By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
Follow Ian on Twitter @IanWsmith3
Glass half empty or half full?
Iowa State’s 33-17 loss to Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday afternoon can be viewed both ways. Examine the positives and there’s still hope for this season. Dwell on the negatives and fans might as well start heading toward Hilton Coliseum.
The loss drops the Cyclones’ record to 0-4 in the Big 12 and 3-4 overall. Iowa State has lost its league games by an average of 24.5 points.
“We play to win,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “In order to win, you need to play well. In order to play well, we need to play better. I thought we did that today.
“I thought we played with great energy. I thought we did a lot of good things, but not enough to beat the 17th-ranked team in the country.”
Let’s start with the positives.
After replacing starter Steele Jantz early in the first quarter, redshirt freshman Jared Barnett proved capable of playing quarterback in the Big 12.
His numbers – 16-of-36, 180 yards – don’t tell the whole story. Barnett showed poise and patience in the pocket. When he needed to run, he did. The 6-foot, 180-pound signal caller rushed for a team-high 66 yards on 13 carries.
On his first possession in the game, Barnett drove the Cyclones 83 yards on nine plays to give Iowa State a 7-3 advantage.
“He did give us a little spark,” receiver Josh Lenz said. “That’s what we needed and it helped.”
Rhoads also liked what he saw from Barnett.
“I think what I saw was great poise out there on the football field,” Rhoads said. “I saw a redshirt freshman that was in control of himself and in control of our offense. I saw a guy that made the right checks for the most part. I saw a guy that delivered the ball on time. I saw a guy that took off running when he should run. I saw a game that threw accurate passes over the course of the afternoon.”
Does that cover it all?
Clearly, Barnett can improve. After connecting on 6-of-8 passes to start the game, he completed just 10-of-28 the rest of the way. Barnett’s passing completion must and should go up with experience. Rhoads said Barnett would likely be under center to start next week’s game at Texas Tech.
“I was able to calm myself down,” Barnett said. “The o-line was really helping me calm myself down and the defense was really playing well so I think that helped me.”
Speaking of the defense, Wally Burnham’s unit did everything it could to keep Iowa State in the game early. The Cyclones held Texas A&M to a field goal on its first possession after Jantz threw an interception to hand the Aggies the ball on the Iowa State 14-yard line.
Texas A&M was only able to rack up 23 yards of total offense in the first quarter as the Cyclones took a 7-3 lead. Iowa State also sacked the Aggies three times on Saturday.
“We challenged Coach Burnham and staff to bring more pressure when we needed too,” Rhoads said.
“Our thought our guys played extremely hard tonight.”
The Aggies put up 510 yards of total offense, but 301 of those came after halftime against a worn out defense.
“This week we came out with a little chip on our shoulder,” linebacker A.J. Klein said.
Unfortunately for Iowa State, the negatives outweighed the positives against Texas A&M. The most glaring of those were drops by the Cyclone wide receivers.
Almost every Iowa State wide out hurt the offense with drops and prevented the Cyclones from staying in the game. The Aggies answered Iowa State’s 7-3 advantage with 27 straight points to take a commanding 30-7 lead.
“We opportunities to get first downs, we had opportunities to convert potential bigger plans,” Rhoads said. “We had a chance at the end of first half to be in position to grab us a field goal or even a touchdown and change the momentum going to the locker room at halftime. I thought the (drops) were very key today.”
Besides miscues by the receivers, the Iowa State defense surrendered far too many yards on the ground. Texas A&M had 247 yards rushing on 47 carries. Both Christine Michael (142) and Cyrus Gray (125) went over 100 yards.
The Big 12 conference shows no mercy. Next week Iowa State travels to Texas Tech.
If the Cyclones clean up some of the errors, an upset is possible. If not, the first basketball game is Nov. 12.