Planning for success: Iowa State

Last season, Iowa State suffered the most lopsided loss in the history of its program in a 71-7 defeat at Baylor.

The Bears also put up 714 yards of offense and generated 32 first downs.

As the Cyclones prepare to meet Baylor again this weekend, they’re banking that their defense will be better prepared for the challenge the Bears’ high-powered offense presents.

"I don't think you over beat that drum," said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. "A good bit of them were there and they know what took place in Waco a year ago."

To hang tough with Baylor this time, Rhoads will need an inspired effort from his defense, which has played better since surrendering 34 points in the loss to North Dakota State in the opener. Iowa State gave up 13 quick points in the first quarter to Kansas State, too, the following week, but made life difficult on the Wildcats offense the rest of the way. Iowa State then locked up Iowa in a 20-17 victory over the Hawkeyes.

Veteran defensive end Cory Morrissey, who is tied for the Big 12 lead with 3.5 sacks, has led the charge up front. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s inexperienced secondary has rapidly improved over the past month and has yet to allow a passing touchdown this season.

"I think they're growing up," Rhoads said.

With longtime linchpin safeties Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield gone from last season, Rhoads has had to rely on several underclassmen in his secondary. That contributed to the shaky start.

Yet, since the early struggles, the defensive backfield has begun to gel.

Against Iowa, sophomore strong safety T.J. Mutcherson came up with a huge interception in the second half, which fueled the Cyclones’ comeback.

Freshman free safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, who was ejected in the opener for targeting, has rebounded to become an enforcer in the secondary.

And cornerback Nigel Tribune, who was the only true freshman to play for the Cyclones last season, has settled in as Iowa State’s ace cornerback. He’ll face the biggest test yet of his young career on Saturday, when he’ll be matched up on the outside against the likes of Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and KD Cannon.

"I think Nigel is far from playing his best defense, and I think he realizes that. He knows this game is a big challenge for him," Rhoads said. "We need him to play well in a game like this."

To have a chance against Baylor, Rhoads will need his entire defense to play well. But thanks to their recent play, there’s reason to believe the Cyclones will put up a much better fight than they did last season.