Cyclones’ defense sets tone against TCU

Defensive lineman Enyi Uwazurike celebrates a touchdown in Iowa State’s game against TCU on Saturday. The Cyclones won 49-24. 

Noah Rohlfing

Iowa State was dealt what could’ve been a poor hand against TCU Saturday afternoon. 

The conditions were poor at the start, as inclement weather led to an 11 a.m. kickoff being pushed to 1 p.m. The rain came down in sheets as a tarp covered a Jack Trice Stadium field which is no doubt feeling the wear from the deluge of rain over the past two months. 

But when the tarp was taken off and the Cyclones took the field against the Horned Frogs, it was clear changes were made from the Baylor game a week ago. Those changes resulted in a comfortable Iowa State 49-24 win. 

TCU’s offense — for the first half at least — was left up a river without a paddle. The Cyclones held TCU to less than 100 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes, sending pressure at freshman quarterback Max Duggan often. 

This game was expected to be a defensive battle from the start, with the Cyclones struggling offensively in their loss to Baylor and TCU with a run-heavy approach and a true freshman quarterback in Duggan who was completing 53 percent of his passes coming into Saturday. 

From the jump, Iowa State didn’t hold back against Duggan, sending six at the quarterback on passing downs. Duggan struggled and the Cyclones were on top of the Horned Frogs’ rushing attack, leaving TCU short of options on its first couple of possessions. TCU had only 85 yards of offense in the first half.

With the offense scoring points on its first drive and putting pressure on TCU to fight back, the Cyclones showed a more complete team game. The secondary was not allowing any openings for Jalen Reagor, and the pressure put on Duggan resulted in a breakthrough touchdown for Enyi Uwazurike. 

Middle linebacker O’Rien Vance recorded a sack — moving his total up to 6.5 this season — and the ball popped free from Duggan’s grasp. Uwazurike picked the ball up and waltzed into the end zone to put the Cyclones up 14-3. Turnovers have been difficult for Iowa State to create this season, with a minus-4 turnover margin entering Saturday’s game. 

Running back Johnnie Lang scored two touchdowns of his own, but he said the defense’s ability to make stops was a boost for the offense.

“It’s very important to make the most out of every possession,” Lang said. “Especially if you can steal a possession in a football game, that’s big. Coach Campbell always preaches that we gotta get stops, we gotta force turnovers and our defense followed through.”

The Uwazurike touchdown and a late fumble forced by redshirt freshman defensive end Zach Petersen on special teams gave Iowa State its first positive turnover-differential game of the season. 

Campbell was happy with the team’s ability to make plays. 

“We made a play when we needed to make a play,” Campbell said. “[We] kinda took back the emotion and the energy and was kind of able to seal the deal.”

Petersen was a key cog in Iowa State’s performance, taking the spot of injured senior JaQuan Bailey. Bailey will be out for some time after getting surgery on a lower-leg injury Tuesday, Campbell said. A redshirt year is a possibility for Bailey if he chooses to take it, given he’s played in four games. Campbell said the injury was “bone-related.”

Petersen made six tackles and helped the Cyclones largely control the line of scrimmage on defense. 

Peterson said he was ready for his chance and has been all season. 

“It’s unfortunate what happened back down in Baylor,” Petersen said. “But it’s next man up, so it’s just great ot keep going.”

The night wasn’t perfect for the Cyclones, though, as the second half brought a noticable dip in the team’s performance on defense — especially after star safety Greg Eisworth appeared to go down with an injury in the third quarter. Campbell said the junior would have been able to return to the game if needed, but the way the team played without him in the fold was noticable. 

The young, inexperienced secondary might be the only weakness there is on the Iowa State defense, and Duggan came back in the second half with three touchdowns on three straight drives to pull the Horned Frogs within 11 points. 

The Cyclones got the job done, but the secondary remains an area where Iowa State has to improve as the year progresses.

But apart from those lapses, the Cyclones made the win stress-free and made TCU coach Gary Patterson’s explanation for the loss easy.

“I told coach Campbell, they kicked our butts,” Patterson said. “Every phase. Pretty simple.”