ESPN’s Rece Davis expects first #CollegeAmesDay to be Washington State-esque

Jan 1, 2019; Pasadena, CA, USA; Desmond Howard (left), Rece Davis (second from left), Lee Corso (second from right) and Kirk Herbstreit on the ESPN Championship Drive set prior to the 2019 Rose Bowl between the Washington Huskies and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

AMESRece Davis know what ESPN College GameDay brings out of Ames.

 That would be huge numbers — in terms of attendance and decibel levels — like he saw and heard when hosting the basketball version of the show at Hilton Coliseum in 2015.

 But Davis understandably wanted to focus entirely on football when addressing local media Friday afternoon in advance of Saturday’s 3 p.m. Cy-Hawk rivalry game against Iowa (FS1) at Jack Trice Stadium — and the first-ever fall GameDay appearance in Ames that precedes it.

 “I called a couple of games on Thursday night here and the one thing that blew me away was the tailgating even on a Thursday night,” said Davis, who hosted the first-ever basketball GameDay appearance at Hilton Coliseum in 2015. “Now I can only imagine — and that was (against) Texas, but I can only imagine what it will be like for the Cy-Hawk game and on a Saturday. Hopefully, they’ll come out and get started nice and early with us here, because I’d like to see a scene similar to what we had at (fellow first-time GameDay site) Washington State last year. Had 30,000 or 35,000 people. We’d love to see something like that here.”

 They probably will. 

 The experience with basketball will be tough to top, though.

 “They filled Hilton and it was one of our best basketball crowds ever,” GameDay coordinating producer Drew Gallagher said. “So we’re expecting more of the same tomorrow morning. It’s going to be great.”

 And it almost looked like Ames would have a much longer wait for the show’s first visit. ISU quarterback Brock Purdy’s improbable fumble recovery that helped seal the season-opening game against Northern Iowa also saved the chance for GameDay coming here, as well.

 Davis watched the play unfold while dining with his family in Fort Worth.

 “I saw the ball on the ground and I thought, ‘Well, I guess we’re not going to Ames,” Davis said. “And then he got it back and they won the football game.”

 Still, #CollegeAmesDay likely would have been a mere finalist for this week if Maryland hadn’t battered Syracuse into Orange pulp last week. ISU was likely a top-two pick for this week, but Syracuse-Clemson had tremendous appeal — until the Orange suffered the rout.

 “Certainly, Maryland’s evisceration of Syracuse last week played a big factor in us winding up here, but it was something that we’ve been talking about,” Davis said. “In the preseason we never make final decisions, but you look ahead and you look at games on that particular week and it sort of had pretty much gotten down to — barring catastrophic circumstances — it looked like an either/or; one of those two places (Syracuse and Iowa State) were the top two candidates. I’ll admit you do this for a while and you start looking at games through that prism and as the ball was lying there (against UNI), I was like, ‘I guess we’re not going to Ames this year.’”

 They’re here now. And count former Michigan and NFL star and current GameDay analyst Desmond Howard among the most excited.

 “Once we got the green light to come here, we all were just extremely excited,” Howard said. “Couldn’t wait to get here. We like to come to these towns because we’ve never been here before, but they love their college football here.”

 The GameDay crew seems to love Purdy, too.

 Davis said, unprompted, that Purdy is “legit.”

 He then elaborated.

 “He’s got a little bit of an ‘it’ factor to him,” Davis added. “I think the quintessential Brock Purdy play — I mean, he’s accurate with the football and he can run and from what I understand this week some of the people around here would like for him to run some more. I mean, he hit 75 percent of his passes, but the fumble was lying there on the ground. The game was lying on the ground and he had no business being the one to get the ball, but he did. I think it’s sort of an intangible factor, the way he just elevated the offense when he came in last year and I don’t believe he’s lost a start (at home).”

 Davis is correct. Purdy is 6-0 as a starter in games played at Jack Trice Stadium.

 “I look forward to seeing him play,” Davis said. “I think he’s just got a little bit of swagger, a little bit of ‘it’ to him in addition to being a really good athlete and accurate with the football.”

 So get ready, Cyclone fans. Hawkeye fans, too. GameDay expects a lot out of all of you and it’s likely you’ll over-deliver.

 “The biggest thing for me is they’re not used to having us,” Davis said. “We’re always welcomed and treated very well at places that become regular stops — the Ohio States, Alabamas, Michigans. We’re treated great, but the fans are very used to it. So it’s not different for them. I think the thing that always strikes me about going to a new place is that fans are really proud of their program, their rivalry, their school and they want to showcase that. I don’t think this is like them coming out just for us. … I think some of the novelty of it and being able to showcase that pride makes a really good setting for our show.”


 Count ESPN analyst and former Georgia star David Pollack as extremely impressed by what Jon Heacock has done with the Cyclones’ defense — especially how he adheres to head coach Matt Campbell’s philosophy of adapting their system to the personnel, not the other way around.

 “I like the system,” Pollard said. “And I like how it’s evolved and what it is. Here’s the thing: I think there’s a lot of teams across the country that they run a system, there’s coaches the run a system 100 percent to what they do. That’s their system and you’re gonna fit in it. They’re gonna try to force square pegs into round holes sometimes. That’s what I love about Iowa State’s defense. You saw them play more four-man (front against UNI) and most of the time you’ve seen therm play three defensive linemen. I love the three safety look where you don’t have a clue what’s coming. Like, who’s spinning down? Who’s playing the run? Who’s playing the pass? Coverages. The way they tackle. The way they attack. I just love everything it. I love the system. I love what they do and I think it was created because of the Big 12 and finding answers. And here’s the thing: Everybody’s copying what Iowa State is doing now. … I watched Clemson the other day and I’m going, ‘That’s literally Iowa State’s defense.’ It’s something that’s being noticed all across college football.


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.