AMES — None of it is good. None of it.
A season that began in the preseason top-10 and one that was rightfully lauded as having the chance to be the best in program history, appears to be on the brink of disaster for No. 14 Iowa State.
After a deflating loss to Baylor on Saturday, it's fair to question what is wrong with the Cyclones at all levels, coaching and player performance. The offense continued its caravan of issues — more on them in a bit. The defense looked vulnerable and even bad at times on Saturday, a drastic shift from where they stood three games into the season.
And of course, as usual, there's issues on special teams.
I'm not sure it's fair to blame any one person or unit for the 2-2 start Iowa State finds itself in. It's bad at all three levels. But man oh man does it need to get cleaned up — and fast.
But how does it look like this after four weeks? For all the hype coming into 2021, to which I and many others contributed to, how is this the result of four weeks of play? How can a team with 19 returning starters from a 9-3, Fiesta Bowl champion season, be this sloppy and lackluster?
We're all left to wonder.
For starters, Iowa State's offense seems stuck. Even after the best performance of Breece Hall's season, 190 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Tom Manning's offense looked disoriented for most of the game and settled for field goals more often than converting drives into touchdowns.
There were many missed throws from Brock Purdy, that is, when he wasn't being sacked by the Baylor defensive line. Purdy has five turnovers in four games, granted some of them have been tipped at the line of scrimmage, but those don't happen if the defenders don't have an easy read on where Purdy wants to go.
He just hasn't been his best through four games. But he's only a symptom of the underlying, undiagnosed disease of this offensive unit.
There's no consistent deep-shots to stretch the field. Every drive seems like a slog where every play has to work to avoid a punt. Outside of Breece Hall's 30 yard scamper and a few other chunk yardage pickups, Iowa State's offense has still been searching for big plays to open things up.
I thought Saturday would be a chance to test a veteran Baylor secondary but the same old story of looking for someone to make a play instead of someone going ahead and making it themselves.
Special teams were the usual disappointment as well. Andrew Mevis, who came into the game growing in confidence from long-distance, missed a kick from 47 yards. Baylor tipped a Corey Dunn punt to give itself great field position to score a touchdown. Want more? How about a 98-yard kickoff return?
Again, it's not good.
Campbell has said in the past that special teams shortcomings have been a combination of missed details and inexperience. I don't think Cyclone fans care too much about what the issue is this time around, it just needs to be fixed.
And, hey, what about the lauded defense? That also wasn't good at all on Saturday. The Bears scored three touchdowns on their first three drives and 282 total yards of offense. Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon picked apart the zone of the Cyclones and found his receivers open in wide open spaces constantly.
I think it was clear that if the defense isn't playing at their best and the offense continues its missteps, wins will be hard to come by the rest of the way.
All three levels weren't sharp on Saturday. And they'll need someone on this roster full of veterans to step up and demand some change. We're four games in. I'll concede that much and certainly Iowa State can come out the next eight weeks and be unstoppable. But I'm not placing that bet as we sit here today.
It's time to get things fixed, or else, we could be talking about a full-on disaster.