Three seconds: that’s all the Baylor Bears needed to finally lead the Iowa State Cyclones.
Three seconds is all that separated Iowa State from overtime — a crapshoot which represents very good odds for an underdog — against the program which won Big 12 championships in 2013 and 2014, and crushed North Carolina in the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl. In overtime against Baylor, Iowa State could have notched its first Big 12 win of the year, a victory that could have changed the course of its season.
“Could have” never had a chance to happen.
The Cyclones showed they possess the talent to compete against high-level Big 12 opponents such as the Bears. However, they also showed they cannot execute down the stretch to finish a performance and secure a winning result.
The Cyclones’ first four games of the season have involved a quarterback controversy between signal callers Joel Lanning and Jacob Park. When Iowa State competed against Baylor, however, there was no controversy. Through the first 45 minutes of the game, the Cyclones’ offense looked like the high-powered Bear unit Big 12 watchers have come to know and respect. The Baylor offense looked like the lackluster Iowa State group, finding moments of success but failing to sustain them with regularity.
Lanning ran the Iowa State system to a high level of efficiency. In the first half, he looked like an All-American gunslinger. He was 12 for 13 (his lone incompletion a dropped pass by one of his receivers) for 164 yards and a touchdown. Lanning also contributed 28 yards and a score on the ground during the first two quarters as well.
The quarterback wasn’t the only one doing damage to the Baylor defense.
ISU sophomore running back Mike Warren entered the year with high accolades. He was the leading freshman rusher in the country last season. In the Cyclones’ first two games this year–Northern Iowa and Iowa–Warren didn’t look like the freshman All-American he was in 2015. During Iowa State’s third and fourth games–TCU and San Jose State–the back started to look like his previous version. Against the Bears, he looked like the runner Cyclone fans and national media expected him to be.
Through the first 30 minutes of the game, Warren carried the ball 19 times for 101 yards — 5.3 yards per attempt — and a touchdown. Warren also received help in the run game from freshman back David Montgomery, who carried the ball seven times for 32 yards–4.6 yards per carry–and a score.
At the end of the first half, Iowa State had collected 317 yards to 298 for Baylor. Score: Cyclones 28, Bears 21.
Coming out of halftime, the Iowa State offense continued to roll as it drove 55 yards in 13 plays–a drive that would last 5 minutes and 16 seconds–for a touchdown. After a Baylor score, Lanning and company responded with a 75-yard drive to go up 42-28.
Over the years, Iowa State has lost games due to blowing leads–Texas in 2014 and Kansas State and Oklahoma State last season are recent examples. After scoring its 42nd point of the day, Iowa State’s offensive magic disappeared and that trend of blowing leads was set in motion — or perhaps, inertia — once again.
Out of the Cyclones’ last three offensive series, the longest one gained only 12 yards (the other two last seven and minus-1 yards). The ineffectiveness in Iowa State’s last three possessions was due to basic breakdowns.
Lanning wasn’t getting the protection he received in the first three quarters and was sacked to end one drive. Miscommunication between Lanning and his center put Cyclones in a hole on a separate drive. Lanning’s receivers started dropping passes.
While Iowa State’s offensive execution vanished late in the contest, so did the Cyclones’ defensive execution–primarily against the run.
Baylor is more known as passing team, but that wasn’t the case against Iowa State. The Cyclones held the the Bears to a mere 178 total passing yards, but since Iowa State focused on stopping Baylor’s aerial attack, it couldn’t stop its ground offense.
Basic lapses in run defense cost Iowa State a season-defining win. Baylor gashed the Cyclone defense for 469 rushing yards–including 237 by Shock Linwood.
When it seemed like Iowa State had Linwood (and company) stopped for a loss or a small gain, Linwood escaped the Cyclones’ arm tackles and broke away for big gain after big gain. The missed tackles by Iowa State defenders allowed Baylor to not only make up a 42-28 deficit with two easy touchdowns, but to then drive 83 yards, kick a game- winning field goal on the final play, and give the Bears their only lead of the game.
Final: Baylor 45, Iowa State 42.
Teams that consistently win maintain basic technique and perform simple tasks throughout all four quarters.
For the third straight week, the Cyclones showed improvement. Head coach Matt Campbell’s team proved it has the talent to compete with anyone. However, if Iowa State wants to start creating a winning culture in Ames, executing throughout the entire game instead of just three quarters will be essential moving forward.