Football

MONDAY MUSINGS: Cyclones surging into the heart of Big 12 play

Oct 5, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) scores a touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

I’m gonna make a quick prediction here on this beautiful Monday in central Iowa: In the next 2-4 years, there are going to be a bunch of babies named “Brock” popping up around these parts. 

And why wouldn’t there be?

Iowa State’s sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy seems to be breaking a record every time he steps onto the field these days. Most recently, Purdy became the first player in school history to produce four-straight games of 300 yards of total offense. Purdy, who ranks fifth nationally in total offense per game, is completing 70.8 percent of his passes this season and has accounted for 15 touchdowns (10 passing, five rushing).

Purdy is the type of person you would want to name your kid after too. The Arizona native often wears a cross on his chest and it isn’t just a fashion symbol. Tim Tebow is his football hero for crying out loud. 

On the field and off, what’s not to like?

Consider the following:

— Purdy currently ranks ninth in school history with 3,828 career passing yards. 

— He’s 10th in total offense at 4,339. 

— Purdy is already tied for sixth with 26 career touchdown passes. 

HE HAS ONLY STARTED 13 GAMES! 

The numbers are outrageous and the best thing is, Brock Purdy is just getting started. 

More musings from Saturday’s 49-24 win over TCU…

Running game momentum: First of all, I totally agree with the legion of fans out there begging for a running back to step up and be “the man” on Iowa State’s offense. It’s a necessity for this thing to keep going. Matt Campbell agrees, which is why he gave Johnnie Lang, Breece Hall and Jirehl Brock their own opportunities to show something in the first three of the game on Saturday vs. TCU. 

Did Johnnie Lang emerge? I think so… He’s scored four touchdowns in the last two games and averaged 4.5 yards per carry vs. TCU. He also go more of a work load… If the offensive line continues to improve, I absolutely believe that Iowa State can win with Lang as a primary running back.

Even so, I’m not going to obsess over where yards on the ground are coming from right now. If the offense currently needs Brock Purdy to supplement the running game, then so be it. This is college football. Quarterbacks run. I am willing to risk a few hits on Purdy to win, fully expecting the offensive lines and running backs to improve as the year goes on. As that happens, it should eliminate the need for as many designed run calls for Purdy, which will in return limit the amount of hits he will take.

*** Purdy is currently Iowa State’s leading rusher with 203 yards on the season. However Johnnie Lang, who has six fewer carries, is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. That’s absolutely doable if Lang can develop the consistency needed for Iowa State’s offensive coaches to trust him. 

What about Kene?: I write this with no inside information at all but on Saturday, it looked to me like Iowa State made a choice to prioritize the kick return game by giving Kene Nwangwu duties there but fewer looks at running back. So far during Kene’s career, we know two things: 1) He is dangerous when healthy. 2) He is rarely healthy. 

Nwangwu had two kick return opportunities on Saturday and ripped one of them open for 41 yards. 

Prior to Saturday, Iowa State’s kick return game had been bad to non-existent this season. It might have cost the Cyclones the Iowa game. So perhaps by limiting his carries at running back (at least until he is 100 percent), Nwangwu exclusively at kick return helps a part of the team that has drastically struggled while also could help the running game in a month by getting him healthy…

Just a thought. 

Yards Per Play: After Saturday’s win, Iowa State currently ranks fourth nationally averaging 7.6 yards per play behind only Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia. 

Here is a look at Iowa State’s yards per play stats by game this year:

UNI: 5.4

Iowa: 7.7

ULM: 10.7

Baylor: 5.5

TCU: 7.1

That is pretty consistent against a solid schedule, and a 7.1 mark vs. any Gary Patterson coached defense makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

A few more offensive stats to consider: These come from CF/Iowa State stat guru Kirk Haaland (via our staff’s Slack), regarding Iowa State’s offensive struggles inside the 35 yardline. Some fascinating stuff…

— Iowa State’s offense is 91st in points/possession when they get inside the opponent 35. Not surprising. 

— Iowa State’s offense is 15th in yard%, again not a surprise with what we’ve seen from them and how they move the ball.

— That would normally lend you to believe that they struggle on the condensed field, likely because of the inconsistent running game.

— BUT(!), Iowa State is 25th in points per possession when they get to the red zone, so they can succeed with the condensed field. The fact that drives have stalled where they have just inside the 35 is likely more of an anomaly than anything else!

On the defense: There was no drop-off at all with Jaquan Bailey being out of the lineup, which says more about Iowa State’s depth on the defensive line than it does about Bailey. Obviously Iowa State is a better football team with Jaquan in the lineup. But led by replacement Zach Peterson, I thought Iowa State’s defense looked as aggressive as it has all season vs. TCU. 

Perhaps it was the black uniforms?

Or maybe it was the message that Campbell and his staff delivered to the team all week long between Baylor and TCU. 

Loosen up. Have fun. Be the aggressor. Cyclones vs. the world. 

Other stuff…

… Today is women’s basketball media day at Iowa State. Our Connor Ferguson will be in Ames covering everything that goes on. 

… The men will go next week while wrestling will hold its media day in two weeks. 

… Put Thursday night, Oct. 17 on your calendar. That will be the night of our annual men’s basketball tip-off party. 

Chris Williams

administrator

Chris was hired as Cyclone Fanatic’s publisher in the fall of 2009. He is Iowa State football's postgame show host on the Cyclone Radio Network and can be heard daily from 4-7 on Des Moines' top-rated sports station, 1460 KXnO. Williams, a 2007 graduate of Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism, is the former publisher of the old CycloneNation.com (Scout.com). He has also written for the Des Moines Register, the Ames Tribune, CycloneReport.com and is the former sports director at KMA Radio. When Williams isn’t working, you can usually find him doing something outdoors with his wife Ashley, daughter Camryn, and Golden Retriever Dierks. He enjoys golfing, boating, country music, the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Braves and is passionate about any and all motor sports so finding Williams at a local dirt track is very common.