Kelly: The Cyclones must do better


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s Vernell Trent (99) pumps up the crowd during the Cyclones’ first game of the season Sept. 2, 2017. The Cyclones defeated the Panthers 42-24.

Tom Kelly

It’s a good thing that this was the first game of the year for the Cyclones.

The Cyclones managed a 42-24 win over the FCS Northern Iowa Panthers on Saturday, in a game that produced a positive outcome, though ISU demonstrated that the team will need to make some major improvements this week in practice.

The offense got off to a very slow start. Two touchdowns off of interceptions by the defense were what ultimately gave the appearance of a convincing victory.

Overall, Jacob Park had a quality performance, completing 77 percent of his passes and showing composure. But the offensive line kept him almost completely out of harm’s way — facing a subpar defensive front in Northern Iowa — and he was not tasked with making particularly deep or difficult throws.

There were praiseworthy individual performances on offense. As has become customary, Allen Lazard showed up in a big way for the Cyclones, catching eight balls for 108 yards. David Montgomery also played well, averaging nearly six yards per carry en route to an 82-yard, two-score day. All of these were clear positives, but there is much that ISU needs to improve on.

Two major issues should be noted.

First, UNI is one of the lesser teams that Iowa State will play the entire season. Superior teams in the Big 12 will be able to exploit weaknesses better than UNI. While it is important to remember that this was the first game of the season, there were concerns on both sides of the ball for Iowa State.

The defense managed to save this game by creating turnovers which helped keep control of the game in Iowa State’s favor, but it has to be able to stop teams from marching down the field. UNI did not score a rushing touchdown, but still averaged 5.4 yards per rush, and was only outgained in terms of total yardage by 27.

UNI also nearly managed to match Iowa State’s total time of possession. If UNI hadn’t had to play from behind most of the game, they may have been able to take control the game with a strong and steady rushing attack that Iowa State was unable to markedly slow down.

Second, it is imperative that the offense gets off to quicker starts in the future. As the Big 12 is known for scoring, having to play from behind in the first quarter could mean greater-than-average deficits for the Cyclones. They will certainly have an uphill battle trying to win if they’re unable to stay competitive early on in games. It took almost the entirety of the first half for the offense to put up points, and that offense presumably will not often be aided by two touchdowns from its defense in the first quarter.

The Cyclones should be pleased that they were able to overcome a sluggish start to achieve a total-team win, but they should not be satisfied with this performance. Against Big 12 teams, or indeed, against Iowa this weekend, a similar performance will not be good enough. All in all, Iowa State did show signs of improvement — let’s hope they’re able to build on these successes, improve on their weaknesses and show up next week prepared for a more daunting foe.