Heacock gives updates on Vance’s health, praises Iowa’s talent ahead of CyHawk

O’Rien Vance makes a tackle against Northern Iowa on Sept. 4

Matt Belinson

AMES — Iowa State had issues on offense in its season opener against Northern Iowa: A running game being a hair-off and a lack of touchdowns on the board. But the defense continued to shut down their opponents to secure a clunky 16-10 win.

And Saturday will be another test for Iowa State and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock to control a talented offense in the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Heacock spoke with reporters Wednesday afternoon to preview the upcoming CyHawk game and offer updates on veteran linebacker O’Rien Vance’s health.

O’Rien Vance update 

Vance exited the season-opener against Northern Iowa on Saturday in the second half with what Matt Campbell described as a hamstring issue. In his place was redshirt junior Gerry Vaughn.

Vaughn, an Atlanta native, played in all 12 games in 2020 as a backup at linebacker. He had 24 tackles and a fumble recovery and both Rose and Heacock praised Vaughn for stepping up in Vance’s place. And it sounds like he might have more opportunities this weekend.

Rose seemed to indicate on Tuesday that Vaughn would be starting in place of Vance, despite Campbell saying Vance practiced on Monday and that Campbell felt good about where he was at.

Rose said Vaughn has stayed ready for a moment like the season opener and said his teammates and coaches have strong confidence in his abilities.

“He’s a redshirt junior now and this is gonna be his first start. And he’s a great player, it’s just one of those things where there’s people in front you. And I’m excited for what he’s gonna do this weekend.”

When asked about Vance’s health and the chances of Vaughn starting against Iowa, Heacock didn’t offer additional information about the status of Vance but said that Vaughn could have an opportunity presented to him. 

“I don’t think we’re at the point where we know exactly where we are yet,” Heacock said when asked about the plan with Vance and Vaughn.

The challenge of containing Tyler Goodson

The Big 12 is no stranger to presenting Iowa State with big-time running-backs, with the likes of Chuba Hubbard, Bijan Robinson, Deuce Vaughn and Trey Sermon all giving the Cyclones problems over the last three seasons. Saturday will be another test for how Iowa State’s defense can contain another dynamic back in Tyler Goodson.

“We know when you’re going to play these guys they’re going to run the football. I think Tyler has shown the ability to make big runs, a great finisher about runs – had a big one early in the game last week,” Campbell said Tuesday.

Goodson’s highlight in the Hawkeyes’ 34-6 win over Indiana to open the season was a 56-yard touchdown run to get the scoring started. The junior had 19 carries for 99 yards. 

Heacock said Goodson will be a threat in the passing game like many offenses do with their backs in the Big 12, but his speed after the catch will present many challenges to even a veteran Cyclone defense according to Heacock. It’s going to come down to execution.

“We gotta do our jobs. Everybody has a job and we have to be where we’re supposed to be,” Heacock said.

Where are the turnovers and why does Iowa have them?

“They do what they do,” Heacock said when asked about why Iowa has won the turnover battle in each of the last four meetings.

The Hawkeyes had their way in the secondary against Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr. on Saturday and Heacock and company understand the threat they’ll have to work around them come Saturday afternoon. 

The Hawkeyes have won the turnover margin like this in the last four contest: 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0. So why aren’t the Cyclones able to turn the ball over against their arch-rival? Heacock has been around the block a few times and is well-versed in how much Iowa values protecting the football.

“My experiences with Iowa go back to 1988, they take care of the ball, they run the ball, they do all the thing it takes,” Heacock said.

But some signs of improvement came against the Panthers on Saturday, with Isheem Young and Datrone Young each getting interceptions off of Will McElvain. Heacock said both of those guys will be seeing their numbers around the ball a lot this season so starting off with positive performances increase the team’s confidence in themselves.

And with Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras walking into his first true road game with fans in the stands on Saturday, Heacock said his defense will have to know where they have to be and not get caught up in trying to make the big play to spoil a drive.

“Guys work at drills until it happens in a game and then there’s a belief and then they practice harder,” Heacock said.