Iowa State football, along with the world of college football, made its big return for the 2020 season over the weekend.
The Cyclones suffered a less-than-ideal beginning to their season after losing to the University of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in a 17-point loss, falling to Louisiana 31-14.
A slow start to the day
Iowa State and Louisiana both experienced rough starts in the season opener, including a scoreless first quarter that saw the Cyclones and Ragin’ Cajuns trading punts.
Both offenses couldn’t amount to much and experienced a plethora of dropped passes, some of which could have turned into costly turnovers. Both teams relied on their run game and found varying levels of success.
The first score of the game didn’t come until later in the second quarter, where Kene Nwangwu punched the ball into the end zone for the Cyclones, his first of his Cyclone career. Nwangwu's score was promptly responded with a kick return touchdown by Louisiana on the ensuing kickoff.
“A lot of credit to [Louisiana] for being ready and a lot of credit for them for taking advantage of a lot of great opportunities,” Head Coach Matt Campbell said.
While the Ragin’ Cajuns were able to pick up the pace in the second half of the game, the Cyclones continued to ride the struggle bus throughout the game and weren’t able to find any scoring opportunities outside of the second quarter.
No Kolar = Tons of problems
Iowa State’s passing offense struggled mightily against Louisiana and its tight man coverage all game.
“We had some drops early that are just deflating, it’s not because guys aren’t capable of doing it, but it just kind of takes the air out and that’s kind of what I felt out there today,” tight end Chase Allen said.
Part of this issue can be attributed to Iowa State still trying to find its next go-to guy, with two new starters out wide with Xavier Hutchinson and Sean Shaw Jr.
Junior quarterback Brock Purdy has seen better days on the field, only completing 16 of his 35 passes for 145 yards and a single interception.
But one big piece that can also be attributed to is the fact the Cyclones had to play without one of their top returning targets in All-Big 12 tight end Charlie Kolar, who was ultimately sidelined with an injury after being listed as a game-time decision. Iowa State listed Kolar's absence as "lower body injury," which Campbell said has been a lingering issue since the offseason.
Iowa State saw action from Dylan Soehner and Allen, but even with those two, along with the receivers, the Cyclones struggled moving the ball and Purdy didn’t have a reliable go-to target Kolar has been the past few seasons.
“They did a really good job of playing man coverage and mixing up their blitzes and stuff,” Purdy said. “I think that sort of caught our guys off guard a little bit, threw off the timing.”
Breece Hall’s silver lining performance
While the game was a catastrophe in many ways for the Cyclones, there were a few positives that came out of the Louisiana loss and one of those positives is sophomore running back Breece Hall.
Hall came off a breakout freshman season that saw him rush for 897 yards and nine touchdowns on 186 rushing attempts, while catching 23 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. This earned Hall a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team.
To open the season, Hall was Iowa State’s featured running back and quietly had a good game, despite suffering a 17-point loss and coughing up the ball on more than one occasion.
“Obviously we know Breece is super talented, we’ve got great faith in Breece,” Campbell said. “The fundamentals and details are still critical to our success.”
Hall notched over 100 yards on the ground, finishing his day with 109 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while catching three passes for 15 yards.
With a chunk of Iowa State’s offense still unproven after one game, Hall will be a crucial component for the Cyclones as they head into conference play.