2018 Game XII: #24 Iowa State (7-4, 6-3) vs. Drake (7-3, 6-2 Pioneer League)
Date: Saturday, December 1, 2018
Time: 11:00 A.M. CST
Location: MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Line: Iowa State -42.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Iowa State is off and running again, after slaying the Vampire Bill Snyder in dramatic fashion. Wow, that was one of my favorite moments as a Cyclone fan in Jack Trice last week. Down 17, the team showed resiliency and stormed back to score 21 unanswered (in less than 6 minutes nonetheless).
Now I know all of you are thinking this game against in-state FCS program Drake is going to be a blowout, (and you’re probably right). With that being said, how about the job that Athletic Director Jamie Pollard has done – not only getting his Cyclones a 12th game, but also keeping the money in Iowa. Not many AD’s would have been as pro-active as Pollard, and I give him and the staff tremendous credit for giving this football team, and its fans, another game at home.
When we last left off….
You’ve all seen it by now. I’ve watched the fourth quarter replay probably five times, and was amazed at how fast ISU flipped the switch and pulled out an epic victory against K-State the way K-State used to always beat ISU.
Jon Heacock and the defensive room has been struggling as of late, and maybe teams have started to figure out our scheme. I give the Coordinator major props, throwing his original game plan out the window, and sending blitzers left and right in the final quarter.
The offense played one of their best games of the year, and against a solid Wildcat D. The three-headed monster of Brock Purdy, David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler all had stand-out games, as Campbell and company needed them to do so.
Teams of year’s past would have faltered, lost their confidence, or worse – given up. Not this program. They are on a mission, and I commend the true freshman Brock Purdy for keeping a steady hand – going 7-for-8 for a clutch 90 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Drake plays in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, similar to schools like Northern Iowa and South Dakota State. For some reason they are stuck in the Pioneer League, playing teams as far away as Jacksonville, Davidson and San Diego.
Led by fifth-year coach Rick Fox (not the Laker basketball player), they are 7-3 on the year, and finished tied for second in their conference with a 6-2 mark. They have a bevy of home-grown talent and are led by their defense.
Drake Football is most well-known for the “Johnny Bright Incident.” In 1951, Bright (an African-American and future pro at that) was struck in the jaw well after the play, and it was all captured on film. You can read more about it here in this fantastic Des Moines Register article.
Other than that, the football program has been in contention for a league title just about every year, including winning the Pioneer League most recently in 2011 and 2012.
These teams have matched up an amazing 70 TIMES, with the first game played in 1898. Iowa State leads the all-time series 48-17-4, with the last game played in 1985 and Drake victorious, 20-17.
Seven of the last eight contests have been won by the Cyclones, with an average score of 28-9.
Iowa State Offense
I’m not going full Sherlock Holmes into this matchup. No offense to the Drake Bulldogs, but this game is like playing your 40-pound little brother four-years younger in a wrestling brawl.
You will see a lot of new faces on the field come Saturday, and none I’m more excited to watch than freshman phenom Re-Al Mitchell at quarterback. Coach Campbell has been singing his praises for quite some time, and the electric California native will be sure to get his fair share of snaps.
David Montgomery will get a solid 10-15 carries, and probably sits in the second half. Campbell will not make this game interesting, he will push the gas pedal hard from the get-go and look for Hakeem Butler to get involved early. (Think Kansas game all over again)
Butler continues to impress, as he went over the 1,000-yard plateau last week, and needs only 15 more to become the single-season leader. His 22.5-yards per catch is second in the nation, and his 10 plays of 40-yards or more ranks THIRD in the country. Selfishly speaking, I hope he comes back next year, but that’s a whole other article in itself.
The offensive line had a solid game last week, and needs to start fast. I loved seeing true freshman Trevor Downing in there as an extra blocker last week, propelling David Montgomery to a touchdown in the Wildcat package.
Look for other names to see the field – like wide receivers Josh Johnson and Jalen Martin, running back Mike Warren, and linemen Joey Ramos and Downing.
If there is one thing to hang a hat on for this Drake Bulldog team – it is their defense. Led by Pioneer League Defensive Player of the Year Nathan Clayberg, this unit is stout. They run a standard 4-3 front, and have held teams to 18.3 points per game. Take away the offense’s pick-sixes and special teams scores, and the true average is 13.8!
