INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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AMES — High-caliber football players tend to put the onus on themselves when things don’t go right.
Whatever shortcomings happened in the last game, they put themselves out front of the group to help get things fixed.
Go ahead and file Mike Warren under that category.
Iowa State’s sophomore running back never got going in a game-one loss. His disappointment was evident, but it hasn’t taken the wind out of his sails. Warren has used it as his fuel, just like all good players do.
“I think these guys are really taking it personal,” Warren said. “Everything we’ve been through this summer has been too much to just go out there and not play to our ability.”
Warren’s 12 carries last week — five in the first half — were the fewest he had since becoming the Cyclones starter in the third game a year ago. His 30 yards also were the fewest in his young career as a starter.
There isn’t a magic number of carries Warren hopes to get in a given game, nor has the coaching staff designated one. All everybody knows is he needs to touch the ball more. That was as evident as anything in film study on the morning after the loss.
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” said Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell. “And believe me, I’m the first coach that’s not going to sit up here and say I was perfect or we were perfect throughout the game because we weren’t.
“We’ve got to do a great job of focusing, what gives him the best opportunity to be successful early in the football game.”
Warren has shown the ability to carry the load. His 32 carries in a win against Texas last season was a career-high, and he ran for 157 yards and a touchdown. His beefier upper body at 6-foot and 205 pounds has him open to any number of carries he could get.
“As many times as they allow me,” Warren said on what he could handle. “If the run is there then by all means we can run it a lot. If it’s not then I have to play my role being out on routes or pass protecting. Whatever it takes.”
Twice the offensive line was signaled for holding when Warren had a chance to break loose a couple runs. Warren will take responsibility, but so will the offensive line. Holes have to be bigger and the outside pass rush has to be contained to give the running backs a chance.
Down and distances of 1st and 20 or 2nd and 20 made Iowa State one-dimensional offensively against Northern Iowa and essentially took Warren out of the game. His ability to establish the running game lies with the offensive line cutting out its bevy of penalties.
“(Warren) maybe should have gotten some more (carries), but you can’t really do that when things aren’t really working running-game wise,” said quarterback Joel Lanning. “He’s fine, we’re fine offensively, we just had to clean things up. Penalties really hurt us.”
Iowa State has offensive tackle Julian Good-Jones, who was suspended for a violation of team rules against UNI, back against No. 10 Iowa. Depth will be an issue all year at that position, but getting one game under its belt has the coaching staff believing they’ll see marked improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.
Warren is expecting that from himself, too.
“We didn’t execute how we wanted to and they took us out of our zone,” Warren said. “Going forward I think we have a better understanding of where we’re at as a team and what we need to improve on.”
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