AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State’s first road game will be its final test before the Big 12 season.
The Cyclones can’t afford to start league play with a losing record.
On Saturday, Iowa State (1-1) heads to Mid-American Conference favorite Toledo (1-0) — which stunned Arkansas on the road last week — in need of a response after losing to Iowa 31-17.
The Cyclones finally paid for their listless rushing attack, as the Hawkeyes shut them out in the second half, but Iowa State’s play has been encouraging at times, especially on defense.
“We have some lug nuts that need tightening up, but we’re moving ahead,” coach Paul Rhoads said.
Things to watch
Toledo beat the ground-focused Razorbacks by stuffing the run and forcing them to throw the ball 53 times. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen threw for 412 yards without a touchdown, as his final pass sailed through the end zone. Toledo’s run defense should be a concern for the Cyclones, who rank last among Power Five teams at 70 rushing yards a game. “There’s another challenge out there for us, which is can we handle success and come back and play our best 60 minutes?” Toledo coach Matt Campbell said.
Iowa State senior defensive lineman Dale Pierson has emerged as an unlikely star for the Cyclones. Pierson, a junior college transfer, came on late last season and is now averaging 2.5 sacks per game, tops in the nation. Rhoads also said he expects fellow transfer Demond Tucker to start alongside Pierson against the Rockets. Tucker left the Iowa game with a sprained ankle.
Iowa State expects to have its hands full with running back Kareem Hunt, who’ll return to action after being suspended for two games — including the opener against Stony Brook that was canceled — for violating team rules. Hunt rushed for 1,360 yards in just nine games and averaged a gaudy 8.0 yards per carry in 2014.
Iowa State has been energized by the switch to a 3-4 defensive front. The Cyclones already have 20 tackles for loss, and Iowa scored just 17 points before a brilliant TD throw by C.J. Beathard and a late TD after a turnover made the final score much more one-sided than the game actually was.
MUST WIN FOR RHOADS?
If Iowa State loses to Toledo, it’ll need to win five Big 12 games to earn postseason eligibility. But the Cyclones have never won more than three league games in each of Rhoads’ six seasons — and the media picked them ninth in the Big 12 preseason poll. A 1-2 start would leave Iowa State on the outside looking in for a bowl bid, which it failed to pick up in 2013 and 2014.
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