September 24, 2009

5 Burning Questions: Army vs. Iowa State

Army takes on Iowa State at Ames, IA on Saturday.  Both teams enter the
game at 2-1 and are in a position to really make a strong statement in the 2009
season.  This is a game of teams on the way back up.  Whoever comes out 3-1 is
on track for postseason play. had an opportunity to catch up
with Paul Clark, publisher of, the Iowa State
site.  He answered five burning questions we had about the game from his
perspective.  It seems that the Cyclones really turned the
corner against Kent State to go 2-1.  What were the key components that had them
jump out to such a big lead and win in that game?

Paul Clark:  To be honest, Kent State just isn't very good.  The
Flashes were without their best player, running back Eugene Jarvis, and their
starting quarterback as well.  There are a few good athletes on their roster,
but overall it's a lower division MAC team for sure.  Iowa State really
dominated for 2+ quarters and was leading 34-7 after scoring on its first
possession of the third quarter.  The total yardage advantage at that point was
353-122 and ISU substituted pretty liberally the rest of the way.  The Cyclones
were ripping off huge gains on the ground as Alexander Robinson gained 143 yards
on 23 carries, almost seven yards per pop.  Defensively, Iowa State tackled well
and was solid on its assignments except for one blown coverage that resulted in
a Kent State touchdown.  ISU really just overwhelmed Kent State with more
athleticism, with better players.  Can you talk a little about ISU's spread offense
and how it has progressed this year?

Paul Clark:  It's more West Virginia spread than Texas Tech spread,
meaning the Cyclones are better at running the football than passing it out of
the spread.  Robinson has had two 100-yard games (and 83 yards in the third) and
is averaging 5.6 yards per rush.  The ISU running game against Army's run
defense is the key strength against strength match-up of the game.  Almost all
of Iowa State's running plays are straight read options where the quarterback
puts the ball in the back's stomach and reads the defensive end primarily before
deciding to hand off or keep it himself.  Running backs have 78 carries and
quarterbacks have 38, so it's about 2-to-1 that the QB hands off.  Starting
quarterback Austen Arnaud had a horrible game against Iowa but he's been solid
in the other two.  He's not an ideal spread quarterback when it comes to the
pass game so ISU is customizing its attack to match its personnel.  This is a big game for the Cyclones as they
finish out their non-conference schedule and look to getting to a bowl game. 
What would a win do for ISU at this point in the season, and how bad would a
loss hurt?

Paul Clark:  It's a huge game for Iowa State, it really is.  If the
Cyclones win, they stay on schedule to have realistic bowl aspirations.  ISU
would be 3-1 heading into Big 12 play and it matches up well in three conference
games (home against Baylor and Colorado and a neutral site game vs. Kansas
State) and would have a chance at the upset in a couple more.  If Iowa State can
finish with three non-conference wins, it only needs to go 3-5 in the Big 12 to
be bowl eligible.  And being bowl eligible would mean it was a really good year
for Paul Rhoads in his first season as head coach.  If Iowa State loses to fall
to 2-2, then it has to go 4-4 in the league to become bowl eligible, and that
seems like a tall order considering who it plays and where.  What players on offense and defense should Army
fans be looking out for on Saturday?

Paul Clark:  Definitely Robinson at running back is the no. 1 guy to look
for.  He's been the offensive MVP through three games and is off to a good start
in trying to become ISU's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004.  Arnaud is a dual
threat at quarterback and his favorite targets to this point have been receivers
Darius Reynolds (13 catches) and Marquis Hamilton (11 catches).  Senior Reggie
Stephens at center and junior Ben Lamaak at guard are the core of a pretty good
starting offensive line.  On defense, JUCO transfer safety David Sims has been
the MVP in September.  He has three interceptions and is second on the team in
tackles.  MIKE linebacker Jesse Smith is the defensive leader and no. 1
tackler.  Linebackers Fred Garrin and Josh Raven and corner Leonard Johnson will
also be involved in a lot of plays.  How do you see the game playing out for Iowa
State and what are your expectations coming out of the game?

Paul Clark:  Any time you're playing an option team, getting out in
front is huge and that has to be a key goal for the Cyclones.  Take the lead and
try to make Army get out of its normal offensive game plan.  As long as it's a
two-score game or less, Army can stick with what it does so well.  You get out
ahead any more than that and the Knights have to get out of their comfort zone a
little bit.  Both teams have struggled with turnovers so far this year and if
one team fixes that problem and the other doesn't, that could be your ball game
right there.  Really anxious to see if Army's great run defense numbers are a
product of who it has played or if it can shut ISU down in like fashion.  The
Cyclones may go to the air a lot more.  I do expect Iowa State to win a
competitive game and head into conference play at 3-1 with realistic bowl
possibilities still in play.

Army kicks off against Iowa State at 7pm EST on Saturday.  Join the Live Blog for the game, which will be posted on the front
page prior to kickoff.

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