September 26, 2012
Steele Jantz has played in 12 games at Iowa State and thrown at least one interception in all but two. Still, his completion percentage has risen dramatically from last season. Is he just a turnover-prone guy by nature or have you seen improvement from him in this regard?
PC: "To a certain extent, it's just who and what he is as a quarterback. He's got a little bit of Brett Farve in him, meaning that he's a bit of a gunslinger who doesn't necessarily fear the consequences enough to have a great aversion to putting the ball in danger. He's a California kid, too, pretty carefree and go with the flow. You have to take the bad with the good to some extent because those characteristics have also served him well as the Cyclones' quarterback. He will make some turnovers, but he will also make some big plays. Mathematically, he's taking care of the ball a little better when comparing the first three games of this season (one INT for every 26.8 attempts) to all of last season (one INT for every 23.5 attempts). And he's much more accurate overall, completing 70.1 percent of his throws so far compared to 53.3 for all of 2011. If the completion rate is a lot higher and the interception rate is a little lower, the numbers suggest he has progressed in a positive direction."
What were the biggest question marks about the Cyclones heading into the season and were those answered during non-conference play?
PC: "Some questions were answered, as much as they can be against the level of competition Iowa State has faced so far. The Cyclones played a top tier non-BCS team in Tulsa, a middle tier BCS team in Iowa and a lower tier FCS team in Western Illinois. So it's a decent sample in terms of variety, but obviously ISU hasn't faced any team yet with the level of Big 12 athletes it will see for most of the next nine weekends in a row.
"On offense, quarterback was a big question mark with Jantz winning the job over sophomore Jared Barnett in the pre-season and getting off to the start that was discussed in the first question above. Running back Shontrelle Johnson coming back from a serious neck injury was a question mark coming in and he's led a balanced but inconsistent ISU rushing attack so far. Big playmaking potential in the passing game was a question mark coming in and the Cyclones have three different receivers with catches for 40 yards or more and five with receptions of 20 yards or more.
"On defense, getting an improved pass rush was a question mark and so far that hasn't necessarily been answered to the positive. The Cyclones have only four sacks in three games, but they do have nine QB hurries to go along with that. The overall play of the defensive ends was a question mark, too, and they've been okay if not better than that. Junior middle linebacker Jeremiah George has answered one big question in the affirmative: was he game ready to allow ISU to use three linebackers more often and be a little tougher against the run? The answer is yes as George has 20 tackles on the year and the LB corps of seniors Jake Knott and A.J. Klein along with George rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles."
From a statistical standpoint, ISU seems very balanced on offense -- two running backs have split the bulk of the carries and six players have nine or more receptions. From a skill position standpoint, who should concern the Red Raiders the most?
PC: "It has been a balanced offense in terms of distributing touches. At running back, James White is probably the most consistent runner but Johnson is the guy with a little more shimmy and the ability to make something out of nothing. Johnson was over 100 yards in the opener against Tulsa but hasn't done much the last two games with White carrying more of the load. That's how Iowa State will do it at running back; split the carries and give more to the guy with the "hot hand" in a particular game or a particular segment of a game.
"The lead story on the Cyclone receivers is senior Chris Young blossoming just in time. He's a JUCO transfer who had seven career catches before this season and now shares the team lead of 14 catches through three games. Another senior who has stepped up is Jerome Tiller, who was previously a quarterback. The emergence of those two has given opposing defenses more to worry about that just the two seniors who were expected to lead the way this season: Aaron Horne (14 receptions so far) and Josh Lenz (11 receptions). ISU hasn't yet gotten its tight ends involved to the level it had hoped."
Do you think the bye week was good or bad for ISU? Would they rather have played this game last Saturday?
PC: "It's hard to say until you see how a team plays the next time out. Coach Paul Rhoads pointed out that it comes at the mid-point of the overall football year, but not of the actual season itself. So he thought the timing wasn't terrible, but I got the sense from how he said it that something closer to the middle of the season would be more ideal. But it's really a moot point since you don't get to schedule a bye week whenever you feel like you need it. I think in general, most players and coaches would always rather play than sit.
"Iowa State had a bye at the same point in last season and laid an egg, as Coach Rhoads put it, coming back to play Texas in the Big 12 opener. The Cyclones were awful and Texas capitalized and it was 34-0 at halftime. Players and coaches both have looked back and said they didn't do the bye week very well. Some evidence exists that they learned from the errors of their ways. ISU also had an open week later in the year and came back the following Saturday to beat No. 2 Oklahoma State."
Beyond scoring one more point than Texas Tech, what does ISU need to do Saturday to win this game?
PC: "Iowa State needs to protect the football and be no worse than -1 in the turnover margin. The Cyclones need to run the ball with more consistency and effectiveness to bleed to clock a little bit and keep Seth Doege and the Texas Tech offense on the sideline. The ISU offensive coaches need to do a better job with halftime adjustments -- they won the first halves of the Tulsa and Iowa games decisively, but then were bested at halftime and lost the second halves of both those games. The Iowa State defense needs to get Doege off his spot a little bit and disrupt his timing a little bit when it can. And it's very important that the Cyclones tackle well in space to keep the Raiders from getting loose on the catch-and-runs."