2019 Game XII Farmageddon: #23 Iowa State (7-4, 5-3) vs. Kansas State University (7-4, 4-4)
Date: Saturday, November 30th, 2019
Time: 6:00 P.M. CST
Location: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS
Line: ISU -5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website –”Bring On The Cats”
Whew. While Iowa State escaped last week in a shootout against Big-12 cellar-dweller Kansas, I’ve noticed November has been a month where the Matt Campbell-led program has struggled. Maybe it’s that teams have figured us out. Maybe it’s the injuries piling up and our depth not being as good as we once thought.
Either way, its been frustrating to see the defense falter down the stretch, especially against the run. In games past, it was usually Jon Heacock’s crew bailing out the offense, but lately it’s Tom Manning’s boys who have taken home the bacon. Brock Purdy is breaking records left and right, but looking at this team on a macro-level, there are still things they can improve upon.
It’s FARMAGEDDON WEEK! And I don’t care what anybody has to say, comparing the agricultural economy in Kansas to Iowa, is like comparing Grandma’s fruit cake to her peanut butter pie.
When we last left off….
The Jayhawks were scrappy. They played with their hair on fire and had nothing to lose. But this Iowa State team should have put them away sooner.
Breece Hall’s running lanes were few and far between, there were multiple drops by the receivers, and the defense gave up some big plays. If it wasn’t for Brock Purdy’s stellar second-half, this team may have dropped a game to a much less-talented Kansas.
But #15 was special, and has been all year long. The future All-Big 12 award-winner simply couldn’t miss, as he went 17-for-20 in the second half, including completing his last 11 throws. Iowa State faced 4th-and-goal up by 3 late in the fourth, and a field goal did nothing for the final margin. What did coach Matt Campbell do? He didn’t even blink, grabbing the bull by the horns – converting and putting the game out of reach.
I loved the call, and the confidence he has in Purdy and this offense. We will look back at the 2019 season as the “Brock Purdy Year.”
Kansas State Tidbits
A legend retired in Manhattan, Kansas a year ago, as Bill Snyder retired after 36 years at the helm for the Wildcats. Kansas State replaced him with their best version of Snyder Ball 2.0, and so far, Chris Klieman has fit the bill in every way.
Coming into the season, KSU was picked to finish 9th in the Conference, mostly due to a lack of talent and the expectations that it would take time for Klieman to get things going. He brought in the majority of his coaching staff from FCS-powerhouse NDSU (where he won 4 championships), and is known for his defensive prowess. The Waterloo, Iowa native and UNI grad has won games the same way it always has been done – physical run game, fundamental defense, and tremendously efficient special teams.
The highlight of the season was a home victory against then-undefeated Oklahoma, but was followed up later by consecutive losses to Texas and lowly West Virginia. KSU has been decimated by injuries and lack of depth, namely the running backs, wide receivers and back end of their defense. They are an impressive 7-4 on the year, and still have a shot at 3rd place in the Big 12.
These teams have met every year since 1917, with ISU leading the all-time series 50-48. The Cyclones ended a 10-game losing streak last year after a legendary comeback, beating the Wildcats 42-38 in Ames.
Believe it or not, Paul Rhoads transplant and former ISU scapegoat Courtney Messingham serves as the offensive coordinator for K-State. Hahahaha. Also former Wildcat great Collin Klein is the quarterbacks coach, and former ISU player Grant Rohach is an offensive analyst.
Iowa State Offense
Brock Purdy faces one of his toughest tasks this week, going up against a very good passing defense that has only allowed 10 touchdowns all season. Quite remarkable given all of the talent and passing prowess that the Big 12 provides. K-State is quite methodical in their approach, but there are some holes in this defense, namely on the ground.
The Wildcats give up the worst yard-per-carry average in the entire Big 12, so I see a very efficient day out of Breece Hall and the running game. The offensive line took a step back last week, but that was mostly due to KU completely selling out on the run. It will be important for our veteran group up front to pave the way for not only #28, but for Brock in third-down situations and red zone attempts.
First Key to Victory – Take Advantage of Opportunities
This will be one of those games where the possessions will be limited, and ISU’s offense will not see nearly as many snaps as they usually do. So far, Tom Manning has taken advantage, as ISU ranks 2nd only to OU in yards-per-play. This means red zone opportunities too, as we have to put up 6, instead of settling for 3. As the game wears on, look for Campbell to roll the dice, as he knows chances at scoring will be sparse.
