Welcome to the new era of the Big 12, where Iowa State is no longer a pushover. The 16th ranked Cyclones are one of the most dangerous teams in the conference and are still playing for a possibility of making it to the Big 12 championship. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Cyclones offense:
Freshman Brock Purdy has taken the Big 12 by storm after bursting onto the scene earlier this season. Purdy began the season as the 3rd string quarterback on the Cyclones depth chart, but an injury to starter Kyle Kempt and ineffective play by backup Zeb Noland led to Purdy’s insertion into the lineup.
Purdy has thrown for 1315 yards and 13 touchdowns compared to just 2 interceptions in 6 starts. Those who follow recruiting may remember how the Arizona native blew up just a few months prior to signing day. Texas A&M and Alabama both expressed a lot of interest, but Purdy chose to head to Ames and has been a good fit for Matt Campbell’s offense. He presents a dual threat ability that will test the Longhorns ability to play assignment football. As a passer, he looks like someone who has been a 3-year starter at the position. He can make all the throws on the field and does an excellent job of taking care of the football.
Texas caught a huge break last Saturday when Iowa State star RB David Montgomery threw a punch and was ejected during the second half of the Cyclones win against Baylor. The ejection means Montgomery will miss the first half of Saturday’s contest. When he gets back on the field, Montgomery will show the same things that made him a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2017. He has 765 yards on the season and 6 touchdowns. He possesses the ability to make people miss in space and is a good runner between the tackles. Texas will need to have all of their tackling issues corrected.
In Montgomery’s absence during the first half, the Longhorns should expect a heavy dose of Kene Nwangwu and Johnnie Lang. Neither back is close to Montgomery’s level, but both are solid runners who will take advantage of shoddy tackling.
Todd Orlando’s #1 goal this week should be finding a way to slow down Hakeem Butler. Butler has been a nightmare for Big 12 secondaries, scoring 8 touchdowns and tallying 816 yards receiving. His 6’6 frame makes him a tough matchup for Kris Boyd and Davante Davis. Boyd is coming off a game where TJ Vasher, who profiles similarly to Butler, had a big performance. The Longhorns secondary has shown subpar ball skills in recent weeks, so it would not be surprising to see the Cyclones try to stretch the field vertically early and often.
Outside of Butler, the main guys to worry about are 5’10 slot receivers Deshaunte Jones and Tarique Milton. The duo have combined for 62 catches and over 600 yards of offense.
The Iowa State offensive line features 4 juniors and a redshirt freshman center. The unit as a whole profiles as better run blockers than pass protectors, but the difference is minuscule. A year ago, Texas dominated the line of scrimmage in Ames. The good news is many of those same starters still play for the Cyclones; the bad news is the entire Iowa State team seemed to awaken and step up their game following that loss in Ames a season ago. The Texas defensive line is bruised and beaten. The only player who appears to be playing at 100% and a high level is Charles Omenihu. The Longhorns will need to take advantage of Montgomery’s suspension and set the tone early, forcing the Iowa State offense to play on its heels and give the Texas defense some much needed confidence.
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