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FORT WORTH, Texas — It’s been a long time since the beginning of an Iowa State football season has looked this ugly.
Nineteen years, to be exact.
The overmatched Cyclones were trampled by TCU 41-20 in their Big 12 opener Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium – their second consecutive blowout loss, dropping them to 0-3.
It’s the first time Iowa State has opened a season with three straight defeats since 1997, a situation that has the team not only battling its opponents but itself, as the players try to stay positive and keep looking forward.
“We’re so close,” quarterback Joel Lanning said. “If we get rid of the mistakes and get some things to fall our way, we might win a game here or there.”
While the Cyclones are obviously hoping for better results than just a win or two the rest of the season, they’ll find those victories hard to come by with performances like Saturday’s.
While Iowa State held TCU (2-1, 1-0 Big 12) below their season averages of 48.5 points and 617 yards, the Horned Frogs still managed to roll up 481 yards and, more important, they wounded the Cyclones with big play after big play.
TCU reeled off five plays of 20 yards or more, all of which led to touchdowns, beginning with Kyle Hicks’ 64-yard scoring run that gave the Frogs a 10-0 lead with 5:32 left in the first quarter. Hicks, who finished with 117 yards rushing and 39 receiving, also added a 25-yard touchdown catch on the opening drive of the second half that effectively put the game away at 31-7.
“The reality of it is we made too many mistakes in the first half in terms of detail, little discipline/detail areas that we’ve got to continue to work on and correct,” ISU Coach Matt Campbell said. “But I saw growth.”
And there were signs of progress. Quarterbacks Joel Lanning and Jacob Park, who alternated at the position the entire game, each hit some big throws. Lanning also ran for 31 yards and two touchdowns, including a powerful 9-yard touchdown play on which he bulled linebackers Travin Howard and Ty Summers into the end zone with brute force.
An offensive line scrambled by an indefinite suspension to starting left tackle Jaypee Philbert for a violation of team policies — Nick Fett moved from right guard to left tackle, Patrick Scoggins shifted from left guard to right guard and senior Brian Seda started at left guard — was solid in its run blocking, though it did allow five TCU sacks.
And perhaps most positive of all was sophomore running back Mike Warren, who rebounded from back-to-back games of less than 30 yards rushing by racing for 95 yards on 23 carries and catching three passes for 24 yards.
After last week’s 28-yard performance in a 42-3 defeat at Iowa, Campbell called out Warren for not making plays when the opportunities arose. Warren said those comments were a spark.
“I was really motivated this week,” Warren said. “I was getting after it this week, bringing guys with me, keeping the team up, doing everything a leader should do. Just knowing that I brought people with me this week is a really good feeling.”
But not as good a feeling as winning, something the Cyclones haven’t done since a 24-0 victory over Texas on Oct. 31. They’ve lost seven in a row since.
“You’ve just got to keep working,” Warren said. “We’re going to be just fine. We’ve just got to keep working and trust in the process and we’ll be fine.”