AMES — It was a fairly blunt answer from a pretty straight-forward guy.
After watching film of Northern Iowa’s David Johnson shredding it for 199 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-20 loss, Iowa State’s defense spent a good portion of its bye week practicing tackling.
The Cyclones (0-1) need to tackle better when they host in-state rival Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Hawkeyes (1-1) feature an extremely physical line that will be paving the way for an even more physical running back in Mark Weisman.
The 6-foot, 236-pound Weisman already has two 100-yard rushing games for Iowa, including 180 on 30 carries last week in the Hawkeyes’ win over Missouri State.
“He is a physical ballcarrier, and he runs pretty good for his size, runs low,” ISU free safety Jacques Washington said. “He is going to be a hard person to tackle and if we tackle anything like we did against UNI, Iowa is going to run the score up on us.”
There were a handful of plays in the game with UNI in which Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said his team’s tackling didn’t even rate good enough to call poor, including a play early in the fourth quarter when Johnson caught a short pass out of the backfield, avoided four Cyclones at the line of scrimmage and scrambled down the sidelines for a 29-yard score that put the Panthers up 28-20.
“On two particular touchdowns in the UNI game we had eight missed tackles ... eight missed tackles on two particular plays for a total of 62 yards of offense. You can’t do that and play good defense,” Rhoads said.
Much of the blame fell on a front seven that saw six Cyclones making their first career start. The one starter returning, middle linebacker Jeremiah George, made just two tackles.
“I hope that was a one game thing,” Rhoads said of George’s minimal impact against UNI. “He needs to play faster. He missed a good number of reps in training camp because of a hamstring issue and probably was tentative mainly because of that.
“But he is a fast football player who needs to play fast and he needs to do that in this game.”
On a bigger issue, the Cyclones didn’t do a great job of filling gaps and Johnson and the Panthers exploited those holes.
Rhoads said nose tackle Brandon Jensen will play a big part in the Cyclones’ front seven playing better against an Iowa offensive line that prides itself on grinding defenses down.
“This game is generally won in the trenches and Brandon holding his gap, taking on double teams, will be very important for our success,” Rhoads said.
Jensen said ISU needs to have better gap responsibility against the Hawkeyes and not let them dictate what will happen.
“Predominantly up front is we have to get off the ball,” Jensen said. “We can’t let them come to us, we have to hit them. We can’t let them establish the line of scrimmage, can’t let them push us around the whole day.
“We have to see it quicker and react faster just like our linebackers have to flow in faster, better than we did the first week.”
TROPHY’S ARE IMPORTANT — Asked if trophy games are overrated, Rhoads was emphatic in response.
“No,” Rhoads said. “Trophies go along with victory, and victory my friend is not overrated.”
Iowa and Iowa State play for the Cy-Hawk Trophy.
And is winning just as good without a trophy?
“I’d second that,” Rhoads continued. “I could play for a lollipop and be extremely excited about it.”
INJURY UPDATES: Quarterback Sam Richardson, who was seen wearing a boot after rolling his right ankle in the Cyclones’ loss to UNI practiced for the first time Sunday.
Rhoads said Richardson wore the boot as a precautionary measure.
“He is doing well,” Rhoads said. “He practiced yesterday and had good work with the scouts. He was very limited last week and could’ve practiced, but we thought it was best not to tweak it or put extra stress on it.”
And as an extra precaution, Rhoads made a telephone call to Iowa City.
“I called Kirk (Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz) and asked him not to hit him very hard,” Rhoads smiled. “He didn’t agree to that.”
HOUSEKEEPING NOTES: Freshman defensive back Kamari Cotton-Moya suffered an achillies injury and had surgery last week. The Bakersfield, Calif., native will redshirt. ... Freshman Damein Lawry of Dallas has been switched from defensive back to wide receiver. .... There were several tweaks to the ISU two-deep Monday with the two biggest changes coming with Luke Knott leapfrogging Jevohn Miller at will linebacker, and Sam E. Richardson getting the nod over Charlie Rogers at left cornerback. Additionally, junior college transfer Aaron Wimberly will return kicks along with Albert Gary, replacing Quenton Brundage. Rhoads said the move will give Wimberly more chances to touch the ball, while reducing the work load of Brundage, one of the Cyclones’ starting receivers.