On the first day of class every semester, everything begins with the basics. A syllabus is handed out to all students giving them what they need to know about the grading scale, what books they need for the class, how to contact the professor, and all the other general knowledge of the course.
Rarely does the first day of class ever overwhelm with loads of subject matter, and that’s exactly the approach the Iowa State football coaches took with their young defense.
Bobby La Geese of the Ames Tribune wrote a column on how head coach Paul Rhoads motivated his football team before the game against Tulsa. He told them the number of rushing yards the Cyclones gave up in their last meeting against them at the Liberty Bowl: 317.
If that doesn’t do it, this blog has nothing but tons of information on why Iowa State has one of the worst rushing defenses in the country dating back to the beginning of Big 12 play last season.
But the defense finally stepped up and held an opponent to under 100 yards of offense on the ground.
Tulsa was the first time Rhoads watched his defenders play a complete game [this season].
“In August, I talked a lot about we are a fast defense and we run to the ball pretty dang good,” Rhoads said. “I think you are truly seeing that. I thought you saw it more in the Iowa game. I thought you saw it more in the second half of the UNI game, but now we are doing it with consistency over four quarters.”
What’s the cause for such a turnaround in just three games? Sure, Tulsa may be a disaster but running back Trey Watts was held to just 38 yards when he had 125 and 149 yards in both games last season.
To let the strengths of the defense shine — ISU possesses speed and athleticism in abundance at linebacker and the secondary — defensive coordinator Wally Burnham scaled back his already Amazon Kindle-thin playbook.
He didn’t want to overload the defense with plays early in the season. It still took time for everything to sink in on a defense with six new starters.
“We are very vanilla most of the time,” Burnham said. “We’ve blitzed a little bit more than we have in the past, but it’s simple stuff that we can line up in no matter what formation or what down and distance.” [AT]
The Cyclones will hope that simplicity pays off when conference play begins on Thursday night.