After one of the most explosive offensive outbursts in Cyclone football history, we may have finally gotten a good look at the offense Matt Campbell and Tom Manning have been envisioning since they arrived (or re-arrived) in Ames. However, don’t forget about the defense, as they put in another solid performance aside from more of the third and long conversions that have been a thorn in Jon Heacock’s side up to this point. Let’s take a look at a few things we learned this weekend.
The Offense Has Finally Arrived
The past few weeks, we’ve seen Iowa State score on a few big plays, not so much on long drives that ended in a touchdown. After Brock Purdy threw an interception on the first offensive play of the game before fumbling the ball on the following possession, pretty much every Cyclone fan in the building immediately assumed we’d have to sit through another long, agonizing struggle to put the ball in the endzone. Tom Manning and Matt Campbell had different ideas.
After those 2 early turnovers, Iowa State scored on 11 consecutive drives with relative ease on the arm and legs of their star sophomore quarterback. On the day former star quarterback-that-wore-number-15 Seneca Wallace was inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame, Purdy piled up 510 all-purpose yards along with 6 touchdowns (3 rushing, 3 passing) to break Seneca’s record.
The running backs didn’t stand out individually from a statistical standpoint, but Jirehl Brock got his first touches in the cardinal and gold, and really looked like he could shine in this offense, possibly sooner than later.
The receivers and tight ends really stepped up this week after some doubters said the team had no receivers left after Hakeem Butler. Guys like Charlie Kolar, LaMichael Pettway, and Deshaunte Jones have really solidified themselves in this offense, while Tarique Milton has proven that he needs his touches in space to make a move and possibly break out and score for long touchdowns. Sean Shaw Jr. also impressed this week, hauling in 2 touchdown passes on his first two career receptions. All in all, this offense is on the verge of being something very special.
Purdy Is Our Guy, But Re-al Can Ba-ll
Games like these are good for the guys who normally don’t get in, such as Re-al Mitchell. Re-al has had many Cyclone fans excited as he has always been rumored to be used as a wildcat quarterback, or a receiver, or whatever they really need. He was a track star at St. John Bosco High School (CA), running sub-10.7 in the 100m dash.
Mitchell relieved Brock Purdy at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and was immediately deployed into a flurry of read-options and misdirections designed to get him into space. He ran the ball 4 times for 65 yards and a touchdown, while throwing one of Shaw’s touchdown receptions.
That one touchdown run, however, was extremely impressive. His juke move at the beginning of the play so impressive that Fox Sports announcer Brian Custer delivered one of the great calls from a Cyclone football game in a very long time:
Electric. Whether we will see Re-al Mitchell in at quarterback, running back, or wide receiver, he has opened up another section of the playbook and will have Big 12 defenses worrying about our backup quarterback.
The Defense Still Struggles Against Dual-Threat QBs
Iowa State’s defense has looked very solid through the first 3 games, but it continues to struggle defending running quarterbacks, especially on third down. Will McElvain, Caleb Evans, and even the plodding Nate Stanley were able to burn the Cyclone defense for a first down with some regularity on scrambles out of the pocket.
Keeping contain and applying pressure from the defensive front has been an issue up to this point, and will probably a focal point for defensive improvement over the coming weeks. The linebackers are doing a decent job of chasing down the quarterbacks, but not often in the backfield. It will be interesting to watch how Jon Heacock will utilize QB spies and extra blitzers to help mitigate the damage from a quarterback run on third down.
This defense will face yet another test in Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer, who is plenty capable of taking off at any moment, while remaining an efficient passer. Brewer has not thrown an interception this season, but forcing one or two could really be the difference in this upcoming game against the Bears.