Tackling not the problem for defense
The positive takeaway from Iowa State’s season-opening loss Saturday was that the defense missed only eight tackles.
While the young defense surrendered 503 yards of total offense and two long plays — an 80-yard touchdown run to start the scoring for the Bison and a 66-yard touchdown run to cap it — the missed tackles were in total minimal. The problem? The Cyclones often weren’t in position to miss the tackles.
“There weren’t missed tackles on those plays, that’s the problem,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “It was a problem with guys not being where they were supposed to be to have an opportunity to tackle them. That’s what we’ve got to fix.”
Saturday’s opener marked the first starts for defensive linemen Mitchell Meyers and Devlyn Cousin, linebackers Alton Meeks and Kane Seeley and safeties Kamari Cotton-Moya and T.J. Mutcherson. Cotton-Moya’s debut lasted all of three plays before he was ejected for targeting.
The second string of players behind that youth is more youth, which has been the early challenge for defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. Nigel Tribune is Iowa State’s most experienced defensive back, and he made only his eighth career start when he kicked off his second season Saturday.
“We’re a young defense,” Tribune said. “It was the first game and a lot of dudes were excited. You’ve just got to stay in the film room and study your opponent and watch your keys. That’s all you can really do.
“Things are going to go bad at times, and we’ve just got to keep pushing forward and progressing as the season goes along.”
Richardson on the run
Sam Richardson may have been Iowa State’s leading ball carrier Saturday, but it wasn’t for a lack of the Cyclones viewing him as a pass-first quarterback.
Richardson had 15 carries in the season-opening loss for a team-high 58 rushing yards. Some carries were designed, but many were the result of a lack of viable options downfield.
“We didn’t have people open,” Rhoads said. “He was going through his progression very well, he was going through his progression much better than he has in the past. Sometimes he’d get fully through it, sometimes he’d get part way through it and we’d break down in protection and he was forced to move.
“Sam was throughout [the game] a pass-first quarterback as we’d like him to be and ran when he had to.”
Richardson carried the ball a career-high 21 times in the season-opener last season against Northern Iowa. He now has double-digit carries in nine of his starts.
Cramping an issue in Week 1
Throughout the season-opener, Iowa State dealt with a bevy of cramping issues.
Rhoads wasn't ready to make excuses, but provided an answer as to one possible reason for the cramps.
"We had some sickness go through our football team, and anytime that you’re letting stuff out of your body you’re going to dehydrate yourself," Rhoads said. "That played into it unfortunately. It’s just a timing thing that you can’t do anything about. It was just a hot day, which could contribute to that. [There were] way too many long-play drives that left us out there for a long time."