Iowa State football: Cyclones offense must have big plays to succeed


Anyone who has watched Iowa State play this weekend knows the Cyclones’ offense has had its share of struggles. Courtney Messingham’s unit is currently averaging 23.1 points per game, good for 97th in the country.

Nov 2, 2013; Manhattan, KS, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back DeVondrick Nealy (20) runs the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats defeat the Cyclones 41-7. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Cyclones have yet to score on the first drive of a game this year. Not just score a touchdown, score at all. Think about that for a moment.

In Saturday’s loss to Kansas State the Cyclones’ offense only took one snap in the redzone. That was of course after their second string defense forced a fumble and recovered it at the Kansas State 10 yard line.

The few times this season Iowa State has scored offensive touchdowns, there have been one of two fairly common elements to the drive. These elements are either big plays or great starting field position.

This year the Cyclones have scored 23 offensive touchdowns. Of those drives, 17 have had at least one play of 20 yards or more. Five of the six touchdown drives where a big play has not been made, the offense has started at or past the opponents’ 37 yard line.

A mere one offensive touchdown drive this season did not have either a big play or a short field for the Cyclones’ offense, and that score came towards the end of the Iowa game when the Hawkeyes’ defensive top objective was to not give up a big play.

It is extremely hard to pinpoint what is wrong with the offense. Some will point to a poor offensive line that has dealt with injuries throughout the season, but through the last two games the Cyclones offensive line has only given up 5 sacks. To put that in perspective, the Cyclones surrendered 6 sacks in the season opener against FCS opponent Northern Iowa.

Despite better offensive line play, the offense has by no means moved the ball better. Dropped passes, inconsistent quarterback play, penalties, and questionable play calling have certainly hurt the Cyclones.

This past week Paul Rhoads took an interesting step towards trying to fix the offensive problems by holding a quarterback competition.

Until the receivers stop dropping passes and offensive line play can continue to improve, it is impossible to know if the quarterback is the problem.

Despite all the other problems, stats showing the offense needs big plays to sustain drives are extremely telling. Cyclones will need big plays Saturday to score points. If no big plays are found, the offense will not be able to do its part to help the Cyclones beat TCU.