Because of a schedule switch, Iowa State (1-4) ends up playing Toledo (4-2) in the middle of the season, who currently resides at the top of the West Division in the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets’ offense is missing some key players due to injury and are on the road for the second straight week. Meanwhile, the Cyclones need to take this opportunity to right the ship if they want to play for anything meaningful in the second half.
Toledo Rockets vs Iowa State Cyclones
Jack Trice Stadium | Ames, Iowa
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Kickoff: 2:30 PM CT | TV/Web: Cyclones.tv
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- Five keys to victory
It’s been a pretty distracting week in Iowa State athletics. From the athletic director getting reprimanded for criticizing officials to McDonald’s endorsing the “gold” uniform look the Cyclones will be touting on Saturday, we’ll hope the football team was ignoring it all and focusing on beating Toledo.
A unique storyline heading into the game is Iowa State running backs coach Louis Ayeni formerly being on the Toledo staff. He recruited four of the running backs Iowa State could see on defense — Kareem Hunt, Terry Swanson, Damion Jones-Moore, and Marc Remy.
All four of those players are averaging more yards per carry than any of the Iowa State running backs. The lowest guy on the list is Jones-Moore with 5.4 yards per carry. This is how bad it’s been for the Cyclones — Sam Richardson averages the most yards per carry at 4.3. Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy have been a dismal three yards per carry a piece.
Sep 12, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Toledo Rockets wide receiver Alonzo Russell (9) against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s hoping Ayeni’s been able to work with Wimberly and Nealy to find ways to solve their woes. It’s the second straight season of disappointment in the running game. The offensive line hasn’t helped, but there’s enough athletic ability in both of them to create some opportunity on their own. If not, Iowa State may be forced to look at Martinez Syria or Tyler Brown to jumpstart the rushing attack.
Or, Iowa State could just throw on Toledo. The Rockets have some of the worst pass defense numbers in the nation right now. It’s more important than ever for the Cyclones to pass the ball successfully to open up the running game.
Iowa State and Toledo have only played twice, but they’ve been thrilling matchups. In the 2006 season opener, the Cyclones defeated the Rockets 45-43 in triple overtime. In the following year, Iowa State lost in Toledo 36-35.
- Toledo is ranked 17th nationally in total offense.
- Toledo is ranked 94th nationally in total defense, and that’s brought down by their rush defense (125th nationally). Mississippi State (who is ranked 3rd in the nation), Bowling Green, and California are the only teams worse than them at stopping the pass.
- Iowa State is ranked 111th nationally in rushing offense, and it doesn’t help that Toledo’s rush defense has been just as tough as the opponents this year at 30th nationally.
- Toledo’s opponents are averaging more 3rd down conversions than they are; red zone scoring success is equal (around 84 percent).
What to watch for
Sep 12, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Toledo Rockets quarterback Logan Woodside (11) against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
If it wasn’t harped on enough in the keys to victory, I’ll reiterate it: Iowa State needs to pass. They need to pass a lot. Right now, it’s the only thing that’s marginally working on offense, and they have so many receivers to throw to despite all the injuries.
Iowa State can’t be a one-trick pony, but if they throw the ball, it will set up the running game. Remember when Shontrelle Johnson finally got things going later in the season last year? That’s because the Cyclones were throwing better and the offensive line MASH unit finally got some consistency.
Also, Toledo is dealing with some key injuries themselves. They lost their original starting quarterback, Phillip Ely, after two games. Now that Logan Woodside has played in five games, he’s been a lot more comfortable, but he’s strictly a passing QB with limited running ability. What hurts is Kareem Hunt is looking doubtful for the game.
There’s enough depth for Toledo where they can overcome his absence, but that’s just another advantage Iowa State would have if their running backs finally produce a huge game.
This is it for the Cyclones. They need to win this game if they want to be part of the bowl conversation next month. Enough is enough with talking about how they need to get better in certain aspects of the game. They are a better team than in Week 1, but the offense needs to show some significant improvement like the defense has shown.
Perhaps this will be my final optimistic prediction if the offense doesn’t deliver, but I think they finally will. Toledo will get their numbers on offense and keep it a close game throughout. Just as the first two matchups against the Rockets were a shootout, this will be another one. The Ronald McDonalds secure the victory in the fourth quarter and win their second game of the season.
Iowa State 38, Toledo 27