Saturday at 11 a.m. the Iowa State Cyclones (1-1) will take the field against the Ohio Bobcats in their first road game of the season and first time in Athens, OH in 22 years. Iowa State looks to bounce back after dropping their first game of the year to their rival the Iowa Hawkeyes (20-13) last week. Ohio is as talented and athletic as a MAC team to come with a 2-1 record after defeating FAU 17-10 on the road. Cyclones have controlled the series winning all eight meetings including a 43-10 blowout in 2022. It will not be an easy homecoming game for coach Matt Campbell, who won the 2015 MAC Coach of the Year award during his five years at Toledo.
“I think my emotions have gone into our football team responding to Saturday,” Campbell said in Tuesday’s press conference.
How Iowa State recovers from its loss is what Cyclone fans will be focused on after many were left underwhelmed with the offensive production versus Iowa. Iowa State only averaged 3.9 yards per play and tallied 290 yards of total offense. On the season, the Cyclones rank last in the Big 12 averaging only 270 yards per game.
While the offensive line has continued to keep redshirt freshman quarterback Rocco Becht clean (allowed zero sacks through two games) much of the concern with the offense comes from the youth and the struggles with the run game. The Cyclones rank second to last in the Big 12 averaging only 110.5 rushing yards per game. Iowa State averaged only 2.6 yards a carry on the ground last week. Leading the Cyclones on the ground was Cartevious Norton with 21 carries for 59 yards.
Iowa State offensively is still figuring out its identity, but the consistency from the defensive unit has been incredible. Allowing only 148 passing yards and 109 rushing yards a game. The defense has been the backbone of the team. Standout sophomore safety, Jeremiah Cooper continues his impressive start with three interceptions in just two games and is tied for most takeaways in the nation.
“I think what we asked (Cooper) to do a year ago was really hard, but we are paying the benefits of getting those quality reps a year ago,” Campbell said on the growth and play of Cooper.
Cooper is the first Cyclone since David Sims in 2009 to have three picks in the season’s first two games.
Ohio is a talented squad with a promising quarterback in graduate student Kurtis Rouke (18-29 for 203 yards and a touchdown last week) and the MAC’s leading defense to help back him up. Challenging the Cyclone secondary on the edges are Bobcat receivers Tyler Walton (12 receptions for 128 yards and one touchdown) and Sam Wiglusz (14 receptions for 125 yards)
“It will be a tremendous challenge for us, and it’ll probably be as steep a challenge we have played at this point from our side of the football. Looking at the veterans they have on offense and seeing what they do on offense schematically,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “I think their quarterback is as good as anybody we have played.”
Ohio and Iowa State matchup better than what most would assume. Both teams have offenses that offer a lot to prove and defenses that keep them in games. The Bobcats’ defense leads the MAC allowing 13.3 points per game, which is more than nine points more than Akron who sits at second. This explains why most sports betting books have Iowa State at -4.
For Iowa State to bounce back with a victory they will need to get the tight ends involved in the passing game. Last week, Becht threw for 203 yards on 23 of 44 passing with one touchdown and one pick-six. What stood out was the lack of production from the tight ends. Of the 203 yards only 39 of those were to the big men. Keys for the Cyclones are what they have been the last two weeks. Win the turnover battle, take over the run game, and distribute the ball more efficiently by taking shots down the field.