Peterson's Cy-Hawk thoughts: Why is Iowa State's veteran offense playing so poorly?

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

AMES, Ia. — My initial thought after another Iowa State 27-17 loss against Iowa?

That Iowa State’s offense needs a ton of work.

Purposely not showing anything in the 16-10 season-opening escape against Northern Iowa two weeks ago? Not so fast.

That was just a harbinger of what awaited the tenth-ranked Cyclones against Hawkeyes. 

Showing nothing but a bunch of mistakes against an impressive Hawkeye defense during Saturday’s Cy-Hawk letdown at Jack Trice Stadium?

Head-scratching. And seriously concerning. 

Given the track record of quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Breece Hall, tight end Charlie Kolar and an offensive line we suspected to be the school’s best? 

What's going on here? That's the question Iowa State's handsomely paid coaching staff now has to figure to get this program back on track before Big 12 play starts. 

We certainly didn’t expect eight quarters (and just three touchdowns) of offensive futility, that’s for sure.

And I'd hesitate to make a ton out of Hunter Dekkers playing in the fourth quarter.

Purdy, if healthy, hasn’t lost his job. We've seen him start slow and then light teams up later in the year. 

More:Iowa State backup quarterback Hunter Dekkers replaces Brock Purdy against Iowa

If you thought Iowa State’s offense would be better than it’s shown, you’re not alone.

Granted, the defenses Tom Manning’s offense has faced are respected.

First you had Mark Farley's Northern Iowa team that is always tough on in-state opponents.

And then on Saturday, Iowa State had Phil Parker's buzzsaw of an Iowa defense.

However, we figured the Cyclones’ offense would be good enough to overcome that, but with just three touchdowns in two games … that trip to Las Vegas to take on UNLV could not come at a better time.

Iowa State's quarterback Brock Purdy runs with the ball around Iowa's defensive back Kaevon Merriweather on Saturday in Ames.

Breece Hall, with 69 yards on 23 carries in Game 1, was better against an Iowa defense that’s terrific against the rush, but his fumble that was returned for a touchdown was not expected from someone of his prominence.

Hall hasn’t had that “oh wow,” play yet in two games. No one expected that to be the case.

Where would Iowa State be without its very good defense?

Probably 0-2. 

Fans have every right to wonder whether this team can compete for a Big 12 title, as was the expectation just weeks ago.

Jon Heacock’s side of the ball is the reason the Cyclones were 1-0 into Saturday’s game matching top 12 teams. The defense was the reason Saturday’s game wasn’t more lopsided.

If you expected Purdy to take downfield passing shots, it certainly wasn’t happening with success against the Hawkeye defense.

I still think the Cyclones’ veteran quarterback will be able to do it against someone during the remaining 10 regular-season games, don’t get me wrong. He’s a heck of a lot better than he played on Saturday. The receivers are good. The line has provided decent time.

And Iowa is good, too.

The 49-yard passing play to Darren Wilson just before halftime actually was a mid-range pass to a receiver. To Purdy's credit, he hit Wilson in stride and that let his receiver rumble down near the goal-line. For Iowa State, everything worked perfectly on that play: Purdy was patient in the pocket, the line allowed time for that patience, and the completion to the 4-yard line ended with Hall’s second touchdown this season.

Purdy tried a couple times, throwing deep when seeing a receiver in one-on-one coverage. The times he tried, resulted in incompletions and an interception to Iowa's Matt Hankins.

For the second time in two weeks, Iowa State star running back Breece Hall struggled to find his footing.

What happened to rushing the football, you wonder?

Saturday wasn’t expected to be a game in which either running back rushed for mega-yards. That’s not the DNA of the defenses.

Hall didn’t rip off a big run. Iowa’s Tyler Goodson didn’t rip off a big run. They’re very good running backs, who Saturday met their defensive match.

The heat didn’t appear to make a difference.

The temperature was 91 at game time, with one of those feels-like temps of 99. Iowa State took advantage of its depth, subbing players early and often.

“As a player, you just lock in and play,” said ESPN GameDay panelist Desmond Howard, a former Michigan star. “The other team has to play in it, too. The team mentally strong enough to withstand the elements usually succeeds.”

Iowa State’s special teams, uh, weren’t so special.

One play in particular had to be concerning to the Cyclones. Corey Dunn punted 54 yards, and the Hawkeyes seemingly were going to start a drive fairly deep in their territory. Instead, a plethora of missed tackles later, and Iowa’s ensuing drive started at Iowa State’s 43-yard line.

The drive ended with linebacker Jake Hummel’s third-down sack, so again, Iowa State's defense came through when it had to.

But his team needs every unit firing together … not just the defense carrying the load. 

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