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Week 1 Postgame: Iowa State 34, North Dakota State 17

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Iowa State came out with an opening week win in the first game of the Paul Rhoads era. Not a surprising result. The Bison would have had to play a perfect game to beat ISU, and of course they didn't, because perfect games do not come often. The Bison could have had another TD if their QB (Mertens) didn't fumble in the end zone, but the defense made a play, and it's part of the game. I will give the Bison some credit, as the game was closer for longer than I thought.

Here are my takeaways from the game:

The Good:

  • The concept of the no-huddle offense. I really liked it. There's less downtime between plays, plus A-Rob is so solid you can go from a 4 WR to 5 WR set without making any substitutions. The playcalling was pretty vanilla (save for a WR-reverse pass by Reynolds that was incomplete), which was expected. I would hope to see ISU open up the playbook more as they get more comfortable and face tougher opponents.
  • The Iowa State offense has some play makers.  Marquis Hamilton looked good, and Darius Reynolds is definitely a guy who can turn into a big play threat once he gets more comfortable in the system. I liked the way Reynolds was utilized. He is the kind of guy you do bubble screens and short slants to, as he can make things happen in the open field.
  • The Iowa State secondary. No one got burned in coverage and the secondary was able to keep passes in front of them.
  • Grant Mahoney nailing 2/3 FGs including a 50 yarder. He missed a 57 yard attempt going into the half, but you can't hold that against a college kicker. 

More Analysis on the next page!

Areas of Improvement:

Overall there are a lot of areas the team can improve. No football team is ever content with how they are during Week 1, and the well coached teams continue to improve all year. Naturally this list will be a bit longer to start the season, but as the season continues, hopefully this list gets smaller, and maybe some will turn into strengths

  • Getting the offense on the same page. Handfuls of dropped passes as WRs started looking up field instead of getting the sure catch. There were a couple of miscues as Arnaud's fumble was on a play where he thought he should hand it off to A-Rob (and A-Rob apparently thought it was a QB draw). There was some miscommunication at times between Arnaud and the WRs as well. These are things that can be fixed as the players get comfortable in the system. It's hard to simulate game-speed in practice, and everything happens a little quicker with the adrenaline rush.
  • The Defensive Line. They got pushed around quite a bit on running plays, as NDSU averaged 5.5 yards per rush. ISU also had a hard time getting pressure on Mertens. There were many times where Mertens had a lot of time to throw, and the handful of times they got in the backfield, they took some bad routes in trying to sack him. I am very concerned with how ISU will do next week against a more talented offensive line, as Iowa looks to be very solid (as in potentially the top of the Big 10 good).
  • The Linebacking Corps. They were slow in pass coverage,  had some mistackles, and didn't stay home on the end-arounds. Paschall is a good running back without a doubt, but there were some weak arm tackles that allow for the 62 yard run. In general, there was bad tackling with this unit (and the secondary on running plays) as they were trying to strip the ball too much instead of getting the sure-tackle (typically resulting in a couple of extra yards). Don't get me wrong; turnovers are huge, but you can't make a 3 yard run a 6 yard run because you were going for the strip instead of bringing the guy down.

Props To:

  • Austen Arnaud - 16/28 for 227 yards and 2 TDs. Also had 17 carries for 78 carries and 1 TD. The completion percentage would have been higher if not for a handful of drops, and considering it's his first game in his 3rd offensive system, I think he did a good job minimizing damage.
  • Marquis Hamilton - 4 catches for 97 yards and 2 TDs. He looked pretty quick for a possession receiver. Either he's improved his speed, or the NDSU secondary was slow (or both), as on both TDs he simply outran guys (the first one he was open on a slant because of a NDSU linebacker blitz, but he out ran the safeties for the TD).
  • Darius Reynolds - 6 catches for 56 yards, should've had a TD pass as well. Overall a solid debut. There were a couple of drops but he'll figure it out.
  • Alexander Robinson - 83 rushing yards on 16 carries including a TD. Also 3 catches for 36 yards
  • David Sims - 3 kick returns for 111 yards (37 yard average), including a 60 yard return that could've gone all the way had the kicker been blocked. He also had 1 INT on defense.
  • Grant Mahoney - 2/3 on field goals including a 50 yarder
  • Mike Bradnter - 49.3 punt average on 4 punts
  • Pat Paschall (RB, NDSU) - 21 carries for 146 yards (including a 62 yard run), and 1 TD.
  • NDSU offensive line. Mertens had good protection for most of the game, and the Bison were able to average 5.5 yards/carry which is very solid. 

It's nice to see the Cyclones win, but it wasn't as convincing as some would've liked. On offense, ISU stopped themselves by miscues as opposed to NDSU stopping them.  On defense, it's going to be another long year I feel. If they allow 5.5 yards/carry against more challenging opponents, a lot of points will go on the board for our opponents.

Next week is the Hawks. Clone Chronicles will take a little break over the holiday weekend, but will be back on Sunday night, and in full swing on Tuesday.

Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend all!