What lies ahead of No.9 Iowa State is a tough task: hosting No. 10 Iowa with an even bigger national spotlight with ESPN’s College GameDay coming to town.
On the minds of the Cyclones heading into this big game is attention to detail, establishing the run and creating turnovers on defense.
Offense focused on attention to detail
In the season-opener against Northern Iowa, Iowa State’s offense did enough to win the game but didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard.
Iowa State was held to just 16 points total and three points in the second half.
“I think from an offensive standpoint, really much like all phases of the game there were some detail and precision that lacked,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said during Tuesday’s press conference. “There were some ball security issues obviously that cost us big in big moments.”
Campbell said he thought the offense moved the ball well but couldn’t capitalize on certain opportunities.
“I thought we drove the ball really well, but it was the precision and detail to put points on the board and finish drives that really hurt us," Campbell said. "Obviously, that's an area for us to be concentrating.”
This kind of movement on offense can be seen in the results of the drives that Iowa State had in the UNI game. Seven out of Iowa State’s 10 drives either reached enemy territory or ended within 10 yards of the 50-yard line.
One area where Iowa State struggled a bit was in the running game, something the team is hoping to turn around for Saturday.
Getting more on the ground
Iowa State has a lethal weapon in the backfield with running back Breece Hall, who figures to be a contender for the Heisman trophy this year.
However, despite scoring the Cyclones’ only touchdown of the game against the Panthers, he didn’t have the quality of game one might expect.
Hall, who was “dinged up” heading into the game, said he wasn’t satisfied with his performance.
“I can’t play any worse than I did in that game,” Hall said. “I have high expectations of myself, my team and everybody else, we all have high expectations of each other. I just feel like, as a whole, we didn't play like we should’ve.”
Hall rushed for 69 yards and one touchdown on 23 touches and caught four passes for 31 yards.
Campbell said they did not run the ball as efficiently as they could’ve and that running the ball is a central part of the offense.
“I think if you know us, we always want to run the ball, did we run as efficiently as we wanted to last Saturday? We didn’t,” Campbell said. “Can we be better? Yes. And must we be better? Yes.”
According to center Colin Newell, establishing the run against a team like Iowa, which usually has a strong defensive line, starts with being locked in during the week.
“It's something that we got to make sure that we're locked into all week,” Newell said. “Locked into what they do, how they do it, why they do it and kind of get that understanding. So it's really important that we [have a good] get off, be physical and we make sure that we do everything that we're assigned to do.”
Defense hungry for takeaways
One of the most intriguing stats heading into this year’s Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game is that Iowa State has not forced an Iowa turnover in five years.
“That's something that’s definitely been on our minds,” defensive back Datrone Young said.
Young and fellow defensive back Isheem Young both had interceptions in Iowa State’s 16-10 win over Northern Iowa.
“Takeaways is something that we try to get in our game and for our team, it helps our team,” Young said.
Turnovers can often be a difference-maker, especially in close rivalry games.
Take the 2019 Cy-Hawk game, for example. In the 2019 matchup, Iowa State fumbled twice, while Iowa did not. Iowa topped Iowa State 18-17, meaning that with two more possessions, Iowa State could’ve had the chance to flip the result.
While there hasn’t been a takeaway against Iowa in five years, there have been some opportunities; just ask linebacker Mike Rose.
“We've had opportunities, I mean, in 2019, I dropped one (an interception),” Rose said. “There'll be opportunities that we've got to capitalize on.”
Rose said that creating more turnovers may be more of an emphasis this week in practice.
“The turnover margins are what win you games," Rose said. "So maybe [there will be] more an emphasis this week, just in practice and stuff like that. Just keep mentioning that, I think it will be huge for us.”