Normally, when a family is in mourning, the courteous and sympathetic course of action is to either quietly offer them a pat on the back or simply give them their space and say nothing. Which means I sort of feel terrible for having to pry into the affairs of our friends from Ames in this troubling and unsettled time. Were I kinder, I'd have just brought a hot dish and a bouquet.
Joining us today to bare his soul and display his suffering for our amusement is our pal CanAzn, high overlord at SB Nation's excellent Iowa State blog Wide Right Natty Lite.
Jon: Man, guys. I've been following along, so I already know, but for our readers: how do you really feel about Saturday and what it means for the Cyclones?
WRNL: Well I assume you mean Saturday as in last Saturday, Last Saturday was embarrassing. I'll be honest, I wasn't buying into the hype train that comes with every offseason very hard, so it's not like I was expecting the Cyclones to turn 3-9 into 9-3, but I was still optimistic and predicted a 5 win season. North Dakota State is a great team, but still an FCS team, and while a loss wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world, losing in the fashion Iowa State did was pretty close to it (at least relative to sports).
Jon: Just how much trouble is Paul Rhoads in now? And as for Mark Mangino, are you wrinkling your nose at him too, or are you more philosophical about his status?
WRNL: The shine is completely off Coach Rhoads now. Last season obviously wasn't good for his standing, but you could give him a break. At this point, I think most fans think of Oklahoma State 2011 like they think of Seneca Wallace's run against Texas Tech... just a great piece of nostalgia. Rhoads can definitely still salvage his reputation with a lot of our fan base, but the second straight year getting dismantled by an FCS team is not a good look. As far as Mangino goes, I'll just go ahead and pretend like Courtney Messingham invaded the booth after the first quarter and give Mangino a couple more weeks before passing judgement.
Jon: The first quarter was actually pretty good stuff from the Cyclone perspective, but then you all experienced the agony of witnessing one of those week one injuries that can utterly crush an entire season. Did you feel like there was some real potential there before disaster struck?
WRNL: Balanced playcalling, effective blocking, and a 14-0 start with touchdowns on two of the first three drives? Yeah, I'd say everyone was on cloud... well maybe not cloud nine, but at least cloud seven. Then
(Ed. Note: That is not a typo. In fact, it's entirely possible that at this point CanAzn chugged a gallon of off-brand bleach and was replaced by a clever simulation for the duration of the interview, but we really have no way of confirming that.)
Jon: How big a hit is losing Quenton Bundrage? Is an injured Farniok still better than his replacement? And what do you think Mangino will schematically do to compensate for all of this?
WRNL: Losing Bundrage is a big hit as he has all-conference potential, but I guess the bright side here is that if any position group could afford to lose someone, it would definitely be the receivers. It was a bit surprising for me to see that Farniok could be that important to the team, as the line basically collapsed after he left. Sure, the best lineman you have is always a big hit, but you would have hoped a power conference team wouldn't be that reliant on one player to keep the line functional. Farniok looks like he'll be back for Farmageddon, so that's cool, and to replace Bundrage on the field Mark Mangino will rely on increased snaps for highly touted true freshman Allen Lazard, as well as the returning (from suspension) D'Vario Montgomery, who was high school teammates with Sam Richardson.
Jon: We know what we're getting with guys like Sam Richardson and Aaron Wimberly. We got an eye-opening performance from a guy (Kody Cook) who wasn't even on anyone's radar Saturday; did anyone on Cyclone offense surprise you?
WRNL: I guess due to how badly the game went, I'll count punter as an offensive player,This shouldn't be surprising by now since we're #PunterU, but new punter Colin Downing was excellent. Allen Lazard started off his Cyclone career with a bang on a 48 yard reception, and seems like he might turn into the big, physical receiver the Cyclones have lacked for years.
Jon: Similarly to the offense: any unexpected bright spots on defense? Were there any surprising wrinkles you hadn't seen before that we should keep an eye on?
WRNL: I was impressed with redshirt freshman safety Kamari Cotton-Moya in the very limited playtime he got until he was ejected (I would argue unfairly) for targeting. Luckily (or maybe not luckily), the call happened in the first half, so he'll be back for KSU. Jared Brackens also looked pretty decent despite seemingly spending the entire offseason in Paul Rhoads' doghouse, partially because he goes to Iowa State basketball games in a fat suit and blonde wig (This is not made up). As far as wrinkles in the defense to look out for? Well, I guess if you really like seeing a bend but don't break defense break, then that counts as a wrinkle.
Jon: Iowa State didn't lose anything on defense due to injury, but Cotton-Moya getting ejected surely didn't help matters. How big an impact do you think that had on the proceedings?
WRNL: Cotton-Moya did well for his first start ever, but his backup Kamari (yes, another one) Syrie wasn't completely awful. Maybe Cotton-Moya prevents one of NDSU's long TD runs, but overall, not too much difference.
Jon: As always, our final shot is to put you on the spot. How do you see the game playing out Saturday?
WRNL: My preseason prediction for this game was 30-17 KSU, and so it remains. Iowa State can't possibly be as bad as it was in the second half last Saturday, and Farmageddon tends to be a decent game most years, so I'll say the Cyclones stay within 2 TDs and call it a massive improvement over last week.
(Ed. Note: following this exchange, it was announced that Cyclone OL Jacob Gannon has left the team because he is "burned out", adding salt to an already festering wound and virtually conforming that Rhoads has lost at least part of the team. If you see a Clone this weekend, buy 'em a beer. They deserve it.)
Big ups to CanAzn for a great session. Be sure to go visit WRNL. They'll have my answers to their questions soon.