MONDAY MUSINGS: The aftermath…

1 – When I first got into this business, one of my mentors told me that sometimes it’s best to simply step away from the keyboard and let it all sink in. I practiced that patience this weekend following Iowa State’s 30-23, double-overtime loss at Toledo.

It was one of the most frustrating games that I’ve ever watched or covered during my time as an Iowa Stater/journalist.

Unlike last week (in the second half), I actually liked Iowa State’s game plan. I liked it a lot, in fact. Had I told you before the game that the Cyclones would run 92 plays, out-gain Toledo 481-309 and go 15-of-23 on third-downs (which is a phenomenal stat), every single one of you would have taken it and expected a double-digit victory. The Cyclones uncharacteristically racked up 207 yards on the ground. We saw some of Joel Lanning (in a creative way that I absolutely loved). Defensively, Kareem Hunt was held in check (for the most part) and Phillip Ely only completed 11 of his 28 pass attempts.

Iowa State lost this game because of penalties, 14 of them 113 yards to be exact.

This is the worst kind of loss. Iowa State wasn’t defeated on the road by a stronger team with better players. This wasn’t traveling to Waco and seeing the bigger, faster, stronger and much better Bears whoop your butt. 

Iowa State simply couldn’t get out of its own way! 

This is a game where at the end if the year, you look back and say, “That one was the dagger."

For me, this is a game I’ll remember for decades, much like the last time Iowa State played at Toledo in 2007 (the Cyclones blew a 12-point lead with five minutes to play without Toledo scoring an offensive touchdown).

2 – I’ve seen a lot of “fire him now” chatter on the message boards and social media regarding Paul Rhoads. I totally understand and respect the fact that fans are upset but let me play devil’s advocate with you guys for a minute.

Iowa State’s football head coaching job already has a reputation and it isn’t a good one. It’s known as one of (if not the) worst head coaching jobs in Power Five football. I’ve heard it be referred to as a “coaching graveyard” numerous times.

The point is, finding the next head coach is tough enough of a chore already. If Pollard were to fire Rhoads in mid-September after two close losses (one in double-overtime where a kicker missed a chip-shot to end the thing in regulation), I don’t think that would be sending the right message to the next guy — whomever that may be. 

The coaching circle is a tight group that talks and I can’t imagine Jamie Pollard would be doing himself any favors in December by proving that he has an itchy, in-season trigger finger.

Putting the political stuff aside, there are still nine football games to be played this season. In my opinion, the only reason you fire a coach (RIGHT NOW) is if he’s totally lost the team, the guys can’t stand him and his coaching staff is no longer motivated.

I don’t feel like he’s lost the team. The guys are playing with effort. As for the other two factors, I really have no way of knowing. That’s the AD’s job to figure out and judge from there. 

3 – Because of the above (talk that I just referenced), Iowa State’s game against Kansas in two weeks is all the more critical. Iowa State can’t lose that game. It just can’t… 

4 – For the life of me, I still can’t figure out what Iowa State was trying to do at the end of regulation to set up that field goal. I’ve gone back and watched that possession three times and go a little more crazy every time. 

I guess the biggest question I have is why true freshman Joshua Thomas was in the game at all? I’m pretty sure that Mike Warren was banged up at that time so it makes sense as to why he was out. Tyler Brown only had one carry on the night, so something must be going on there. But why would you want your true freshman touching the ball in that situation under any circumstance? Snap it to the 5th year senior quarterback, let him center it and then kick the field goal, which at that point would have been nothing but a long extra point. 

And for the record, I’ve never met a kicker who wouldn’t want the ball centered in that type of a situation. Perhaps Cole Netten is different? 

5 – I guess the most frustrating part of Iowa State’s 1-2 start to the season in my mind is that to the naked eye, the talent level really is up in Ames this year (compared to the last two), especially on defense. That group can play and is good enough to keep this team in games.

6 – I know that I praised the offensive game plan against Toledo (which I truly meant), but they still only scored 20 points in regulation against a MAC team (albeit a good one). That’s not good enough. 

7 – If you had a tough time dealing with the loss, have a baby (or if you’re a male, knock up your wife and note that I wouldn’t recommend this if your’e not married). Hanging out with my little girl on Sunday made things much less painful.

8 – Here’s a tip of the hat to Texas Tech. Arkansas appears to be “down” this year, but I was still impressed with Kliff Kingsbury’s team on Saturday night in its 35-24 victory over the Razorbacks. Through three games, Tech’s offense is ranked fourth nationally and Kingsbury scored additional points (for me) with this classic jab at Brett Bielema:

"[Bielema] stood up and said if you don’t throw to the fullback, we’ll kick your ass, and if you throw it 70 times a game, we’ll kick your ass,” Kingsbury said."[Bielema] just got his ass kicked twice in a row and probably next week by [Texas] A&M as well."


9 – My Big 12 power rankings through three weeks: 1) Oklahoma, 2) TCU, 3) Baylor, 4), Oklahoma State, 5) Texas Tech 6) West Virginia 7) Texas, 8) Kansas State, 9) Iowa State and 10) Kansas.

I don’t think that Tech will end up fifth in the conference but the win at Arkansas was more impressive than anything West Virginia or Texas have done. Having said that, I actually thought what Texas’ one-point loss to California was a step in the right direction (although that defense is still struggling mightily). After watching its triple-overtime win over La. Tech in its entirety, I just don’t think Kansas State is very good. Somehow, they will still probably win eight games though as Bill Snyder is a vampire. 

10 – Closing thought: Football really is a game of inches. If that kick is good at the end of regulation, there is still negativity today but this? No…It’d be a totally different conversation. 

That isn’t reality though. The kick really did go wide left. 

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