Des Moines – In week two of the college football season we’re thrilled to be breaking down the Cy-Hawk football match-up! This week the “Enemy” is each other as the Cyclones and the Hawkeyes face off, and fans of each program anxiously await the outcome to see who will have bragging rights for the next year.
Week 1 Summary
The 2017 version of the Cy-Hawk football game is going to be a doozy. In week one the Hawkeyes beat a gritty Wyoming team with an elite QB 24-3. Iowa’s defense was impressive, so impressive in fact that Pro Football Focus had 3 Hawkeyes on their weekly All Defensive Team (Bower, Jewell, and Jackson).
The Hawks young QB Nate Stanley was inconsistent. He made some rookie mistakes, was sloppy with the football, but also showed flashes of tremendous upside. He made mistakes early in the game, but he bounced back from them. He didn’t seem to let the mistakes get to him. The kid is a cool customer. That should have Hawkeye fans breathing a little easier knowing that he’s about to be walking into a hostile road environment at Jack Trice Stadium. Stanley also appears to have a tremendous TE option in Noah Fant who caught two TD passes against the Cowboys. It would be wise for him to target Fant early and often against the Cyclones as he will be a match-up problem for their inexperienced LB group.
The Cyclones opened up their season with an impressive 42-24 win over a UNI team that has given them fits in years past. It’s a step in the right direction for the Iowa State football program for them to beat UNI by double digits. UNI is a young team this year, and it remains to be seen how good they will be, but historically speaking the Panthers are always a tough out. Iowa State’s offense struggled in the first half, but started to get things moving in the second. David Montgomery, the Cyclones’ starting RB, looked like a force to be reckoned with. UNI’s defense was having trouble tackling Montgomery all night. Once Iowa State established Montgomery in the running game it opened the field up for Jacob Park to start hitting his wide receivers.
Getting to know the Cyclones
The 2017 Iowa State Cyclones look to be a much improved football team. At least that is the angle they are selling their fan base once again. The difference being this year Matt Campbell and his Cyclones came out in their first game and handled a UNI opponent that they should have handled. They walked the walk in game one. They took care of business. That’s a positive sign for a program that is trying to turn things around.
Jacob Park leads the Iowa State offense. He’s a gun-slinging type QB with a nice arm, and the athleticism necessary to make plays with his feet. At times Park is prone to forcing things in order to try and make plays. With the talent he has around him he doesn’t need to do that. He’s best when he’s letting the game come to him, and simply focuses on getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
He has a plethora of talented wide receivers to throw the ball to starting, first and foremost, with Allen Lazard. Lazard is the type of Cyclone player you don’t see come around very often. He’s a big, imposing wideout who can run, block, and catch about everything thrown his way. He’s likely an NFL draft pick at the end of his senior season. To make matters worse for opposing defenses, the Cyclones have a number of other receivers that have to be respected as well. Hakeem Butler is another big body (6’6) who can cause match-up problems. Deshaunte Jones, Trever Ryen, and Marchie Murdock all fit the mold of smaller wideouts with quick feet, solid route running, and they each possess enough of a burst to make big plays after the catch.
In the backfield, Iowa State has two solid running backs in David Montgomery and Mike Warren. Montgomery burst onto the scene last year after Warren went down with an ankle injury, and he hasn’t relinquished his starting spot since. He has a nice burst and when he gets his shoulder pads low he has shown a lot of power. He made some UNI defenders look silly last week. Warren is a solid backup, but I honestly don’t expect him to see that many carries against this Hawkeye defense. Montgomery is starting to look like the type of player you keep on the field as often as you can. In my opinion, it would be a mistake for Iowa State to take him off the field for too long. That is more of a compliment to Montgomery’s ability than it is a criticism of Warren’s inability. In my opinion, Montgomery is the best RB Iowa State has had for a long long time.
The offensive line is still the biggest question mark for this Iowa State offense. I wasn’t all that impressed with them in the running game against UNI. Montgomery was making plays on his own. They didn’t look bad by any means, but they were far from overpowering. That’s a concern coming into a match-up with Iowa’s daunting front seven. With all the talent Iowa State has surrounding them on offense it will be a travesty if the offensive line can’t pull its own weight (no pun intended). They are the key to Iowa State making a bowl game in my opinion. How they do will dictate how many wins Iowa State ends up with this season. Outside of Jake Campos I still think there are a lot of question marks.
That brings us to the defensive side of the ball for the Cyclones. As a senior, Joel Lanning is now the leader of this Cyclone defense at the MLB position. Lanning has been a QB the rest of his career. That’s a position switch that you almost never see, and Lanning is doing his best to make it look like it was a smart decision. I will say that I wasn’t all that impressed with Lanning against the Panthers. I made a point to keep an eye on him because I was so intrigued to see how the transition would go. He took some bad angles and got caught up in traffic far too often. He made a couple of nice plays, and showed some flashes of ability, but will need to play much better against Iowa if the Cyclone defense hopes to keep the game competitive. Willie Harvey and Marcus Spears fill both of the OLB spots. Harvey looked pretty good last weekend. He was the bright spot on the LB corp in game #1.
On the defensive line, Iowa State looks to be much improved from a year ago. Vernell Trent and Ray Lima played a solid ball game against the Panthers. I expect Kamila Tongomoa to get some reps against the Hawkeyes. He has a couple weeks of conditioning under his belt now, and he has size and strength that the Cyclones could use on the field. Overall I believe the Cyclone defensive line is the best it has been in years.
Finally, the strength of the Iowa State defense is the defensive backfield. Kamari Cotton-Moya (S), D’Andre Payne (CB), and Brian Peavy (CB) are the three guys the Hawkeyes need to respect. They are all capable of making big plays, and Nate Stanley won’t be able to get away with any questionable throws in this game with this crew patrolling the field. The Cyclone defensive backfield will likely be playing close to line of scrimmage, and keeping their eyes in the backfield for much of the game due to their focus on stopping Iowa’s rushing attack. They will need to be careful keeping their eyes in the backfield for too long or Stanley will catch them over the top in play action schemes.
This one is going to come down to which team can better establish the running game. A week ago I would have told you hands down that it is obvious that team will be Iowa. I was impressed with David Montgomery though. I think he gives the Cyclones a chance, but I’m still not sold that it will be enough. Iowa’s strength is its offensive line. Wadley and Butler will have plenty of one on one match-ups with Iowa State LBs. They’ll win those match-ups. I can’t see Joel Lanning making very many one on one tackles against Akrum Wadley. He isn’t at that level yet. Wadley makes even the best college defenders miss routinely (see Jabril Peppers from a year ago).
When Wadley’s shake and bake is in full force its a beautiful thing to watch. I think he and James Butler will have the ability to force the Cyclones defense to crowd the box and send blitzes from all over the field. That is the Cyclones best bet anyways. Blitz, blitz, blitz. Shift constantly. Try to take advantage of the fact he’s a young QB playing in a hostile environment for the first time. Pressure him as much as you can and hope he makes mistakes.
With my prediction I’m taking Nate Stanley in this one. I don’t think he’ll get rattled by all the blitzes. Wyoming did that same thing and in doing so gave Stanley some great on the job training. If the Cyclones do the same thing he will make them pay over the top. Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson are match-up problems for Iowa State. If they start sending blitz after blitz Stanley will find his TE’s down the field, and the Hawkeyes will pull away with this one.
Iowa 34 Iowa State 21