(Sports Network) - The Iowa State Cyclones whip into Boulder this weekend for a Big 12 Conference clash with the Colorado Buffaloes, who are fresh off an incomprehensible loss and consequently under new leadership.
Iowa State carried a modest two-game win streak and plenty of confidence into last weekend's home clash with Nebraska. The Cyclones put forth a tremendous effort and pushed that tilt into overtime, but the end result was a heart- breaking 31-30 setback. Paul Rhoads and his ISU team is 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Big 12 action, needing just one victory over the final two weeks to earn bowl eligibility.
Last Saturday, Colorado led Kansas by 28 points with just over 11 minutes remaining in the contest, a seemingly insurmountable lead. What ensued will go down as the most shocking collapse in the history of the program, as the Buffaloes surrendered five consecutive touchdowns to the Jayhawks to lose in regulation by a 52-45 final. That defeat was the fifth in a row for Colorado, which is now 3-6 overall and 0-5 versus Big 12 competition. Obviously, the calls for head coach Dan Hawkins' job were deafening, and athletic director Mike Bohn announced on Tuesday that Hawkins was let go after nearly five seasons at the helm. Long-time assistant Brian Cabral takes over on an interim basis.
Colorado owns a 48-15-1 series advantage over Iowa State, but the Cyclones won last season's meeting by a 17-10 final.
Iowa State is generating 24.6 ppg and 324.8 total ypg, decent numbers for a team that is rather mediocre offensively. Austen Arnaud, the club's veteran quarterback, has completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,567 yards and 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The top receiver for the Cyclones is Collin Franklin, who has recorded 40 grabs for 384 yards and two scores. As for the ground attack, which is the strength of the offense, Alexander Robinson has posted 826 yards and eight touchdowns to date.
There is certainly room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball for Iowa State, which is yielding 29.8 ppg and 420.9 total ypg. The Cyclones have surrendered 34 touchdowns to opposing offenses through 10 tilts, including 18 rushing scores. A rather high average of 198.4 rushing ypg at a clip of 4.7 ypc are being surrendered. While ISU has posted a low total of 11 sacks, 13 interceptions have been registered to go along with nine fumble recoveries.
Against Nebraska, Iowa State posted 360 total yards while limiting the mighty Cornhuskers to 314 yards. Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they committed three costly turnovers that played a major roll in the loss. After scoring a touchdown in overtime to pull within one point, Iowa State attempted to win the game on a fake extra point attempt. Unfortunately, Daniel Kuehl's pass was intercepted, sending the Cyclones to defeat.
Colorado rolled up 31 first downs and 464 total yards against Kansas, so the offense was certainly productive. Cody Hawkins completed 29-of-44 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns, although he did toss a pair of interceptions. Paul Richardson paces the receivers with 11 catches for 141 yards and two scores, while Rodney Stewart spearheaded the ground attack with 27 carries for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Sure, the offense was productive, but there is no doubt that three turnovers hurt the cause.
The Buffaloes actually played quite well defensively before the start of the fourth quarter, but that's when everything went terribly wrong. It is important to point out that one of the five touchdowns scored by Kansas in that final frame came on special teams, and that the four offensive touchdowns mustered by the Jayhawks in the final 12 minutes all came on drives of less than 70 yards. Still, the Colorado defense collapsed, and there isn't any other way to look at it.
Hawkins has taken over at quarterback for Tyler Hansen, who suffered a season- ending spleen injury. He clearly played his best ball last weekend, but the interceptions are unacceptable. Colorado figures to lean heavily on Stewart this weekend, as the tailback has rushed for over 900 yards this season with eight rushing scores. A total of 95 points have been surrendered by the Buffs the last two times out, so the Colorado offense will have to be outstanding just to keep the team in the game.
A close game seems likely this weekend, and a narrow edge goes to the upstart Cyclones, spoiling the debut of Cabral. No longer is Iowa State a pushover.