It all starts up front, as the Bulldogs hold teams to 2.7 yards per rush, and only 95 rushing yards per game. Including the Pella native Clayberg, they have six collective Pioneer League Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Drake’s two leading tacklers are Kieran Severa and Connor Willis, as both have combined for 143 stops and 18.5 tackles-for-loss. They don’t get to the quarterback as often as you would think, and play very fundamental defense. Think UNI or Iowa as a comparison.
The secondary is just as good as the front-seven, as they lead the Conference in passing defensive efficiency, allowing only 203 yards through the air. They are led by two first-team conference performers, in cornerback Jabari Butler and safety Will Warner. Warner had three interceptions in a game earlier this year.
The Verdict – ISU
On paper, this one is no contest. Now, while Iowa State has collectively struggled to run the ball all year, they have a man who can make anyone miss in David Montgomery, and my guess there is going to be a lot of dirty laundry on the field.
All that said, look for Purdy to get it started early, and Kyle Kempt and Re-Al Mitchell to finish it.
Iowa State Defense
‘Tis the season for sore throats and cough medicine, and it appears the defense has come down with something as of late. It all started in the Baylor game when Matt Rhule devised a game plan to find more open holes than swiss cheese. This is a copycat league, and while Texas beat us with sheer power and strength, Kansas State continued to impose their will in the running game.
It was good to see Enyi Uwazurike back on the field last week, as JaQuan Bailey has failed to sack the quarterback since he was out, but the 3-man pressure just isn’t there. Middle linebacker Mike Rose has been better than advertised, and I don’t think there is a better blitzer on our roster.
With that being said, look for Iowa State to play a base front, throwing a few pressures in here or there. Drake is bad at running the football, which is the perfect potion for this defense. On top of that, they don’t have the best scrambling quarterback, so that is a sigh of relief! When ISU has struggled against FCS opponents – namely UNI and NDSU, it was their running quarterback that caused us fits.
While I’m here, let me jump on my soap box for a bit. How in the world does a player like Brian Peavy not get awarded First-Team All-Conference by the Big 12??? Two freshmen defensive backs garnered first-team pub only because of their interceptions, while Peavy literally shut down his side of the field!
Ranked as a top-5 cornerback NATIONALLY, and the highest overall grade of any defender in the Big 12 (according to Pro Football Focus), this man deserves his due.
Brian Peavy is the highest-graded defensive player through 12 weeks in the Big 12 pic.twitter.com/0TfvjVBMPo— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 23, 2018
As good as the Bulldogs are at defense, they are so-so on offense. Led by fifth-year senior quarterback Grant Kraemer, this unit revolves around the passing game. They run a typical spread attack with the quarterback in shotgun, but boy they are dreadful at running the ball.
About as bad as a car trying to drive through a running train, Drake averages an abysmal 2.7 yards per carry, while their leading rusher Drew Lauer has only 511 on the year.
The receiving corps is led by stand-out Steven Doran, who has turned it on as of late, gaining a season-high 159 yards and two touchdowns in their last win at Morehead State. 6-foot-3 Doran and 6-foot-4 Devin Cates are both possession receivers who can stretch the field, but aren’t Big-12 caliber type talents.
Quarterback Grant Kraemer has been a solid passer, throwing for 25 touchdowns, but also has 12 interceptions. He only completed 57% of his passes, good for 248 yards per game.
Verdict – ISU
Need I say more. Iowa State should dominate this end of the field, and make Drake one-dimensional. Look for our linemen to pin their ears back on passing downs, and get back on track for sacks.
Gotta love the celebration here by kicker Danny Donley. Donley is an impressive 9-for-9 on the year for kicks, yet has only attempted one beyond 40. Punter Ross Kennedy is about as good as Corey Dunn, only averaging 37 yards per punt, and the return game is about as exciting as watching a junior high girls basketball game.
Iowa State should take care of business in this department. I could see a long return from Milton on a punt, and maybe Nwangwu gets his long-deserved kick return for a touchdown.
Verdict – Drake
For one reason only – Donley’s celebration!
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 the possibility of California being a red State, and 10 a blue Colorado State, I give the Cyclones a Nancy Pelosi shot at winning. (Can’t stand her by the way)…
If all goes to plan, this game should be over by halftime. The far superior team on paper is Iowa State, but don’t be surprised if they take their foot off the gas in the second half.
The 42.5-point spread is the farthest thing from Matt Campbell’s mind right now. With that being said, I don’t foresee him laying it on an in-state team like Drake.
Look for Purdy to find Butler for a few scores, Montgomery to get his carries, and then the subs come in. I would be surprised if the defense allows over 100 rushing yards, and they could get to double digits in sacks before it’s all over.
Iowa State 41
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