Iowa State coach Matt Campbell on Kansas State counterpart Bill Snyder and the Wildcats.
Tommy Birch/The Register
How many times have analysts and commentators said it?
“This team is just different.”
There is far more talent on this Iowa State roster than in years past. But that doesn’t necessarily make this Cyclones team different than other seasons’ squads. What changes this season’s success — and this is true for any team — is resiliency.
Next man up
David Montgomery, arguably Iowa State’s best player, had a terrific game Saturday against Baylor. He broke the single-season record of forced missed tackles (per Pro Football Focus). Iowa State was starting the process of pulling away, and a critical component of the “finalizing a game” process is a tailback.
Iowa State didn’t fold when its starting quarterback suddenly left the team. It didn’t lose a step when his fill-in got hurt, and the Cyclones had to throw in a redshirt freshman. Then Montgomery went down in the fourth quarter. As a spectator, a lump hit my gut.
But Sheldon Croney stepped in and immediately ripped off a 20-yard run. Iowa State iced away a 23-13 win in the absence of No. 32.
The news: Depth exists at Iowa State for the first time in a while. But more importantly, everyone has confidence in everyone else. That goes from the coaching staff down and from player to player. When Croney had to step in, no one feared that the job wasn’t going able to be done. That’s almost unheard of for a team with such little success over the past few years. In fact, if Iowa State manages to break the losing streak against Kansas State in Manhattan (dating to 2004), they will have tied the win total (eight) of 2014-16 combined.
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O-line finally moving people
For the first time all season — Akron and Northern Iowa, notwithstanding — Iowa State actually created space for their tailbacks to run. Previously, a small amount of air was given to David Montgomery, and he would turn that into the most jaw dropping 6-yard gain you’ve ever seen.
Saturday was different. Granted, Baylor’s defense is hardly one of the nation’s best, but there is still Division I talent at every position.
The Cyclones all season have been good as pullers, since the majority of the linemen are tall and relatively skinny for their positions (but very good athletes). Getting them to run in space and create angles has been a strong suit. But where the Cyclones had faltered was in physically moving someone out of the way — down blocks, combinations, zone blocking, and so on — simply, “I want you to move out of the way.”
That result finally occurred, too, which led to space for Montgomery, Croney and Joel Lanning to scoot through gaps where the play was intended. That’s a different and dangerous element for the Iowa State offense.
It’s an element that affords a big-armed quarterback the chance to hit play-making receivers off of play action. It’s an element that can lead to a victory in Manhattan. It’s an element that can control the pace of almost any game.
It’s an element that can keep Iowa State near the top of the Big 12 Conference for years to come.
Jeff Woody is a former Iowa State football player and writes weekly Cyclones football analysis for Cyclone Insider during the season.
Source: Des Moines Register
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