Look for tight end Charlie Kolar to continue his impressive campaign for the best Tight End in the Country. Oh wait, he didn’t get nominated for the Mackey Award Finalist? That makes about as much sense as Troy Davis not winning the Doak Walker Award when he was at Iowa State. Wait, he didn’t win that either????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Either way, Kolar will use that fuel for fire, and I expect to continue passes thrown the way of La’Michael Pettway, who has done a fantastic job of creating space in his routes, and playing physical against 1-on-1 coverage.
Don’t expect to see many throws available downfield, as this KSU defense does not give up the long ball.
Second Key to Victory – Can’t Give the Ball Away
This plays right in line with the limited possessions, as ISU can ill afford to throw interceptions or lose fumbles. A turnover in this game is the equivalent of double that in most games, as K-State shortens the field and will kill your mojo with a long sustaining offensive drive. That means Purdy has to continue to make the right throws, and so far he has done that, as his touch and accuracy is second to none.
Iowa State’s game-plan needs to be efficient, allowing the pass to set up the run, and for Purdy to dink and dunk his way down the field. I believe ISU has the better horses on this side of the ball, and the athletic talent should prove that on Saturday. If Breece Hall has 25+ touches that means Iowa State is in the drivers seat.
Kind of an anomaly here, as KSU ranks in the top-half of most statistical categories, but that is ultimately skewed by the amount of plays run against this unit. Due to the efficiency on third-down stops (only given up 34 conversions all year, good for tops in nation), the K-State defense is one of the nation’s leaders in fewest defensive snaps (60 per game, 4th in FBS).
You have to give Coordinator Scottie Hazelton’s unit credit as his 4-2-5 scheme has worked against Big 12 competition. In the last few games it has been a tale of two halves though, as the Wildcat defense shuts down Texas and Texas Tech, and then gets eaten alive in the 2nd. They have been plagued by injuries, as three linebackers were lost early in the year, and a starting cornerback in the last three games.
The Wildcats are led up front by two veteran defensive tackles, as both Trey Dison and Jordan Mittie combine for 90 starts. The pressure comes from sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert, who ranks second in the Big 12 in sacks with 11.5.
Middle linebacker Elijah Sullivan leads the team in tackles with 52, and not far behind him is freshman safety Wayne Jones with 51. The Wildcats can play a 4-3 at times, but mostly stick to five defensive backs on the field, utilizing speed in coverage.
The leader of the defensive backfield is senior safety Denzel Goolsby, who corralled a momentum-shifting interception last week in the end zone versus Texas Tech. The corners are young and inexperienced, as the two-deep carries six different student-athletes who have transferred from JUCO’s or other FBS programs.
Surprisingly, given the fact that KSU is known for their bend-but-don’t break style, they are dead last in the conference at red zone defense.
The Verdict – ISU
This ISU offense should be able to get theirs, as they carry one of the best quarterbacks in the country in their back pocket. The Cyclone receivers are just too good to be bottled up all day, and Hall should have some holes to run through. That’s not to say there will be times when K-State rises up for stops and big plays, but all in all, ISU should win this matchup.
Iowa State Defense
A struggle every time Iowa State plays against this Wildcat offense. Their front-five is experienced, with tremendous physicality and will try and run the ball down your throat. I could see a version of the 4-man line at times on Saturday, and even Jamahl Johnson and Ray Lima playing at the same time. It all starts up front, and look for sophomore Zach Petersen to get picked on, as KSU is one of the best at exploiting inexperience.
I loved seeing Will McDonald making an impact for Jon Heacock and company last week versus KU. He gives this defense another dimension as a true one-on-one rushing threat, and it’s evident he is best suited with his hand on the ground.
Look for Marcel Spears, Jr. and Mike Rose to be busier than a barista in a Starbucks coffee shop, as both will see lead blockers and pulling guards all day in their face. Again, it will be important for our defensive line to maintain their ground, and hold space for our linebackers to roam.
The secondary got exposed a bit last week, namely Braxton Lewis who was a step behind on a few deep passes. K-State has some sneaky quick receivers, so it will be important for our defensive backs to wrap up at the point of attack. This is one game where Greg Eisworth will make all the difference, as the stud safety will be relied upon heavily against this short-passing attack, and disciplined rushing attack.
