AMES — Iowa State’s running game mirrored much of what happened on the field Saturday as the Cyclones lost 31-14 to Louisiana.
Breece Hall looked good for much of the first half, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown. But he also lost a fumble.
Iowa State looked good for much of the first half, as well. The Cyclones led 14-10 but Louisiana’s touchdown came on a kick return.
In the second half, Hall’s production plummeted and he rushed for just 19 yards. He only had one rush in the fourth quarter for four yards.
Iowa State’s second half was atrocious. The defense gave up a 78-yard touchdown pass to Peter LeBlanc, special teams gave up a punt-return touchdown and the offense, in general, had a hard time doing anything.
Despite Hall’s relatively good game, rushing 20 times for 103 yards and a touchdown, coach Matt Campbell knows there is more to the sophomore running back.
And that “more” doesn’t have much to do with actually running the ball — it’s the other parts of the game.
Much like how Iowa State’s problems on Saturday weren’t with the primary parts of the game — it was special teams that doomed the Cyclones.
“He didn’t look like what I would say is his mid-season form by any stretch of the imagination,” Campbell said on Monday during the Big 12’s weekly teleconference. “There was some sloppiness to his game that was relatable to our football team. His pass protection and ball security need to improve.
“The one positive from the game was our ability to, at times, run the ball. But Breece can be better and will be better. The natural progression of our team, in general, Breece is right in line with that.”
So what prompted the second-half switch away from the run?
In Campbell’s eyes the switch didn’t happen until the fourth quarter. Hall still rushed the ball seven times in the third quarter but he only gained 2.1 yards per carry. In the first half, he gained 6.3 yards per carry.
“A little bit of it is the situation,” Campbell said. “We ran the ball on the first two drives of the second half. Then they hit the long ball and we started to press. We drove the ball again and then we punted the ball and it’s suddenly 24-14 and the game changes.
“Instead of trying to be balanced, you’re trying to play catch up. The run game was really positive for three quarters and then went by the wayside in the fourth quarter.”
Some of the decrease in production can be attributed to Iowa State guard Trevor Downing going down with an injury late in the second quarter.
But another aspect was Louisiana’s shift to playing press-man coverage and Iowa State receivers’ inability to get any sort of separation. It made it easy for the Ragin’ Cajuns to key in on the run in the third quarter.
Iowa State was also without All-Big 12 tight end Charlie Kolar who was out with an injury. In recent years, at every level of football, tight ends have become crucial aspects of a team’s passing philosophy to try and create mismatches in the secondary.
On Monday, Campbell provided updates for both Downing and Kolar.
“The update on Trevor is a sprained ankle,” Campbell said. “The thing that’s hugely positive is I really do think we’ll get him back by mid week. Charlie was able to practice in a limited capacity last week but was not full go. It’s another big week for Charlie that hopefully puts him in a better situation. And I would say, again, that he’s day-to-day.”
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.
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