Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 02, 2018 at 8:01 pm.

Iowa State offense looking for answers

At 1-3 through the season’s first four games and facing an 11-game season thanks to its opener being cancelled due to weather, Iowa State is running out of wiggle room as it looks to return to the postseason.

For that to happen, the Cyclones will have to get more out of their offense, which has unexpectedly struggled to put up both yards and points, forcing the team to lean too much on its defense to stay in games.

One of the issues is injuries. Starting quarterback Kyle Kempt and tight end Chase Allen have been sidelined. Running back David Montgomery has played but is banged up, limiting his workload. In Kempt’s absence, Zeb Noland has looked like a quarterback learning how to be a starter in a BCS league — sharp at times, flustered at others.

Another issue is the schedule. Though the Big 12 in general won’t make anyone harken back to the days when every team ran the football and the final scores were in single digits, the Cyclones have had matchups against TCU, arguably the top defensive team in the conference, as well as Oklahoma and Iowa.

But managing less than 200 yards of total offense — Iowa State totaled just 198 against TCU — leaves a lot to work on. The offensive line isn’t giving Noland much time to throw the football or Montgomery space to run. As a result, Iowa State is averaging fewer than 20 points per game, which makes it tough to win in a high-scoring league.

The good news is that Oklahoma State’s defense is having its own issues. The Cowboys, who host the Cyclones on Saturday, enter the week in the Top 25 but the secondary struggled against Kansas last week and Texas Tech overwhelmed OSU the week before. There’s a lot of talent on that side of the ball, but the Cowboys haven’t been able to put it together.

Other good news is that the Iowa State defense is more than capable of handling its own business. Three of its first four opponents haven’t cracked the 300-yard barrier against the Cyclones.

And leaving Ames won’t scare this team. Iowa State’s last two wins against ranked teams have both come on the road — at Oklahoma and Memphis.

But the key to any success will come on the offensive side of the ball. If Zeb Noland can build on his fourth quarter success, the Cyclones could pull off the upset.