AMES — Iowa State cornerback Jansen Watson glanced at his phone after Saturday’s 9-6 win at Iowa.
Hello, Leonard Johnson.
“We talk almost every week,” said Watson, who has ably followed the current Tampa Bay Buccaneer as ISU’s starting right cornerback this season. “We can’t talk every day — he’s busy, I’m busy. … But he was telling me I looked good and feeling comfortable. But he kept reminding me to trust my technique and play every game, every snap like you want the ball. You never want the receiver to catch the ball. You always want to be aggressive.”
So far, so good.
Watson and his secondary mates have combined for 15 pass breakups in two wins this season — eight more than they had in the same span in 2011.
They enter Saturday’s 7 p.m. Cyclones.tv-streamed game against Western Illinois allowing foes to complete 47 percent of their passes.
ISU’s secondary — which returned two starters in free safety Jacques Washington and left cornerback Jeremy Reeves — also is on track for 18 interceptions in the regular season.
Throw in linebacker Jake Knott’s timely leap, tip and pick to cement Saturday’s win, and that projected number jumps to 24, more than double last season’s total output.
“As I’ve told you guys before, ‘The ball is the issue,’” said the Cyclones’ first-year secondary coach Troy Douglas. “We’ve got a big sign in our meeting room and that’s what we focus on.”
It borders on obsession, in a good way.
“Every drill we do now has catching the ball at the end of it, or stripping the ball, or making some play on the ball,” said Washington, who has one interception and three pass breakups this season. “One of our golden rules is, ‘The ball is the issue,’ so wherever the ball is, that’s where the play is.”
The Leathernecks (2-0) try to rely on their running game, so defending passes may be secondary for the secondary on Saturday.
“We need to stop the run, force them to pass, and then we start making plays from there,” Washington said.
ISU Coach Paul Rhoads’ credits Douglas for his team’s heightened play-making ability on the back end.
“The funny thing about making plays on balls and interceptions is that’s like a snowball,” Rhoads said. “It just starts to roll once you get that confidence in planting and breaking and driving and being aggressive. That group has that right now.”
Broomfield called that group “a bunch of clowns” last week.
Loose, but driven.
Quick to laugh, hard to elude.
“They know I’m a very intense coach but I do like to have a good time and I kid around with them and they kid around with me,” Douglas said. “But game day’s the best day of the week. That’s why you put all that work in. So game day there’s a different level of focus. There isn’t much clowning around on Saturday. It’s time to go to work and they know that.”
Yes, they do.
“We still have to play our technique,” Watson said. “It’s just that when the ball’s in the air, we’re aggressive to go get it.”
Comments are closed.