The offense sputtered a lot in its first game, but Iowa State's defense stepped up and gave the Cyclones a chance to win on Saturday.
That was all undone by two enormous special teams errors.
The Ragin' Cajuns beat Iowa State in a 31-14 upset of the No. 23 team in the country with the special teams unit giving up two return touchdowns. While the final score looks like a blowout, the momentum of the game was shifted twice after two timely returns.
"We were out of our coverage lane and they've got playmakers to make plays with it," Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell said. "Hats off to them. From my end of it, obviously there's no excuse."
The first was a kick return touchdown came in the second quarter and was immediately following a Cyclone touchdown, silencing the all but absent crowd. The second was a punt return came early in the final quarter.
Chris Smith returned the kick which was a 95-yard sprint to the end zone. Smith was left relatively untouched one his return and the Cyclones lost all the momentum that the scoring drive they just put together had given them.
On the punt return in the fourth quarter, the Cyclones let Louisiana's Eric Garror evade and break tackle en route to a gut punch 83-yard scamper. Garror had to fend off many Iowa State players, but the special teams unit couldn't bring him down.
"We've always taken a lot of pride in our special teams here at Iowa State," tight end Chase Allen said. "That is something that definitely will be coached up a lot these next few weeks."
The defense had a solid day, only giving up two touchdowns — one on a 78-yard score on the first play of a drive and another right at the end on a deflating seven minute drive to ice the game. The final score came with only 10 seconds remaining.
While the defense for the most part did its part, the offense was stagnant all day, so special teams became the key component.
Despite the momentum shift that it gave to Louisiana, defensive back Greg Eisworth said it didn't affect him or the defense.
"It doesn't phase us," Eisworth said. "That's how we're built, that's the stuff we talk about, that's the stuff we train for.
"Being on defense you don't have control of those things."
The defense did boost Iowa State today with Eisworth playing a part. Eisworth had a key stop with an open field tackle on a third down, giving the Cyclones solid field position.
Up front, Will McDonald also had a successful game with two sacks and constant pressure on the quarterback, but in the end, it was the special teams unit that was exploited to get Louisiana over the hump and into the win column.
Coupled with a struggling offense, the Cyclones just couldn't rebound from those two huge mistakes and the Ragin' Cajuns pulled off a big upset, spoiling immediate high hopes for Iowa State coming into this season.
"We've got good specialists and we've got the ability to be good on special teams," Campbell said. "But today, hats off to them 'cause they made two big plays."