Peterson's 5 thoughts: Iowa State, especially its special teams, must improve immediately

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

WACO. Texas — Brock Purdy had a couple big-time misses. Special teams reverted to not very good status. The usually dependable defense? For the first time in a long, long time, it wasn’t all that dependable, at least in the first half.

Those aren’t only observations; those are facts after 14th-ranked Iowa State lost 31-29 at Baylor Saturday afternoon.

The Cyclones had a chance, though, after scoring with 24 seconds to play, cutting the deficit to 2. Needing a conversion to tie, Purdy went under center for a change. The snap was bobbled. Play timing was a mess. Baylor pressured Purdy, who had nothing left to do but loft the ball toward the end zone.

Hail Mary.

Interception.

Iowa State loses.

Recap:Iowa State drops its Big 12 opener at Baylor, 31-29

Sep 25, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) shows his excitement after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the game against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

And those lofty expectations for the Cyclones? Let’s just say Iowa State will have to play from behind for a while in the standings.

Here’s another thought after Matt Campbell’s team fell to 2-2 overall after losing its Big 12 Conference opener: Improvement must happen, and it must happen immediately. It’s already been a long season, and we’re just four games into it.

Hall had a marvelous rushing day, with 180 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns. Will McDonald had a good game, too, with a sack and a big-time quarterback hurry during consecutive Baylor fourth-quarter possessions.

If the Cyclones’ special teams and first-half defense would have played half that well, they’d be heading to next week’s home game against Kansas with a 1-0 Big 12 record.

It sure looks like Hall is healthy again.

Last season’s 1,572-yard rusher ran hard on Saturday, especially while rushing for 40 of Iowa State’s yards during a 10-play, 75-yard first-possession scoring drive.

Not only did Hall rush 15 times for 73 yards in the first half, he also ran 21 yards after catching two of Purdy’s 12 first-half completions.

Hall didn’t miss any games despite being hurt late during fall practice, but his performance wasn’t Hall-like against Northern Iowa and Iowa, against whom he combined for just 138 rushing yards.

Sep 25, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) keeps the ball and runs in to the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

He showed his stuff in the 48-3 victory against UNLV, with 100 rushing yards, while playing just three quarters. Saturday’s first half against a very good Baylor rush defense shows me he’s 100% Breece Hall again.

Matt Campbell was absolutely correct when he said Baylor would be the fastest team Iowa State has played.

Oh boy, was he right.

Baylor led 14-7 after quarterback Gary Bohanon noticed Tyquan Thornton was behind cornerback T.J. Tampa in the end zone. The ball was thrown perfectly, and suddenly the Cyclones were in a hole.

Tampa started in place of the injured Datrone Young, and it looked as though Baylor’s offensive coaches knew a true sophomore was on the field.

Bohanon was another speed factor, his versatility keeping alive plays that wouldn't happen with a not-as-shifty quarterback.

"Credit to Baylor. They made big plays in the moment, and honestly, credit to our kids, too," Campbell said after the game. "Our kids made some critical plays, in terms of staying the course. We didn’t play sharp early, but I thought we played a great second half."

Special teams were shaky again

Andrew Mevis, who came into the game with 3-for-4 success as the long-range field goal kicker, missed from 47 yards with just more than a minute left in the first half, but there was more.

Baylor deflected a Corey Dunn punt late during the first quarter. The punt ended up a 16-yarder, with the Bears taking possession at their 44-yard line.

Six plays later, Bohanon found Thornton behind Tampa for the touchdown ... but there’s more: Trestan Ebner returned a Mevis kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Moral of the story: Kick ball out of end zone.

And did I mention Iowa State’s fumbled punt that very nearly caused more disaster? Yeah, that happened too.

A sideline interference penalty never should happen, but when it happens in a close game? That’s horrible.

At least what happened late in the third quarter didn’t cost the Cyclones a touchdown, but it darn sure could have.

Here’s the setup: Hall broke loose through the left side of the line for a gain near the Baylor 40-yard line with 2:37 left until the fourth. Iowa State fans in the crowd were cheering loudly enough that they could be heard even in the press box, until noticing the flag on the field.

Sideline interference. Instead of having the ball 40 yards from the end zone, Iowa State’s next play started on its side of the 50.

Alas, the drive ended with a 2-yard scoring run by Hall, and it was 28-23 Bears heading into the fourth.

Tight end Chase Allen with the silver lining

"I’ve been here before," the super senior said. "The last time we played here, we lost by 2 points; they made a last-second field goal, and we went on to have a great season."

The Cyclones lost 23-21 in Waco in 2019, then won five of their next seven games, before facing Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.