The Ottumwa Courier

October 20, 2008

ISU going backward as losing streak hits 5


AMES, Iowa (AP) — Three weeks ago, things were looking up for Iowa State. The Cyclones entered halftime with a 20-point lead over No. 19 Kansas and seemed on the verge of their first win over a top 25 team under coach Gene Chizik.

Since then, it’s been a disaster.

The Jayhawks scored 35 points in 30 minutes to steal the win, and the Cyclones (2-5, 0-3 Big 12) followed with 28-point losses to Baylor and Nebraska — two teams most thought they’d have a shot to beat.

Iowa State enters Saturday’s home date against Texas A&M; on a five-game losing streak, having been outscored a staggering 108-30 in its last 10 quarters. The Cyclones are going backward in a hurry, and Chizik said Monday that his team’s regression is “very troubling.”

“We’ve done some good things on offense, but overall I think we’ve taken a step backward. Defensively, we certainly haven’t played perfect. We’ve been opportunistic in certain ways. We still haven’t made stands when we’ve had to,” Chizik said.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Iowa State’s regression is how easily teams have moved the ball on the Cyclones. Last week, Nebraska scored on first-half drives of 92, 85 and 71 yards, and quarterback Joe Ganz was 21-of-26 for 283 yards passing by halftime.

That came on the heels of a dismal performance at Baylor. The once-woeful Bears completed 22 of 26 passes, had 435 yards of total offense and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes.

Iowa State’s defensive statistics are enough to make Chizik — a former defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas — cringe. The Cyclones are 98th in the nation in total defense, 90th in scoring defense and 111th out of 120 teams in pass efficiency defense.

“We’ve been very disappointed because we know how close we are to being better than we actually play,” safety James Smith said. “The fashion that we’re losing in is not acceptable.”

Iowa State’s offense has also gone in the tank these past two weeks. The Cyclones haven’t been able to get much of anything from their trio of tailbacks — Alexander Robinson, J.J. Bass and Jason Scales are averaging a combined 3.6 yards a carry. Philip Bates is still second on the team in rushing, and he was a quarterback that left the program after playing in just four games.

“We have to block better up front. We have to give our running backs a chance,” Chizik said. “Running backs have to play with better vision.”

Iowa State’s passing game has been efficient at times, but it hasn’t been able to compensate for a lackluster rushing attack. As a result, the Cyclones rank 94th in the country with 319 yards of total offense per game and have scored just 17 points in the past two games.

“The bottom line is, we’ve got to play better than we have the past two weeks,” Chizik said. “If we do that, we’ll have a chance to win five games. If we don’t, we won’t.”

The prevailing wisdom in September was that Iowa State was much improved and could conceivably challenge for a bowl bid if things broke its way. But just like last season, the Cyclones have hit the wall in Big 12 play.

Texas A&M; appears to be by far the weakest team left on the Cyclones schedule, as the Aggies are 2-5 and 0-3 in the Big 12. But if Iowa State can’t get past the Aggies at home, folks are going to start wondering if the Cyclones will finish winless in conference play.

“I fully expect, in all five games that we have left, to go out and compete and have a chance to win,” Chizik said. “I feel certain that our players feel the same way.”