In the nightcap of a tight Big 12 Conference Saturday that saw Oklahoma State beat Kansas State, and West Virginia take Texas all the way to the wire, Baylor came into Ames, Iowa looking to spoil the Cyclones’ bid at the top spot in the conference. Not only would the Cyclones be looking at first place alone atop the Big 12, but they’d also be looking at their first ever 5-1 start in league play. It didn’t start out great for the Cyclones, particularly quarterback Brock Purdy, who dug themselves a 21-7 hole in the first half. Things got better as the game got on, as the offense got points on the boards, the defense (and even the special teams) made plays down the stretch, and Mike Rose capped off the comeback win with the game-sealing interception in the end zone.
What. A. Night.
What Went Right
Iowa State has had some good quarters under Matt Campbell. Who could forget the 4th quarter against Kansas State in 2018, or the 4th quarter in Norman, Oklahoma last year (albeit in a loss.) After going down 24-10 with 12:00 to go in the 3rd, Iowa State rattled off 3 straight touchdown scoring drives, giving Iowa State a 7 point lead going into the fourth quarter. And how did it all start, you ask? Redshirt Senior Kene Nwangwu. Kene brought the kickoff following Baylor’s FG back 67 yards inside the Bears’ 35 yard line. For the 2nd time this season, Nwangwu revitalized the Cyclones, giving everyone in Jack Trice hope, and the team a chance. The offense scored 3 straight drives, and the defense gave up a whopping 14 yards on 3 drives. A complete turnaround from the first half.
What an absolute legend #23 is. Game-high 11 total tackles (7 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hurries, AND the game clinching interception. Mike was all over the field on Saturday, wreaking havoc in the backfield, at the line of scrimmage, and even back in pass coverage. I specifically bring up coverage, because the man is currently tied for second in the country with 3 interceptions on the season. He’s also currently tied for 20th in solo tackles with 35.
I just want to really briefly mention that Iowa State committed a single 5-yard penalty on Saturday. After averaging 8 penalties over the Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State games, Iowa State has cleaned up, committing just 5 penalties over the last 2 games. A massive improvement to the sloppiness we’d seen in the previous games, and much more like the Matt Campbell coached teams we’ve seen in the past.
What Went Wrong
Brock Purdy (in the first half, anyway)
Woo boy. That was quite the ugly start to a game. Purdy seemed off from the start of the game. 2 plays in, he throws a deep ball into the wind, and gets intercepted. The next drive, the offense gets to the red zone, and Purdy throws his first career red zone interception. And if both of those weren’t bad enough, after scoring a TD and forcing a punt, starting to get momentum, he throws his 3rd interception of the half, and this time it goes for 6 the other way. He was able to turn it around against the 1-4 Baylor Bears, but should these starts become the norm, and we’ve seen these type starts in the past (Washington State in the Alamo Bowl), would Iowa State be able to make up for it against the top of the division? Remains to be seen...
Greg Eisworth returning punts
Maybe having a safety return punts isn’t exactly the best strategy. I love Greg. He’s been nothing but spectacular at Iowa State, captaining one of the best defenses in the Big 12. But with Milton sidelined with an injury, is he really the guy that should be back returning punts? I don’t know. Maybe he is, maybe Saturday was a fluke. I guess that’s why I’m writing this article, and the Iowa State Special Teams Coach is.... potentially reading this article.