Cyclones No. 1 in Hawkeye State
After losing to Iowa for 15 consecutive years, Iowa State has won three in a row, and the Hawkeye State might as well be called the Cyclone State. With its 24-14 victory over its intrastate rival last Saturday, Iowa State is off to a 3-0 start for the second straight year. The Cyclones lost seven of their final eight last fall, but this team looks better on both sides of the ball and especially on special teams.
Last spring coach Dan McCarney hired former Iowa assistant Bob Elliott and put him in charge of special teams. Elliott has employed many of the tactics popularized by Virginia Tech, which has long made a big deal of special teams, such as getting McCarney to take a hands-on role with the kicking and receiving units and using a lot of frontline players on those units.
The results have been dramatic. Iowa State, which blocked no kicks or punts last season, blocked five in its opening victories over Ohio and UNLV. Elliott uses a scheme that frees the Cyclones' best leaper, 6'5" starting defensive end Reggie Hayward, who has two blocks, in the middle of the line. "When your best player is also your hardest worker on special teams," Elliott says, "it sure makes it easier. Our starters are fighting to get on the team as opposed to trying to get off."
Elliott's schemes have also opened holes for J.J. Moses, who's averaging 14.0 yards running back punts. Last year Iowa State finished 100th in punt returns (6.8 yards per return); now it's 24th.
Alabama's Passing Woes
The Tide May Be Washed Up
After Southern Mississippi beat Alabama 21-0, Golden Eagles coach Jeff Bower said, "We concentrated on stopping the run." Translation: 'Bama is 1-2 because its passing game has fallen apart. The Tide hasn't passed for a touchdown yet, not even to preseason All-America wideout Freddie Milons, who's a Porsche with lost keys. He has caught just 13 passes for 91 yards.
After the West Coast offense sputtered in a 35-24 loss to UCLA on Sept. 2, coach Mike DuBose shelved it and tried to spread the defense with an option attack. All he did was spread his offense too thin. The West Coast and option demand precision. The Tide is proficient at neither.
Senior quarterback Andrew Zow struggled to hit receivers in the first two games, going 11 for 32 and losing his job. New starter Tyler Watts, whose quick feet helped persuade DuBose to use the option, has an average arm. He completed 11 of 16 against the Eagles, but for only 57 yards, and he was relieved by Zow in the fourth quarter.
When Zow killed a drive by throwing an interception in the end zone, he heard fewer boos than one might have expected at Legion Field, which began the night with a crowd of 83,091. That's because many of the fans had already left.