Iowa State then suffered close losses to Iowa and UNLV on the road, and the 20-point halftime lead they took on No. 19 Kansas on Oct. 4 seemed to symbolize the team’s progress under Chizik.
What’s happened since has been disheartening. The Jayhawks won behind a furious second-half rally, scoring 35 points in 30 minutes, and the Cyclones were manhandled by Baylor and Nebraska — two programs rebuilding behind first-year coaches.
Chizik said that despite his team’s five-game losing streak, he’s seen them improve in a number of areas from a year ago. What he’s also seen is a league that has gotten better from top to bottom, meaning that progress doesn’t necessarily translate into league wins.
“The bottom line is, we’ve got to play better than we have the last two weeks,” Chizik said.
This matchup of the Big 12’s last two winless teams could come down to the running game. Iowa State has had trouble since day one getting the ground game going, but Texas A&M; has had just as much trouble stopping teams on the ground.
The Aggies are last in the Big 12 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed, and they’re the only team in the league letting up five yards a carry. But Iowa State is getting just 3.6 yards per carry out of tailbacks Alexander Robinson, J.J. Bass and Jason Scales, and if the 67-yard touchdown run by Robinson last week is taken out of the mix, the Cyclones had 24 carries for 38 yards in a 35-7 loss to Nebraska.
Iowa State’s inability to establish the ground game has put more pressure on sophomore quarterback Austen Arnaud, and he’s thrown for just 289 yards the past two games.
“Any time you can’t run the football, you make yourself a one-dimensional football team,” Chizik said. “If everybody in our league knows right now that we can only throw it, forget about that. That’s scary.”