If Iowa State is to put the skids on its four-game losing streak this Saturday against Nebraska, head coach Gene Chizik believes his Cyclone squad will need to play with more consistency on the offensive side of the ball than it's exhibited in the first six games of the season.
Iowa State, coming off a disappointing 38-10 loss to Baylor last weekend in Waco, has struggled to put together a complete game on offense in 2008.
The Cyclones, averaging 28.5 points and 335.8 yards per game, are ranked no higher than ninth in any of the major Big 12 Conference offensive categories.
Chizik said there's multiple reasons why the Iowa State offense has been "hot and cold" through the halfway point of the season, but youth and inexperience have a lot to do with the inconsistencies.
"We've got so many young guys out there right now – on the offensive line, at wide receiver," Chizik said. "Even our quarterback position. People lose site of the fact that he's a young guy, too."
The "young guy" at the helm of the Cyclone offense is sophomore Austen Arnaud (6-3, 222), who's completed 102-of-169 passes for 1,087 yards and eight scores. He's had his good days this season and he's had his bad days, but Chizik is pleased with the effort and overall play of the Ames High School product.
"He's really trying to become a top-notch quarterback. In this league, that's putting a mouthful out there because the quarterbacks are so good,"
Chizik said. "He's really showing some flashes of a lot of maturity. He stays in the pocket. He doesn't get rattled a lot. He knows when to go to his second and third (progressions) , either check down or run it. He's getting better at those things and he's becoming the leader of our offense."
After losing four games in a row, Chizik said the Cyclones just need something to good to happen to recover some of the confidence that's been lost during the losing streak.
"We get on streaks," Chizik said. "When things are going good, they have a lot of confidence, and we play well when we play with confidence. When things are a little shaky, I'm not sure there's enough maturity in our football team right now or leadership for those guys to know that we can overcome those things. Then, when something good happens, we kind of get back on track again."
In addition to being young, the Cyclones are also trying to offset the loss of Phillip Bates, a sophomore quarterback from Omaha who left the team last week. Bates was apparently frustrated by the lack of playing time behind Arnaud.
Filling the void left by Bates' departure is freshman Jerome Tiller (6-4, 179). The Cyclones had hoped to redshirt Tiller, but were forced to accelerate his progression when Bates left the team.
"Obviously, we've got to shorten everything down for him (Tiller)," Chizik said. "We'd like to try to play Austen throughout the whole game (against Nebraska). Where we are in the season at this point, our best opportunity right now with Jerome is to give him just condensed versions of our playbook and just get him to try to perfect a few things."
Saturday's Nebraska vs. Iowa State game kicks off at 11:30 a.m. at Jack Trice Stadium.