AMES- Breece Hall knew Saturday's 16-10 win over Northern Iowa wasn't the Cyclones' best.
Six of the Cyclones' 10 drives ended in punts, with just one touchdown when it was all said and done. And Hall's game showed how shaky the offense was.
The Heisman-contending tailback had 23 carries for 69 yards and a score in the win, but balanced his box score out with 31 receiving yards. Hall and the Cyclones found out they would be without their preseason All-American tight end Charlie Kolar and veteran wideout Sean Shaw Jr. Hall acknowledged Saturday was dysfunctional and yet, the same story the Cyclones have found in their season openers.
"We just gotta get back to the drawing board," Hall said postgame.
The familiar site of a stalled Iowa State offense has been around since Matt Campbell's first season in 2016. Here's how Iowa State's offense has looked to open each of the last five seasons before Saturday's slugfest.
2020: 7 of 11 total drives ending with either a punt or turnover
2019: 4 of 13 total drives ending with a punt or turnover
2018: 9 of 11 total drives ending with punt or turnover
2017: 6 of 12 drives ending with a punt or turnover
2016: 12 of 15 drives ending with a punt or turnover
Iowa State's struggles were exemplified in the team's second to last drive of the day. After Brock Purdy used his legs on some nifty scrambles and steady touches from Hall, the Cyclones were on the doorstep of scoring another touchdown with just over six minutes left — essentially putting the game to bed. But they failed to punch it in.
Iowa State would settle for a field goal to make it a 16-10 game to give the Panthers a chance.
"On the goal-line we couldn't punch it in, which we usually do," Hall said of the missed goal-line opportunity. "We definitely did leave some [points] out there."
Campbell thought the Cyclones simply just faced a quality opponent to open their anticipated season and while the miscues were there, he found positives.
Whether it was an odd fumble call that rolled backwards from Jaylin Noel, an early incomplete pass that was called a fumble on Joe Scates or untimely penalties, momentum was hard to create for the offense on Saturday.
Losing Kolar and Shaw to injury undoubtedly changed all that Iowa State wanted to do on offense, but Campbell pointed out the Panthers have always played the Cyclones close — no matter the preseason ranking on either side.
"I thought there were times where you're catching a really good rhythm and some fluky things," Campbell said. "It's great to play in a tough game, it's great to play against a team where you're going to get their best shot — you always do, they're really well coached."
Xavier Hutchinson was a bright spot in an otherwise up-and-down day on offense, with the senior hauling in seven catches for 88 yards the highlight being a 39-yard leaping grab in the first quarter, the longest play for the Cyclones all day.
Tarique Milton was the only other receiver with more than 30 yards on Saturday, but Hutchinson said every game will have different flows to it. However, the early season lulls that have continued are never a positive in his mind.
Points are points and Hutchinson felt like any offense this early in the season should be happy with drives that come with points on the board. That being said, Hutchinson knew postgame the Cyclones had chances to make the finish much more comfortable for themselves.
"I always feel like you feel like you do," Hutchinson said when asked about if he felt like the Cyclones left points on the board Saturday. "But at the end of the day, you can't do anything about that, that's in the past. All we can do now is learn from those mistakes and have a better opportunity of putting it in there."
The Cyclones return to Jack Trice Stadium next Saturday for the Iowa Corn CyHawk Series game vs the University of Iowa. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.