Iowa State heads off for its first conference matchup against TCU

Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose tackles Louisiana running back Chris Smith during the first half Sept. 12. 2020

Zane Douglas

After the week one defeat, the Iowa State Cyclones football team was tasked with turning it around quickly as their next matchup would already be conference play.

The Cyclones will play TCU in that game with it being the first road game of the season as well as the start of the Big 12 Conference season.

“One advantage that a TCU team has is Gary Patterson’s been there for 20 years and there’s great continuity on the defensive staff and great continuity on the offensive staff,” Head Coach Matt Campbell said.

While Louisiana has vaulted into the rankings, Iowa State has fallen out of them, but alongside the Cyclones in that matter are the Horned Frogs.

TCU’s first game was canceled but the Horned Frogs haven’t received any votes from the ranking committee, largely because the mediocre 2019 Horned Frogs had virtually all of its stars leave.

Left behind is quarterback Max Duggan — who didn’t fare well in the 2019 season and may not even start — and a defense that will be picking up the pieces.

The Cyclones stomped last year’s Horned Frogs 49-24, but momentum may not be on Iowa State’s side.

The loss to Louisiana made this game an important one for Iowa State as the team wants to regain footing, but also because Iowa State needs to prove to itself it’s still a Big 12 title contender.

The Cyclones lost 31-14 to the Ragin’ Cajuns and while the game looks totally out of hand, two special teams touchdowns were the difference for Louisiana with Iowa State playing sloppy in that area.

The players that stepped up were on the defensive side, mostly among veterans who kept the game close.

“Obviously we don’t want to be in situations where we have to bounce back after a hard loss, but these past couple years, we’ve been in a lot of these exact situations,” linebacker Mike Rose said. “We bounced back before so we just gotta have that same attitude.”

One thing that worked for the Cyclones on the offensive side of the ball was the run game. Sophomore Breece Hall scored a touchdown and led Iowa State down the field on multiple drives.

Hall had a fumble and a near-fumble in the game, so Kene Nwangwu was put in to punch in one of the scores.

Nwangwu serves as a kick returner and change of pace back. Despite solid size, Nwangwu earns his time as an elusive back.

“Ever since I came here my freshman year, with [David Montgomery], I just think that the mindset was like ‘whoever’s in, there shouldn’t be a drop off,'” Nwangwu said.

Nwangwu took seven carries for 21 yards and a touchdown while the primary running back Hall got 20 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Something that could’ve contributed to the poor offensive performance in the passing game was Iowa State’s poorly timed injuries.

Breakout 2019 tight end Charlie Kolar was sidelined for week one and is already questionable to play Saturday against TCU. Kolar was one of quarterback Brock Purdy’s favorite targets last season and he led one of the better tight end rooms in the nation.

On the offensive line, guard Trevor Downing was injured toward the start of the game and the line struggled after that to give Purdy a ton of time.

Those two players absences leave holes in spots where the Cyclones can’t really afford it as the depth is shallow — especially at offensive line.

“[Charlie’s] a young man that I think we all know’s got a lot of potential,” Campbell said. “[…] The thing that is unique about Charlie is he’s a really intelligent football player, he’s obviously a very athletic football player and he’s a young man that really does care about his teammates.”

The impact of Kolar’s absence is felt in the offense, but he will travel with the team and still play a role on the sidelines if he’s unable to play for the second game in a row.

With last season’s beatdown of TCU as a benchmark, Iowa State has a chance to redeem an opening week loss to Louisiana in a battle with TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.