Four-down territory: Iowa State
Four things the football teams from Iowa State and Iowa can do to put themselves in position for a victory in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames:
Iowa State (1-0)
1. Own the perimeter
Iowa would prefer that this game be played between the tackles. Iowa State’s ability to rattle those plans by playing to its perimeter strengths will help both the Cyclones and the ability of sophomore David Montgomery to get something going on the ground. Quarterback Jacob Park has some exceptional receivers to work with. Continuing to settle in behind center, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior completed 27-of-35 passes for 271 yards and a couple of touchdowns last week against UNI. He has a couple of tall targets in 6-5 Allen Lazard, an all-American candidate who became ISU’s career receptions leader last week, and 6-6 Hakeem Butler. Lazard has 178 career catches and has grabbed a pass in a school-record 36 consecutive games. Butler’s growth mirrors the improvements in the ISU offense. He caught seven balls last week against the Panthers.
2. Protect the quarterback
Iowa State’s offensive line is a bit of a work in progress. There is some talent -- Jake Campos at left tackle and center Julian Good-Jones lead the way -- but there is also inexperience that ISU will need to overcome in protecting Park and giving him time to operate the Cyclones’ attack. The Iowa State line did not allow a sack last week, while Iowa dished out a pair in its season-opening win over Wyoming.
3. Be Joel Lanning
As Matt Campbell builds his program, the Cyclones need to embody the toughness and selflessness that Joel Lanning has demonstrated for his senior season. A year ago, Lanning completed 8-of-20 passes for Iowa State as the starting quarterback in the Cy-Hawk game. Last week, he made his first start at middle linebacker, recording seven tackles, and lined up behind center in several heavy sets in the Cyclones’ win over UNI. His willingness to make that work illustrates the collective effort Iowa State needs in moving forward. In a series filled with surprise efforts creating surprise outcomes, the Cyclones need a hero willing to put the team above self. The Cyclones need a lot of Joel Lannings.
4. Be special on special teams
Three times in the past 10 years, Iowa State kickers have been the winning difference for the Cyclones in this series. The legs of Bret Culbertson, Edwin Arceo and Cole Netten have taken down the Hawkeyes. Iowa State has a first-year starter in Garrett Owens at placekicker. He didn’t attempt a field goal in the UNI win but the graduate transfer from Oregon State was perfect in six PAT attempts and hit 32-of-46 field goal tries over the past three seasons in the Pac-12. He has a career long of 50 yards, hit in a 2015 game against Washington State.
1. Establish the run
Ground and pound. The Hawkeyes’ best opportunity for claiming a third straight win in the Cy-Hawk series is to ride the strength of a veteran offensive line and put the ball in the hands of Akrum Wadley and James Butler early and often. James Daniels is expected to return to his role as a starting center after missing the opener with a knee injury. That should allow Keegan Render to slip back to a guard position. Expect Alaric Jackson to make his second straight start at left tackle, where Boone Myers will be available but continues to deal with a lingering ankle injury.
2. Take care of the football
The Hawkeyes gave the ball away four times in the season-opening win over Wyoming. The Cowboys didn’t seem to know what to do with it, but the Cyclones do. Iowa State safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, the leader of a veteran secondary, and linebacker Willie Harvey returned interceptions for touchdowns last week as ISU intercepted UNI quarterback Eli Dunne three times. Ball security has been a topic this week for the Hawkeyes after the three-fumble, one-interception debut. It’s an issue Iowa needs to fix.
3. Have eight be great
The growth of Sam Brincks, a now-healthy Nathan Bazata, the arrival of true freshman A.J. Epenesa and the willingness of Matt Nelson to shift inside to a tackle position allowed Iowa to rotate eight bodies on its defensive front line against Wyoming. Reese Morgan is living a dream and Iowa will again attempt to mix and match fresh bodies and minds in its defensive front four. The Hawkeyes have the depth to give Iowa State some issues up front. Maximizing those opportunities would help Iowa win this Cy-Hawk battle at the line of scrimmage.
4. Play touch football
Nathan Stanley’s debut as Iowa’s starting quarterback was effective, not flashy. Iowa kind of likes its quarterbacks to play that way. The sophomore has a strong arm, but it was the touch he displayed in completing 2-of-3 passes of 20 yards or longer that illustrates his potential. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback hit Noah Fant for a 27-yard touchdown and followed that with a 45-yard strike to Nick Easley for a score against Wyoming. He delivered both with great touch, a great starting point for a first-year starter who will find himself in a challenging environment at Jack Trice Stadium.