ISU’s defense is better. Seriously.

What was Iowa State ‘s bugaboo heading into the season? Defense, right.

The Cyclones allowed 35.8 points a game in 2008. They gave up half that in last Thursday’s 34-17 victory over North Dakota State, although many of tackling and big-play problems from a year ago were still evident.

Still, progress is being made. Really.

“We did a lot of good things,” said linebacker Jesse Smith, who totaled 15 tackles in the opener. “Obviously we missed a few tackles that cost us, but I think we did pretty well. We’re getting better.”

The Bison scored a touchdown with 3 1/2 minutes to play in the third quarter, cutting ISU’s lead to 24-17.  The didn’t sniff the red zone the rest of the way.

In the four drives after that score, NDSU ran 18 plays for a grand total of 39 yards. The Cyclone D stepped up.

“Going into the fourth quarter we said we are not going to give up any more points, we are going to stop them and we are going to win this game,” said nose guard Nate Frere. “That’s what we did.”

It’s going to take a better effort Saturday against Iowa, which has better and bigger athletes running its offense, and as the season moves along.

There’s reason to be optimistic, though, that ISU’s defense will be better. Then again, how can it not.

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