I’m not worried about our corners, and look for Tayvonn Kyle to continue to spell Datrone Young on the outside. I thought Anthony Johnson played tremendous last week, as you could have given him the game ball for his ball-hawking ability on that crucial fourth-quarter KU drive.
This Wildcat offense is about as exciting to watch as a junior-high girls basketball game. Or paint dry. Either way, they are slow, methodical and about as stubborn as your 80-year old grandpa. 3 yards and a cloud of dust is just fine with offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham (we saw at ISU), as they kill you with a thousand paper cuts.
This offensive approach is designed to wear you down as the game goes on, evident by K-State’s 34-minute per game average in time of possession. They are led by one of the most veteran groups of offensive lines in the entire country, as all are seniors, and combine for 149 starts!
They lead the way for the 4th best rushing attack in the conference, but only at a 4.4 yard-per-carry clip (2nd-to-worst). Again, stubborn. They are led by center Adam Holtorf, who is the brain trust of the hog mollies, and paves the way for this guy.
Most teams rely upon their running back to do the dirty work, but in this offense quarterback Skylar Thompson is the goal-line back.
Third Key to Victory – Contain Thompson in the Red Zone and on Third Downs
The Junior has 96 carries on the year, and accounted for 7 rushing touchdowns in back-to-back wins against KU and Oklahoma. KSU runs Thompson on lead draws, option plays, and quarterback-reads, but he is most dangerous when the Wildcats get in the red zone. It will be important for Iowa State to hold their contain up front, manage their gaps soundly, and for the second level to wrap up.
While Thompson is talented with his legs, he is very inefficient when forced to throw the ball. The junior and off-and-on starter for three years has been below average in the accuracy department, and it has come back to bite the Wildcats. He has a 59% completion rate, and only averages 194 yards through the air.
There has yet to be a receiver to break through as “the guy” for K-State, but if you were to rely on one – it would have to be Dalton Schoen. Known best as a possession threat and glue guy, Schoen leads the team with 568 yards and 4 touchdowns. Now the Wildcats have some shifty and athletic receivers, as Malik Knowles and Wykeen Gill have breakaway speed, but both are questionable to play on Saturday with injuries.
Not much firepower here, but K-State does utilize their receivers in the backfield on sweeps, end-arounds and especially in the flats on screens.
Leading the way on the ground is Ball State transfer James Gilbert, who leads the team with 679 yards and 6 touchdowns. Gilbert missed a few games due to injury, but returned against WVU two weeks ago. He is a straight-ahead runner, while backup Jordon Brown has a bit more wiggle.
The Verdict – Even
The fact this game is on the road will sway this matchup, especially as the game wears on. ISU’s defense has some chinks in its armor, and have been exposed over the last couple of weeks. The veteran-laden offensive line of K-State’s makes all the difference.
While former coach Bill Snyder stepped away, the athletic department was still able to convince his son Sean to stay on the staff as special teams coach. He is one of the best in the country, and has been doing this for over 25 years. K-State preaches Special Teams like Donald Trump tweets.
Former walk-on kicker Blake Lynch is as good as they come, with an 88% career field-goal percentage, and is 16-for-18 on the year. Punter Devin Anctil is one of the best in the business, as he averages nearly 45 yards per boot, good for 16th in country.
Not only that, but the Wildcats true freshman Joshua Youngblood has returned TWO kickoffs back for touchdowns, most recently one for 100 yards against Tech last week.
I’m not even going to list ISU here.
Verdict – Kansas State by a Secretariat Margin
The only thing helping the Cyclones is the fact they are one of the best in kickoff coverage. In fact, while ISU has the least amount of touchbacks in the Big 12, they are still 2nd best in yards allowed.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Honestly I’m a bit worried. Maybe it’s the fact the last two times ISU has played in Manhattan, they have either had the world’s greatest collapse or the #Big12Refs screwed us. Either way, I see this one as a complete coin flip, and a 50-50 shot at winning.
Another nail biter, another near heart-attack, another hold-onto-your-butts contest.
Throw the stats out the window, it all comes down to Matt Campbell’s game plan. If Iowa State can play their style of ball – utilizing speed and all edges of the field on offense, and good fundamental defense, then Iowa State wins.
If the team gets conservative and tries to out-muscle K-State, then we lose. The physicality is just too much, and we can’t beat KSU at their own game. My heart is saying we start fast and hold on till the end, but my head is saying K-State beats us the way K-State always does, and ISU loses another heartbreaker.
Iowa State 24
Kansas State 26
Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!