Know Your Opponent: The Iowa State Cyclones

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(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

It is Farmageddon week for Kansas State football (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) after a bye this past week. The Wildcats host Iowa State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) on Saturday, Oct. 16, in college football’s longest uninterrupted rivalry game.

The Cyclones are also coming off a bye week after demolishing Kansas in Ames, Iowa, 59-7 two weeks ago. Iowa State’s schedule includes losses to Baylor and in-state rival Iowa.

Head coach Matt Campbell — the Cyclones’ most successful coach since World War I — is back for another year, leading a program that was expected to be back in the Big 12 Championship game this year.

OFFENSE

Iowa State’s offense is again paced by senior quarterback Brock Purdy and junior running back Breece Hall, who remains the main weapon on offense. Hall runs behind a huge line that averages 317 pounds, along with two big, strong, experienced pass-catching tight ends in seniors Charlie Kolar and Chase Allan.

The Cyclones will primarily line up in the shotgun with Hall next to Purdy and use at least one of those tight ends as an H-back spot, blocking for Hall or going out into the pattern in short crossing routes on pass plays.

All three of those weapons do a really good job of running through arm tackles and getting extra yards after they initially get hit.

DEFENSE

Campbell was one of the early adopters of the new wave of 3-3-5 defenses in the Big 12. They stack the linebackers over the lineman to make it hard for blockers to tell exactly who to block. The scheme also replaces a large lineman with a do-it-all safety/linebacker hybrid who can cover or come up in run support.

Schematically, the Cyclone defense should look familiar to K-State fans this season. The Wildcats have used a similar look in spots this year to try and slow down the run-pass option and get an extra body in pass coverage.

Their linemen do a good job of getting upfield and forcing rushers back inside to be cleaned up by their linebackers.

KEY MATCH-UPS

Contain Hall:

Hall will be the best running back — and perhaps the best offensive weapon — K-State will see this season. He’s patient, powerful and fast. To stop him, K-State’s defensive ends will need to force him back inside, and the linebackers will need to gang-tackle him and not let him get into the open field.

This should be an interesting match-up because of the injuries at K-State’s defensive end spots. Spencer Trussell, Nate Matlack and Fenix Anudike-Uzomah will have their work cut out for them this week.

Thompson repeat:

Super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson had arguably the best game of his six-year K-State career against Oklahoma. He stayed in the pocket and moved through his progressions or found open receivers while scrambling.

Another high-completion game from the Wildcat super-senior leader will be huge to give Deuce Vaughn and Joe Ervin space to run in.

Get off the field:

K-State lost to a good Oklahoma team by a touchdown, despite not forcing a single punt the entire game and only turning the Sooners over once thanks to a solid offensive performance and a kick-off return touchdown.

K-State has looked good on both sides of the ball at points this year, and if they can put them both together, they will have a shot to win convincingly.

PREDICTION:

Thompson has another nice game and Vaughn gets free in both the run and pass game, but Hall manages to carry the Cyclone offense up and down the field as well. K-State wins a shootout 35-31.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.