1. Getting off the field on third down.
The Cyclones have started by giving their team more opportunities by forcing their opponents to punt the ball. Overall, ony 15 of 55 third down opportunities have been converted against Iowa State, or around 27 percent. That number is slightly skewed by recently holding Western Illinois to just 2-16 conversions, but no team has gotten higher than 36 percent.
2. Tackling and overall defensive improvements.
Just watching early on in the game against Tulsa, it looked like it could be a very long day with Jantz’ interception and the defense not being able to bring anybody to the ground. Sure enough, the team bounced back in the second quarter.
When the defense needed to step up in the second half against Iowa, they put their hands on the balls and deflected 15 total passes against the Golden Hurricanes and Hawkeyes.
3. Balance on first down.
Iowa State has converted 74 first downs – breaking it down, that’s 35 by rushing, 34 by passing, and five by penalty enforcement. That means defensively their opponents have to prepare for anything, especially on third down.
On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones are doing a fantastic job holding their opponents to just 39 first downs combined.
4. Dominance by running back duo Shontrelle Johnson and James White.
Johnson and White have combined for 319 of the teams’ 525 rushing yards, reaching the endzone three times. Shontrelle has easily rebounded from his injury against Texas a season ago, and he continues to be near impossible to bring down on first contact. White’s been able to finally bounce back with 72 yards on just five carries against Western Illinois.
5. The emergence of wide receivers Chris Young and Aaron Horne.
It’s been a bit surprising how often Iowa State passes the ball – it was expected to be a grind-it-out on the ground team that sets up the pass. Quarterback Steele Jantz looks comfortable passing the ball (with the occasional mistakes), and that’s created a senior wide receiver duo of Young and Horne, who’s caught 14 passes each for a combined 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Brian Spaen is the lead editor for Clones Confidential. Keep up with the latest sports fails and disdain toward the Big Ten by following him on Twitter.