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Three Things We Learned: West Virginia

Brocktober is the most wonderful time of the year!

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State once again proved football is a lot more fun when you play lights-out defense and run the ball effectively.

Breece Hall Could Save The Run Game

The true freshman running back out of Wichita, Kansas had compiled a mere 18 carries and 84 yards through the first 5 games of the season, only appearing in 4. With Johnny Lang looking to have started to break away from the pack, questions were raised as to whether Hall would redshirt. Obviously, Matt Campbell had other plans.

Breece racked up 132 yards on 26 carries to lead the Cyclone rushing attack. Oh, and he found his way to the endzone 3 times, earning Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of The Week in the process.

One more thing that Breece showed us was his ability to block. He picked up blitzing linebackers on several plays, and was critical to Brock Purdy having the time he needed to make some big throws and keep drives moving.

Improvements Are Happening On The Defensive Side

Third down has been a thorn in the side of the defense, especially at the hand of quarterback runs (planned or otherwise). Although Austin Kendall went down after the first West Virginia possession, the defense was a dropped Lawrence White endzone INT away from pitching a shutout on their end.

The defense also showed off tremendous depth against the Mountaineers, holding WVU to less than 50 yards of offense in the second half, despite being down arguably the best player at each level of the defense to injury. Zach Petersen continues to impress as JaQuan Bailey’s season-long spell, Jake Hummel stepped up as soon as O’Rien Vance went down due to injury, and Braxton Lewis filled in Greg Eisworth’s shoes.

Importantly, the defense has suddenly become a turnover machine after struggling mightily in that department for at least a six game stretch dating back to 2018. Matt Campbell has repeatedly harped on needing to win the turnover battle, and both sides are making big strides in making that happen on a week-in-week-out basis.

Brock Purdy Has A Target In Everyone

After finding ten different receivers for completions against TCU, Brock Purdy followed up with completions to nine different receivers against West Virginia, none of which has the name Deshaunte Jones.

Jones has been Purdy’s number one target in the first 4 games, connecting 37 times for nearly 450 yards. Unsurprisingly, defenses are now scheming to slow Deshaunte Jones down, but Purdy has been more than willing to spread targets around to virtually anybody willing to put on a Cyclone uniform.

Grad-transfer La’Micheal Pettway caught a season-high 8 passes, to go along with 81 yards. Charlie Kolar continued the trend of getting the tight ends involved, catching 3 passes for 45 yards, while Tarique Milton caught 2 passes for 38 yards. Six players combined for the other six completions, including Joseph Scates hauling in his first career touchdown reception.

Spreading the ball around to the bevy of targets, rather than allowing two or three players to dominate the workload, has been the secret sauce to replacing guys like Allen Lazard and Hakeem Butler, and will continue to crucial going forward. Sure, the talent at the very top might be “down,” but the offense is significantly more dangerous when the defense can’t focus all of their attention one or two players on any given play.