Here are some of the important things we learned from Iowa State’s first victory of the season. We’ll talk about how great Sam Richardson has looked, how the Cyclone defense may not be as bad as we all thought, and we stand up for Paul Rhoads.
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1. Sam Richardson has improved so much from last season.
Besides having to deal with nagging injuries, Richardson looked pretty good last season, too. But despite some throws, like the short-armed throw to E.J. Bibbs to the end zone, he’s been consistently accurate hitting his targets or delivering the ball in an area where a receiver can make a play. Especially downfield.
No longer do we get worried when he starts to scramble. If possible, he’ll still look to pass the ball, or he’s smart enough to either not lose yardage or get positive yardage when scrambling. Also, hitting the gym helped as he gets right back up after every hit. He looks tougher, and it’s showing on the field.
2. Iowa State prepared for the run and did a great job retaining it.
Iowa was held to 129 yards on 44 carries. No one player had more than 50 yards, and quarterback Jake Rudock had the second-most rushing yards with 39. The defensive line wasn’t perfect and sometimes they got pushed around, but they did an overall solid job not allowing major holes for the running backs. Also, the linebackers and secondary did an excellent job at open-field tackling. Which leads to the next point…
3. How great are the Cyclones at tackling these days?
It helped that the Hawkeyes didn’t have a running back that could make moves in the backfield and create plays, but how much better is Iowa State tackling in these last two games? Maybe the loss against North Dakota State was a wake up call that whatever effort they put into that game would have to be duplicated.
Kudos to them; plenty media members and fans, including myself, always mentioned how bad the defense is. But there’s a reason why I didn’t point it out much in the ISU-Iowa preview — there was a lot of improvement and felt that with Iowa’s offense. They could stop them, and they certainly did.
Rhoads is a very good coach, and slowly but surely he may be changing the attitude that fans have toward the football team.
4. The Iowa Hawkeyes are not a good team in 2014.
I think there’s enough of a measuring stick after three games to declare the Hawkeyes as a very mediocre squad this season. They don’t have a burner at running back. Mark Weisman is automatic at picking up third-and-short, but he can’t make any plays and break off long runs. His power surprised many early last year, but there’s a reason why his production tapered off a bit. In fact, the entire team doesn’t have many playmakers.
Jake Rudock and Sam Richardson are just about the same, but you could see that there were so many more talented athletes that Richardson had around him. Lucky for Iowa, their division represents the bad days of the Big 12 North and they can still get to a bowl. But if they don’t have six wins by the time they take on Wisconsin and Nebraska, they won’t be going anywhere for the holidays.
5. Worry less about what Paul Rhoads does on the sideline.
There’s been a lot of yapping about Rhoads. First it was his job security after the loss to NDSU (which there was no concern), and once people realized how dumb that conversation was, they switched it over to how his demeanor on the sideline is unacceptable. First of all, I don’t really care what Hawkeye fans say on this front. They’re all hypocritical because their basketball coach got ejected for being firey on the sideline, and Rhoads has yet to do anything that dumb.
I’ll only say this once, folks: Rhoads loves his team and he’s incredibly passionate. He shows it on the sideline with his jumping up and down and his screaming and hollering. He loves his players and they love him. Cameras generally just capture him yelling at officials, but when you go to a game, you can see him pump up his team with all of his reactions on the sideline, and a lot of it is toward his players — not just officials. Rhoads is a very good coach, and slowly but surely he may be changing the attitude that fans have toward the football team.
So let’s quick nitpicking. The dumbest thing that can come out of anyone’s mouth is calling Rhoads “Dan McCarney 2.0”. We loved Danny Mac’s passion, but it was different. Players on some of his teams did quit on him. The players have never quit under Rhoads, and never will. Rhoads also made the adjustments necessary on his coaching staff to get better. And let’s be honest — the talent has been much better on these squads.