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Breaking down Iowa State (0-3) vs. San Jose State (1-2). Kickoff is 11 a.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium (FSN).
There still is a long way to go for Iowa State’s offensive line, but progress was made even in a loss to TCU. Most of that comes with continuity. For the first time this season, the Cyclones will have the same five starters — although Patrick Scoggins will play left guard while Brian Seda will be right guard — for the second game in a row.
Mike Warren led the charge last week with 23 carries for 95 yards, by far his best performance in three games. Iowa State netted 138 yards on the ground as a team and could have a chance for that to continue against a San Jose State front seven that has given up some yards. The Spartans allow 236 yards per game and have given up nine rushing touchdowns.
Having the same offensive line, an emerging Warren and freshmen David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu in the wings gives Iowa State enough options to find its footing.
Advantage: Iowa State
Iowa State will keep its rotating door spinning at the quarterback position with Joel Lanning and Jacob Park both getting snaps. Whether that means they will rotate in and out essentially every two drives — similar to how it was done at TCU — is anybody’s guess, but San Jose State won’t rest on its laurels while the Cyclones figure that out.
The Spartans allow 239.3 yards passing per game, but have an opportunistic defense that has four interceptions in three games and four fumble recoveries. They get after the quarterback, too, with eight sacks this season, second among Mountain West teams. Iowa State has five turnovers to its name.
Allen Lazard is coming off a one-catch game and was targeted just three times. Look for that to increase. Having Dondre Daley and Hakeem Butler also available for an entire game will take pressure off Lazard, although both have battled injuries the last couple weeks.
San Jose State averages 172.7 rushing yards per game, although that number is a little inflated from its 66-35 win against Portland State. Against Tulsa and Utah — both losses — the Spartans gained 53 and 56 yards, respectively. Iowa State has given up 219.7 yards per game, but could see some of that shored up Saturday.
Demond Tucker has just eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, but has eaten up or diverted a lot of opponent attacks in the middle. Defensive end Jhaustin Thomas is probably the X-factor among ISU defensive linemen. He has five tackles and a sack, but at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, he sticks out at defensive end and has come along in the last couple weeks.
“He has unbelievable ability,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said of Thomas. “He’s hopefully figuring out how good he can be with all the work ethic and things it takes to do that.”
Advantage: Iowa State
Last week against Utah, San Jose State quarterbacks were sacked 10 times. The Utes scored 17 points on three turnovers — and won 34-17. Quarterback Kenny Potter took five sacks in the first half and was knocked out in the third quarter, giving way to backup Josh Love, who was put on scholarship in August.
“The thing about their quarterback is he’s a hard sack to get anyway,” said Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell. “He’s a guy that’s elusive and nifty and a lot of Johnny Manziel-type elusiveness in terms of his movability. I think it’s one of those things we know, too. Last week we didn’t get pressure and we didn’t get to the quarterback.”
Sacks aside, Potter and Love have shown some ability. Potter is 40-for-60 passing for 532 yards and five touchdowns while Love has played parts of the last two games and was 11-for-21 for 184 yards, a touchdown and a pick last week.
Utah gave Iowa State the blueprint on how to slow down the SJSU passing attack, and the Cyclones are certain to rely on their deep secondary. Mike Johnson led the way with nine tackles last week.
Advantage: Iowa State
Punter Colin Downing turned in his best performance of they year last week with eight punts going for 43.9 yards per kick, with one traveling 51 yards. Cole Netten has been razor sharp since he missed an extra point in Week 1. He has made 11 straight kicks, owns a 75.9 percent career field goal percentage and is the school’s all-time leader in PATs.
Kene Nwangwu has lived up to his nickname of Dash as Iowa State’s primary kick returner. On seven returns, he’s averaged 27.7 yards with a long of 44 and solidified his reputation as the fastest player on the ISU roster.
“Both big kickoff returns that he had were scoring drives for our offense, so he’s got some electricity to him with the ability to run and the ability to make plays with the ball in his hand,” Campbell said.
SJSU kickoff specialist Michael Carrizosa kicks touchbacks 66.7 percent of the time. Last season the Spartans were 118th in kickoff yards per return at 25.3. Placekicker Bryce Crawford is perfect on the season, going 12-for-12 on PATs and 3-for-3 on field goals.
Advantage: Iowa State
1. Iowa State is 3-0 all-time against San Jose State with two wins in Ames. The last meeting between the two was in 1980 — the only meeting in Jack Trice Stadium — when the Cyclones won, 27-6.
2. The last time Iowa State played a Mountain West team was in 2008 when it lost, 34-31, in overtime at UNLV. The Cyclones are 23-10 against the conference.
3. San Jose State is 1-10 against Big 12 and Big Eight members. The only Spartans win against the league was a 16-0 victory against Kansas State in 1963 in San Jose. Saturday will be the first game for San Jose State against the Big 12 since 2007 (at Kansas State).
1. Over its last 12 games, Iowa State is 1-11 with the lone win coming at home against Texas (24-0 on Oct. 31, 2015). San Jose State has struggled on the road in non-conference games during the regular season, losing its last seven. The last win was 12-0 at Navy on Sept. 29, 2012.
2. Iowa State hasn’t gone winless in the non-conference since 1997. The Cyclones lost to Wyoming, Minnesota and Iowa that year by a combined score of 172-59 and started the year 0-6.
3. Saturday is Hall of Fame weekend and former Cyclones coach Dan McCarney is one of eight inductees. He is the winningest coach in program history with 56 victories from 1995-2006 and led Iowa State to five bowl games (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005).
ISU WILL WIN IF ... One or both quarterbacks lead sustained drives with an emphasis on the running game.
SAN JOSE STATE WILL WIN IF ... It can create turnovers and capitalize on quick ISU drives.
PREDICTION: Iowa State 24, San Jose State 14