Offensive line paves way to victory
By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
When in doubt, let your big boys lead the way.
That’s exactly what Iowa State did on Saturday. The Cyclones ran around and through Kansas (2-6, 0-4) for a 28-16 victory. The win moves Iowa State to 5-4 and gives the Cyclones back-to-back victories in the Big 12.
“The run game has re-emerged,” Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said.
“We figured out what we could do in the second half and we started finishing some blocks. As a full offensive line unit, they became a lot more effective.”
After a sluggish first half, the Cyclones dominated. Iowa State rushed for 141 yards after halftime – 232 total in the game – and scored all three of its second half touchdown on the ground.
And to think, starting center Ben Lamaak didn’t even play because of a MCL sprain. Alex Alvarez shifted over, and Sean Smith took his spot at left guard.
“Sean stepped in a played great,” quarterback Austen Arnaud said.
So did the rest of the line. After a few shaky moments in the first quarter, the offensive line paved the way to victory. Alexander Robinson, Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody scored touchdowns in the win. Woody’s touchdown was the first of his career.
The final statistics don’t come close to telling the whole story. Yes, Iowa State averaged 5.8 yards per carry, but those yards were tough to come by in the first half. At halftime, Iowa State trailed 9-7.
So what did the Cyclones change during the half? Absolutely nothing. Instead, Iowa State stuck with its gameplan and blew past Kansas.
“You could sense that once we started picking it up, their heads went down,” Alvarez said. “That’s when you have to put your foot on the gas and choke them out.”
Robinson continued his stellar play on Saturday. The senior rushed for 117 yards on 17 carries. His 2-yard touchdown gave Iowa State a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter.
The big day also included a milestone for Robinson. The Minneapolis native went over 3,000 yards for his career and moved into fourth all-time in rushing yards in Cyclones history, only behind Troy Davis, Darren Davis and Dexter Green.
“It feels very good,” Alvarez said. “We take that as a pride thing to see our running backs run. (Robinson) got over 100 yards – we like that.”
After Jeff Woody added a 3-yard touchdown run, it was Johnson’s turn to shine. The electric freshman broke two tackles and cut back across the field on his way to a 33-yard touchdown.
“The offensive line opened up a big hole for me, and I made a guy miss,” Johnson said. “Once I came out of the cut, I knew it was a touchdown after that.”
Quarterback Austen Arnaud – who finished 16-of-26 for 168 yards – enjoyed his view of the thrilling run.
“I had a front row seat,” the senior said. “I carried out my fake and looked up the side and said, ‘Uh-oh, that safety’s in trouble.’ Sure enough, he hit him with a juke.
“That’s a kid that you guys are going to continually see make plays for this program in the future.”
The Cyclones will need more plays like Johnson’s next week against Nebraska. Iowa State’s rushing attack figures to play a huge role again. To pull off the upset, the Cyclones must run the ball and control the clock – just like they did in the second half on Saturday.