the running game,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if we did as consistent as we needed to to be able to win the football game.”

From the start of the game, it felt like Iowa State was throwing away downs constantly. Whether it was runs getting stopped behind the line of scrimmage or miscues in the passing game, the Cyclones could only squeak out three points in the first half.

That lack of offense was a big reason Iowa State fell behind early. And when the Cyclones are behind, it makes it that much harder to get the run game going.

“You’re kinda playing behind the chains most of the game,” Campbell said. “And never giving yourself a situation to maybe put yourself in an advantageous situation in the run game.”

Going forward, I’m not going to overreact too much to the rough running game. Nine yards is nine yards, and much like the team, I’m going to move on.

As the Cyclones close out the season with Kansas State and a bowl game, there are plenty of chances to get quality reps for the young team.

The running back room is as young as the rest of the roster, so there is plenty of room to grow. As long as the room is continuing to have a positive growth mindset, there is no reason to believe this loss will stick with them.

“We just have to do the same thing. Every play that’s called, we just gotta give our full effort,” Higgins said. “No matter if we’re doing great on passing game, great on running game.”

At the end of the day, Iowa State did not drop the game to a bad opponent. Texas is good. There is a reason the Longhorns are first in the Big 12.

This was not a bad loss, even with the lack of a run game. It just showed where the Cyclones stack up with the best of the best.

So even though nine rushing yards is bad, it is not the end of the world. Campbell said it best himself when he reflected on the good loss.

“We don’t have a damn thing to be embarrassed about,” Campbell said.

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    Cyclone61 | Nov 19, 2023 at 6:05 am

    The odor coming off the stadium was worse than anything you smell from the hog farms when traveling north along I-35.