At 1-3, it wasn’t clear what exactly this Iowa State team was going to be in 2018. The Cyclones were missing their starting quarterback, Kyle Kempt, the offense had looked suspect, while even the defense wasn’t playing up to its potential at times. But then Stillwater happened. And more importantly, Brock Purdy happened.
When the Cyclones went to Oklahoma State, their season was on the line. Falling to 1-4 would have been catastrophic for their bowl chances this season. A lack of a bowl game would’ve seriously slowed down the momentum Matt Campbell and his staff had built with last year’s 8-5 season, which included two Top 5 wins over Oklahoma and TCU.
But Brock Purdy came into the came on the second drive and the entire season changed as the Cyclones went on to beat the Cowboys 48-42. But then on Saturday night, the season went from taking a step forward to a massive leap forward. The Cyclones shut down the Mountaineers in a 30-14 win, holding former Heisman contender Will Grier to 11/15 for 100 yards with one touchdown to one interception. Grier looked as mediocre as he ever has in his nearly two seasons in Morgantown.
Iowa State’s defense, which we thought before the season could be the best in the Big 12, held the West Virginia Mountaineers to 147 yards of total offense. That’s not in a half, that’s for the entire game. WVU’s offensive line could not keep Will Grier upright and their vaunted group of wide receivers were unable to create space and get open down the field against ISU’s great coverage in the secondary. The Cyclones had seven sacks of Grier on Saturday night and now have piled up 14 over the past two weeks. It was as impressive a defensive performance as we’ve seen in the Big 12 this season.
Meantime, Brock Purdy continued to look like a wily veteran in what was technically his first career start. Purdy was facing the No. 6 team in the country, with a fast defense and a unique look from Tony Gibson’s 3-3-5 scheme. But it proved to not give Purdy the slightest bit of trouble, as he picked up right where he left off in Stillwater last week, finishing 18 of 25 for 254 yards, with three touchdowns to one interception. He added 11 carries for 39 yards on the night.
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Purdy wasn’t set up with a playbook that protected him from big moments. He was taking shots downfield and throwing absolute dimes (see above). And don’t forget about David Montgomery, who was dominant in his return after missing last week’s game, racking up 189 rushing yards on 27 carries with one touchdown. The Cyclones gashed the Mountaineers for 218 rushing yards. So in eight short days, Iowa State’s season has turned from one of concern to one of great optimism. How badly do the Cyclones want a re-do on the TCU game with Purdy at quarterback? Alas, that can’t happen.
But what can happen is Iowa State being a force to be reckon with for the remainder of the Big 12 schedule. Despite having two conference losses, Iowa State finds itself in a good position, since Texas is the only undefeated team in conference play.
The Cyclones head into a bye week and get some rest before the second half of the season, which suddenly sets up an incredibly interesting match up against Texas Tech in Ames on October 27th. But there is only one ranked team (as of Saturday night) left on Iowa State’s schedule and that’s the Texas Longhorns, which is in Austin on November 17th (um, oh yeah, and a freakin’ Longhorn Network game?! Let’s save those complaints for another time.).
But with the Big 12 in a state of flux and absolutely up for grabs after West Virginia goes down, suddenly a Big 12 Championship Game in AT&T Stadium on December 1st with the Iowa State Cyclones doesn’t seem far fetched as it did two weeks ago.
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