Takeaways: Cyclones rockin’ it in October again

Iowa State fans storm the field after the Cyclones defeat West Virginia 30-14.

Trevor Holbrook

The Cyclones played one of their most complete games in a 30-14 win over West Virginia. The action unfolded with dominant play from Iowa State’s offense and defense that overshadowed spotty special teams play.

Mr. October: Matt Campbell or Reggie Jackson?

Iowa State did what Iowa State does under Matt Campbell: upset ranked teams in October. The 2017 Cyclones strung together wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas Tech and then-No. 4 Texas Christian University in October last season.

This year, Iowa State’s hitting its stride again after knocking off Oklahoma State and West Virginia to open the month. Iowa State’s October features a less daunting test in the last two weeks, receiving a bye and Texas Tech at home.

The hiccup of last season occurred during November. With more depth this season and no major injuries so far, the Cyclones are well positioned to carry the success late into the season. The schedule also lightens up with the only ranked opponent left No. 9 Texas.

The ability to run the ball against West Virginia bodes well for Iowa State down the road. Iowa State rushed the ball 45 times for 254 yard (plus, two kneel downs for a loss of 10 total yards).

Grier full of fear

The dominant defense mentioned combined strategy with execution. Iowa State found holes in the West Virginia pass blocking and exploited them. The Cyclones sent more blitzes — specifically from the safeties — and totaled seven sacks.

Heisman candidate (at least before the game) quarterback Will Grier struggled to find a rhythm with the increased pressure, but the senior found himself in tough situations throughout the game.

Iowa State’s defense controlled the Mountaineer offense on first and second downs, creating easier opportunities on third down. West Virginia went 1-for-10 on third down conversion chances, and the average third down distance mounted to a 9.2-yard average.

The Cyclones attacked Grier with multiple angles, too. Six players contributed to the seven sacks.

The Iowa State secondary also assisted in the sacks piling up. The flexibility of blitzing is possible because of the Cyclones’ experienced cornerbacks. The longest pass given up was a 21-yard pass from Grier to Gary Jennings Jr. Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock trusted senior corners Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne to survive in one-on-one matchups, opening up the defensive playbook.

On the ground, West Virginia found some success, rushing for 112 yards, but the seven sacks dropped the total down to 52 yards.

Purdy and Montgomery combination

Junior running back David Montgomery sitting out last week forced freshman quarterback Brock Purdy to shoulder a big chunk of the offensive load.

This week, Cyclone fans witnessed the duo together, and it was dynamic. Purdy completed 18 of his 25 pass attempts for 254 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Montgomery mustered 189 yards on the ground with a score.

The two leaned on each other. After Purdy threw an interception on the second offensive drive, Montgomery provided a big play to remove some pressure from the quarterback. On fourth-and-1, Montgomery busted a 37-yard run to the West Virginia 4-yard line. Purdy followed with a touchdown pass.

The run game opened up the pass game and vice versa. Not only Purdy’s ability through the air helped Montgomery, but also his running threat assisted the running back.

Iowa State mixed in some run-pass options, and on shotgun handoffs, defenders thought twice about selling out on one or the other.

The volume of rushes Iowa State used (29 attempts for Montgomery, 11 attempts for Purdy and five attempts for redshirt sophomore Kene Nwangwu) resulted in fewer passes for the young quarterback. When he needed to throw, Purdy made it count.