No.14 Iowa State heads to Las Vegas for a late-night bout with UNLV

Iowa State senior Zach Petersen looks towards the sideline against No.10 Iowa on Sept. 11.

Sam Stuve

For the first time this season, No. 14 Iowa State (1-1) is set to hit the road, playing against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (0-2). 

UNLV comes into this matchup on Saturday after a 37-10 loss to then 23rd ranked (now 19th ranked) Arizona State Sun Devils, while Iowa State is coming off a 27-17 loss to then 14th ranked (now fifth) Iowa Hawkeyes. 

An interesting note about both teams is that neither have scored first quarter touchdown yet this season. In fact, UNLV hasn’t scored a first quarter touchdown in its last five games, with the last first quarter touchdown coming against the Fresno State Bulldogs on Nov. 7, 2020.

So far this season, UNLV has scored five touchdowns, while Iowa State has scored just three, two of which came from running back Breece Hall. 

In its last game, Iowa State struggled keeping control of the ball and Iowa’s defense came away with four takeaways.

“First and foremost, give credit to Iowa, especially defensively. They made some great plays on that of the ball,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. 

The third quarter is where this really showed, as three of the Cyclones four turnovers occurred. 

Offensive coordinator Tom Manning said Purdy has responded to the adversity that comes with taking a tough loss and being pulled in the fourth quarter.

“Playing that position is very difficult, whether something good or bad happens, whether it was your fault or not your fault, that’s certainly always where all the attention is gonna go,” Manning said. “And I think he’s been, he’s been phenomenal, I think that’s what makes Brock such a great young man and a great competitor is that he’s just come back and go to work like he always does.”

So far this season, Purdy has completed 34 of his 53 passes for 337 yards and zero touchdowns.

Iowa State offensive lineman Sean Foster said no one player nor position has played perfectly to start the season.

“I don’t understand why these questions (on Purdy) are really coming about, just because it’s one game, last week is last week, everybody has the opportunity to mess up on a Saturday. Our offensive line wasn’t perfect, our running backs weren’t perfect, our wide receivers weren’t perfect, that’s just the main thing that we focus on, is just play the next,” he said.

On the other side, UNLV is in a bit of a quarterback conundrum, with three players being in the mix for the starting job. 

“We’ve kind of prepared for all of them,” Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “We’ve watched film and studied them all.”

So far this season, the starter has been Doug Brumfield, whose completed 11 of his 26 passes for 177 yards and has also ran in for two scores, but has yet to throw for a touchdown yet. One of the other players in the mix is Justin Rogers who has completed eight of his 16 passes for 30 yards.

Lastly, another name in that discussion is Tate Martell, a former four star recruit who originally committed to Ohio State before finding his way out to Las Vegas.

Heacock said not knowing who the opposing starting quarterback is going to be is not problematic for the defense. 

“I think you try to sort out, you know, the plays and the formations, the studies and all that stuff that we did in the offseason, for the last five months, and try to sort out who they are,” Heacock said.

UNLV’s offense is averaging 21.5 points per game, while gaining 143.5 yards per game on the ground and 103.5 through the air. 

The Runnin’ Rebels offense is led by running back Charles Williams, who has 212 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season. In the season-opening 35-33 double overtime loss to Eastern Washington, Williams rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

He and the Runnin’ Rebels may have a tall task ahead of them, as they face an experienced Cyclone defense that’s only allowed 58 yards per game so far.

“I think our guys up front have been doing a great job, I think we’ve been able to get vertical on teams and, you know, credit to Enyi [Uwazurike], I think Zach Petersen’s playing out of his mind right now, I think J.R. [Singleton], Will [McDonald] and linebacking core, I just think those guys have done a great job of being physical and trying to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage,” Heacock said. 

Through the air, the Cyclones are only giving up 168.5 yards per game and allowing just 18.5 points per game. 

Meanwhile, the offense is averaging 16.5 points per game, 111.5 yards per game on the ground and 225.5 yards through the air. 

Foster said he and the rest of the offensive line need to give Hall, who has rushed for 69 yards in each game in this young season, bigger holes to run through.

UNLV has given up a average of 193.5 rushing yards, in addition to 274.5 yards per game through the air and 36 points per game, so there’s a chance the holes may be developed easier than they were in the first two games of the season.

The Cyclones and Runnin’ Rebels have met five times before, the most recent coming in 2008, when the Runnin’ Rebels picked up their lone win against the Cyclones. 

Second year UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo has yet to earn a win in his young career.

In fact it’s been a while since UNLV has won a game, it has lost its last eight games with its last win coming on Nov. 30, 2019, against the Nevada Wolfpack. They are also 0-4 in Allegiant Stadium, the stadium they started playing games in last year. Allegiant Stadium also hosts the Las Vegas Raiders.

Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. on CBSSN.