With teams like Oklahoma and Texas dominating the headlines, Iowa State might not be getting the attention they deserve. Despite their 3-2 record, the Cyclones have quietly had one of the best offenses in the Big 12 and are still holding onto their conference title hopes.
Matt Campbell is in his fourth year at the Cyclones’ helm, where he holds a 22-21 record with two back-to-back 8-5 seasons.
“He is in year four, and really, I’m impressed with all phases, what he’s done,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown. “From recruiting, how they’ve played, how they’ve branded themselves, I think he’s done a great job building that program.”
It starts on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Brock Purdy. The then-freshman was virtually unknown by West Virginia fans when he threw for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Mountaineers last season, and he’s kept that level of play up through this sophomore year with an average of 315 yards per game.
“The deal is, he’s special. He’s special,” Brown said. “I think he will not be under the radar very much longer.”
While his passing numbers are impressive, Purdy kills defenses with his ability as a dual-threat quarterback. He is the Cyclones’ leading rusher, with 203 yards to his name and 5 rushing touchdowns already this season.
With his second season off to a great start, WOI sports director Jonathan Schaeffer says his maturity is apparent when you watch him on the field.
“He’s really become a leader of this offense and of this team, and a guy that Matt Campbell’s been able to lean on most significantly in the running game,” Schaeffer said.
Under Purdy’s leadership, the Cyclone offense is one of the most efficient in the country. They’ve had only two three-and-outs all season, and average 8.4 yards per play — meaning they can move and pick up ground in bunches.
On top of that, the Cyclones haven’t lost a game in October with Purdy under center — which has caused those in Ames to give the month the moniker “Brocktober.”
The Iowa State offense also utilizes multiple packages and motion on offense, which makes them difficult for defenses to read and defend. WVU defensive coordinator Vic Koenning says these types of offenses are difficult to prepare for, especially when you can’t see everything they do on tape.
“You know they cut a lot of stuff off the film, so they might’ve been lined up in one place, and when you get the film, they’re gonna be in another,” Koenning said. “We watch TV copies so we understand it’s tempo, line up, look to the side. It’s a lot of things that we’re gonna have a really good challenge with our guys to cerebrally take in what we’re fixing to see.”
While ISU gives a lot of looks pre-snap, they do the same after the snap as well. Purdy has completed passes to 12 different receivers, half of which have contributed to the run game at some point during the season.
Senior wide receiver Deshaunte Jones has emerged as Purdy’s favorite target on the field, leading the way with 444 yards for the Cyclones. ISU also utilizes a pair of strong tight ends in Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen, who combine for 3 touchdowns so far this year.
On defense, the Cyclones will bring back their innovative take on the 3-3-5 defense, which generally features a third safety — dubbed the “star” position — on the field rather than nickel cornerback. Leading tackler Greg Eisworth mans that spot, and his performance so far this season led Brown to call him a “big time player.”
With bowl eligibility for West Virginia and conference title hopes for Iowa State both sitting in the balance, Neal Brown says this may be one of the biggest matchups left on the schedule for West Virginia.
“This is a huge game for us,” he said. “I know our fans are excited about last week, and this game is every bit just as important — maybe more so — and I thought our crowd was huge last week….and we need everyone who can possibly get here, to get here.”