Iowa State quarterback talks about the game and his game-winning play
Randy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
After Game 1, the football player Iowa State missed most was the highlight-reel receiver who went to the Arizona Cardinals in Round 4 of the most recent NFL draft.
According to a Twitter vote Wednesday morning, the answer was: Hakeem Butler.
There was no experienced receiver mismatch for all those nifty and entertaining end-zone fade routes on which Butler — and Allen Lazard before him — thrived during the three-overtime win against Northern Iowa on Saturday.
There was no exciting deep threat that combined Butler’s size, speed and physicality.
After Saturday’s escape, it’s not David Montgomery that coach Matt Campbell’s team missed the most. It was the Cyclones’ other early-entry into NFL draft.
Cue the tape: A couple of minutes left in regulation. First down at the Northern Iowa 8-yard line. Quarterback Brock Purdy throws to 6-foot-7 Dylan Soehner, who’s being guarded one-on-one by Northern Iowa’s very talented Xavior Williams. Incomplete. Iowa State settles for Connor Assalley’s game-tying 23-yard field goal two plays after Purdy’s nine-yard run into the end zone was nullified by a holding penalty.
Cue tape to the overtimes: Last season, it’d be Purdy-to-Butler in an end zone corner. This season? Purdy’s 9-yard touchdown pass to La’Michael Pettway in the second overtime was about in the middle of the end zone.
Northern Iowa dropped coverage throughout the game. A lot of Iowa State opponents dropped coverage last season, opting to give up medium-range passes instead of momentum-generating deep completions to Butler.
Many times, Purdy’s threat to run tricked the secondary into thinking he was taking off on his own, thus leaving Butler open. Purdy, however, didn’t rush on Saturday; he completed medium-range passes — 14 for 9 yards or less, 14 for 10-15 yards, and just two for 20 yards or more.
We discussed that and more on our weekly Facebook Live session.
Is Purdy now a pocket passer?
After practice focused on hanging in the pocket, that’s what the sophomore did throughout the game. Only once did he pull out the pump fake that worked so well during a surprising freshman season that included 308 rushing yards on 100 attempts.
Wondering if he’s being turned into a pocket-passer? I asked Campbell about that on the coaches’ teleconference Monday.
“One thing that we’ve worked on is just the ability to keep him in the pocket and really trust the factor that we’re creating a pocket for him to be successful,” Campbell said. “I thought we did that.
“Will there be times when we want to continue to use his feet and continue to allow him to improvise? Certainly. (Last Saturday) was probably a product of stuff we’ve worked on during the spring and through fall practice with Brock.”
Here’s guessing rolling pockets and Purdy rushes resurface on Sept. 14 against Iowa.
Who’s the lead running back?
A few people asked that one, to which we replied?
Four running backs combined for 193 yards, so — from the aspect of the team rushing total — that was solid. None of the four, however, separated themselves. And as respectable as the Northern Iowa program is, you’d expect that rushing performance between a Power-Five program and a very good FCS program.
Game-starter Johnnie Lang rushed 14 times for 60 yards. Breece Hall, the second back in the game, had 56 yards on 13 carries. Kene Nwangwu had four carries around the edge for 40 yards, and Sheldon Croney played in the overtimes.
His 13 carries for 56 yards included the goal-line fumble that Purdy recovered, as well as the game-winning touchdown.
Who starts against Iowa?
There was solid play. But to beat the Hawkeyes, the backs need to break more runs.
It was a split-decision on this one, but as it turns out — it’s probably good.
Starting center Colin Newell sprained a knee late in the game, so his availability for Iowa is iffy. Nwangwu left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, and tight end Chase Allen played as well as a once-sprained ankle allowed.
If Newell’s status ends up being unable to play against the Hawkeyes, then coaches have a week or so to figure out the Cyclones’ offensive line shuffle.
Going one-for-two on fourth-down conversions Saturday wasn’t horrible for a program that doesn’t gamble a lot on fourth downs. There’s no Montgomery, and the offensive line is still inconsistent, remember.
My guess is that coaches will continue conservative third- and fourth-down play-calling, which might be wise, looking back to last year’s stats that included converting just 39.6 percent of 169 third-down opportunities and going 10 of 18 on fourth downs.
Was Iowa State holding back?
Going into the game, sure. That’s often the case in season-opening games. The Cyclones did, however, play with three tight ends on the field at the same time. They did that mostly in power packages. They’ll have to do that again on Sept. 14 against Iowa and All-American defensive end A.J. Epenesa, too.
But that game became quite the tussle. The coaches didn’t purposefully try to get into a triple-overtime match. They were calling plays to win that game.
Randy Peterson is the Iowa State columnist for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.
Source: Des Moines Register