Iowa State finds the spotlight again in the Cy-Hawk series

Running back Sheldon Croney Jr. runs the ball down the field during the football game against University of Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Sept. 8. The Cyclones were defeated 13-3.

Zane Douglas

This Saturday at Reiman Plaza, students will be screaming and shouting as powerful individuals discuss their fate for that day. No, this will not be a protest. This will be College GameDay.

Iowa State football will matchup against its in-state rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes, Saturday in what’s known as the Cy-Hawk game. More importantly, for the first time, Ames will play host to College GameDay, a weekly ESPN show that takes place before the college football game starts.

“The pride and tradition of both universities… I think that’s what makes this state really special,” said head coach Matt Campbell. “The opportunity to play that game once a year, from a football standpoint, is really big.”

Campbell is 0-3 in his tenure as the Cyclones’ head coach against the Hawkeyes, but this season, Iowa State has home-field advantage. Last time that was the case was two years ago, when they lost in overtime.

Iowa State also benefits from many key players returning to their team from last season, including their starting quarterback Brock Purdy, who played his first game last season’s Cy-Hawk game.

“Right now we’re just taking it normally,” Purdy said. “Outside the walls you know everybody’s going crazy and what not, but for us, you know, we take it one day at a time.”

Purdy has remained calm and collected in interviews, practices and games, and he’ll have to continue that on Saturday if he wants to contribute to a win with all the extra pressure that comes with this game.

The Cyclone quarterback might be without his starting center as well.

Colin Newell had to be helped off the field after suffering a knee injury on an overtime play against Northern Iowa on Aug. 31.

Newell is one of the Cyclones’ most efficient linemen, which means that his injury will test Campbell’s convictions that they have real depth at the position now.

Trevor Downing, who is still only in his first year of eligibility, almost won the job at left guard to start the season, but with Collin Olson playing well, the freshman had to wait for something to open up.

Downing is not a center, but he is an interior lineman, which means Iowa State could use him at center or shift one of their guards inside. The Cyclones could also overhaul everything and move senior left tackle Julian Good-Jones back to center, a position he played primarily two seasons go, and insert freshman Joey Ramos on one of the outside spots with Bryce Meeker because Ramos is best served on the outside.

“I think we established our depth in fall camp,” said senior right guard Josh Knipfel. “Just kind of seeing what fits, what doesn’t fit; that’s one of the benefits of having a bye week.”

The bye week is another positive for the Cyclones because while the Hawkeyes (2-0) have not had a break since the season started on Aug. 31, Iowa State (1-0) got to take last weekend off in preparation for this game.

Another positive for the Cyclones is that their defense looked exactly how they hoped it would against Northern Iowa.

The Panthers got seven of their 13 points in regulation off of a fumble return for a touchdown. Other than that, the defense only allowed two field goals through the first 60 minutes of the game.

Someone at the forefront of the dominant defensive performance was linebacker Mike Rose.

Rose switched positions from middle linebacker to outside SAM linebacker for the first game of the season to make room for sophomore O’Rien Vance, who impressed in training camp and carried that over to the first game.

“[Vance has] played really good football for us,” said assistant coach Jon Heacock. “We’re trying to constantly get our best 11 guys out there on defense.”

Part of the reason why it worked, though, was Rose’s ability to showcase his versatility.

Rose played well last season as a freshman and became one of the key cogs of the defensive front seven.

“I thought it was a possibility just ‘cause we didn’t have a SAM linebacker at that time,” Rose said of the possibility he would shift. “I knew whatever our coaches decided would be the right decision.”

Heacock also noted that the Cyclones had done this move before with former Iowa State linebacker Willie Harvey.

The Cyclones shifted Harvey outside after he played middle linebacker like Rose, and the main reason they were able to do it was because of the versatility and talent level of those two individuals.

Rose and the defense will have to keep their foot on the gas to keep a potentially rusty offense in it until the end.

However, in front of a sold-out crowd with weeks to prepare, the Cyclones will be ready to perform on center stage.

“I really think it’s cool for the school, cool for our fans,” defensive tackle Ray Lima said. “They really deserve it.”