Iowa State-Iowa Q&A with


In preparation for the big game, I took some time to ask Brendan Stiles of some questions dealing with the Hawkeyes.  If you ever want to read more great analysis or breaking news on the Hawks, check out

Cyclone Planet:   Marcus Coker fumbled the ball twice in his first four touches and was later benched against Tennessee Tech.  Do you have any concerns that his “fumble-itis” will carryover against Iowa State?  Regarding Coker, I don’t think the fumbles are an enormous issue. He didn’t blame it on the conditions last Saturday, but they were terrible. He said on Tuesday when we all spoke to him that he may have been overthinking things last Saturday. I don’t expect it to be a major issue, mainly because people know what he’s capable of doing (i.e. going off on Missouri in the Insight Bowl.

Cyclone Planet:  After Coker was benched, freshman RB Mika’il McCall was injured on a play and is likely out for the year.  How big of a loss is McCall’s injury for the Hawkeyes and will it have any impact on this week’s game?  McCall’s a huge loss in my opinion because the coaches seemed to be pleased with the depth they had at running back during fall camp. As far as this week’s game is concerned, I was already thinking even before last weekend that Coker would have to play a big role in Iowa’s offense. Now his role becomes even more important given some of the uncertainty that’s now there with Iowa’s depth at the position.

Cyclone Planet:  James Vandenberg has played some games in the past but he only threw one pass last year against Iowa State.  Based on what you have seen in the past and last week with Vandenberg, how would you describe him to Cyclone fans?  Also, is he in any way comparable to Ricky Stanzi?  Vandenberg is a pure pocket QB. From a passing standpoint, he has what coaches want in a pro-style quarterback — good arm strength, precision, knowing when to get rid of the ball, etc. In terms of comparing him to Stanzi, the coaching staff would lead you to believe there isn’t much difference between the two. I think Stanzi was a little more elusive than Vandenberg is, but to counter any lack of mobility Vandenberg may have is that he has a very experienced and productive offensive line blocking in front of him, so I think sacks would be few and far between. He had a decent outing against Tennessee Tech last weekend, 13-of-21 for 219 yards passing and two TDs, but as you mentioned, his playing experience is limited.

Cyclone Planet:  Clayborn, Sash, Ballard, and Klug are now all gone and in the NFL.  How did the defense look last week and what are you expecting from them against State?  Considering the opponent Iowa was facing, the defense looked OK. Tennessee Tech did have a RB rush for over 100 yards, and I feel that could be a lingering concern over the course of the season. If the three starting linebackers — Tyler Nielsen, James Morris and Christian Kirksey — can stay relatively healthy this season, the defense will be much better. The secondary is easily the strength of this defense, even with Micah Hyde switching over from cornerback to free safety. It’s an opportunistic defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Iowa State does manage to move the ball effectively on Saturday, but that won’t matter if those Cyclone drives don’t result in points.

Cyclone Planet:  Is there any weak spots with the Hawks that the Cyclones could exploit?  I kind of mentioned the run defense being cause for concern, and like I said, if the Cyclones can establish a run game, they’ll be able to move the ball and affect the field position battle. If Iowa’s defense does clamp down against the run, however, I think Iowa State will have a hard time moving the ball through the air. Switching sides, I would expect the Cyclones to blitz quite a bit, especially in passing situations. The one thing, going back to Vandenberg, that he’s capable of if Iowa State blitzes is relying on his quick release, so if guys like Marvin McNutt or Keenan Davis can create separation, they’re capable of making big plays. McNutt had a 88-yard TD reception last week that illustrates his play-making ability.

Cyclone Planet:  Lastly, what is your prediction on the score for the game this Saturday?  I think Iowa prevails 23-7, but it’s going to be a much closer game than the final score I gave will indicate. I see this being a little bit similar to the game at Kinnick Stadium in 2008. If you recall, Iowa had a 10-3 lead before Andy Brodell returned a punt back for a touchdown that ultimately put the game out of reach. What I foresee happening is a situation where the Cyclones drive down the field late only to get stopped or turn the ball over, and then the Hawkeyes come up with a late fourth-quarter touchdown that puts the game out of reach. I think the biggest key for Iowa is going to be staying disciplined. I saw UNI committed 16 penalties against Iowa State last week. Given this being the Hawkeyes’ first road game, I don’t think they can afford to start playing out of character with dumb penalties, otherwise that’s going to allow a team like the Cyclones to hang around. I definitely believe Iowa State will play better this Saturday than it has against Iowa the past two seasons, but again, I think the Hawkeyes will prove to be a little too much in the end, and this is going to be a game they’ll have to grind out if they’re going to leave Ames with the Cy-Hawk trophy, or whatever the “interim trophy” is going to be for Saturday’s game.