AMES — Seventeen tackles.
A tipped ball leading to an interception.
Iowa State’s only tackle for loss.
Those numbers served as a snapshot of Cyclone linebacker Jeremiah George’s impressive performance in Saturday’s 35-20 home loss to Oklahoma.
And both he and Coach Paul Rhoads left Sunday’s film session certain of one thing.
“He could have played a lot better,” said Rhoads, whose team faces BCS No. 17 Texas at 11 a.m. Saturday on the road. “That’s the really exciting piece of it. He had all that production and could have played a lot better.”
George, an always-talented but once-raw junior, played in every ISU defensive package for the first time because of Jake Knott’s season-ending shoulder surgery.
The results were mostly good, but sometimes mixed — especially in motion and jet sweep situations when the running back was placed in different spots.
“He tried to put too much together at one time instead of just staying to his basic fundamentals,” Cyclone defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “He thought he had to chase down every (play). You get caught up in that because he plays so hard. He plays so fast and those kinds of plays hurt a guy like him.”
And not always.
George’s success on the field Saturday went beyond the obvious numbers.
Burnham said he also made two key third down stops.
“I thought he played a real fine football game,” Burnham said.
George said confronting the unknown did lead to a racing pulse, but that’s slowing down already after viewing the tape.
“The one thing I can remember is just inhale and exhale before and after every play,” said George, whose previous single-game career high in tackles had been nine. “Because you know that you’re going to see something you saw (on film) during the week, but you’re possibly going to see something new.”
Key there, he said, is not to panic.
“But you’ve got guys running, you’ve got guys yelling and I really want to make this play and really want to make sure I don’t do something that hurts the football team,” George said. “So, it’s just relax. That’s something I’ll continue to do.”
That and further learning.
“There were some mental mistakes and him being out of position a few times,” Rhoads said. “Once he really gets into a groove and he understands all of that, those kinds of numbers can be commonplace for him because he’s that active of a player.”
WATSON UPDATE: Rhoads said cornerback Jansen Watson’s MCL injury will be taken “day-by-day.” “I’m somewhat encouraged by where he’s at right now. It wasn’t quite as loose as they feared.”
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