Iowa State defense puts the brakes on Ohio


Jacob Rice

Tyler Onyedim goes in for a tackle against Ohio on Sept. 17

AMES — Suffocating.

One word that comes to mind when watching the Iowa State defense dominate Ohio. It’s easy to credit the explosive offensive display Iowa State put on, but the grit and determination of the defense put Iowa State in a great position to win.

In the first half, Ohio was only able to score three points. And only seven points in the second half.

Wherever an Ohio player was, an Iowa State defender was close by. It seemed as though every veteran Iowa State player made an impactful play at some point in the game.

Late in the first quarter, Iowa State linebacker O’Rien Vance stripped the ball out of Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke’s hands for the first turnover of the game. M.J. Anderson came up with the ball to give Iowa State possession deep in Ohio territory.

That drive resulted in a field goal. Three points thanks to the defense.

The next drive for Ohio didn’t yield any better results. On the first play, Rourke’s ball was just in reach of Iowa State safety Anthony Johnson.

Johnson jumped and reached out as far as he could and snagged the ball out of the air. His first career interception.

“Boy, I still don’t know if there’s many people playing better than Anthony Johnson,” Campbell said.

What resulted from that turnover was a touchdown for Iowa State. Seven more points, thanks to the defense.

At the end of the first half, the defense only allowed Ohio to put up three points which took the pressure off of the offense.

The fourth-down play put a nail in the coffin for Ohio. The Bobcats had been driving down the field and were starting to find their groove.

Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald IV had a quiet on the stat sheet in the first two games of the season. Enough was enough. McDonald made sure Ohio knew he was there, and he was a threat.

“You know the sacks, those are just stats,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “I really feel if you look at his game last week, he’s all over the film.”

Earlier in the game, McDonald made a move to beat his blocker and went in for the kill. The first drive of the second half ended with a sack.

That sack was McDonald’s first of the season and the 30th of his career. That sack made McDonald the first Cyclone to break the 30-sack barrier.

Topping the Iowa State sack leaderboard isn’t McDonald’s end goal, however. He wants to finish atop the Big 12 as a whole. As it sits, McDonald is fourth in Big 12 history.

“I am trying to beat the sack record,” McDonald said. “It means a lot to be honest. Just all the hard work that I’ve put in.”

Now, with Ohio looking to make a comeback, the Iowa State defense buckled down. McDonald broke through the line to get in Rourke’s face, pressuring him to throw a non-ideal pass.

Cornerback Myles Purchase was in the area but just couldn’t come up with the ball. The incompletion forced Ohio to attempt a fourth down.

As soon as the play started for Ohio, it ended. Rourke eyed his man and let the ball fly. Unfortunately he didn’t see Colby Reeder in the area, ready to ruin Ohio’s hopes and dreams.

Just like he had done in the first two games, Reeder found his way in the path of the ball, securing his second interception of the year. After Reeder caught the ball, he put on the jets, returning it 53 yards deep into Ohio territory for a near pick-6.

“Reeder’s now had two monumental games in critical moments,” Campbell said.

The ability for the veteran defenders to make plays when needed is what is going to seperate Iowa State from the other teams in the Big 12. The Big 12 is a tough conference and wins are going to be tough to come by, especially if the defense can’t clutch up in big moments.

One thing’s for sure, if they keep playing as well as they have been, teams are going to have trouble putting points on the board. Not only do the veteran players have to show up in big moments, but the whole team has to play good football.

“Depth has helped us for sure,” Campbell said.

That depth was on display in the fourth quarter as Iowa State was looking to close out the game strong. Up to that point, the defense only allowed 10 points. They were able to keep Ohio scoreless through the final quarter to keep that number at 10.

Backup players also got chances to get real-game experience. Myles Mendeszoon had a sack late in the game to force a fumble which went out of bounds.

Defensive end Joey Petersen got some action late in the fourth quarter with a strip sack of his own. That sack led to the final points of the game.

The Cyclones were air tight in every aspect of the game. When players weren’t getting turnovers or sacks, they were stuffing the Ohio run game.

Ohio finished the day with just 24 rushing yards. Excluding the sacks, the Ohio running back room was only able to average four yards per carry, thanks to Iowa State’s seven tackles for a loss.

Whatever the Iowa State defense is doing to keep the opposing teams out of the end zone will be crucial when Big 12 play comes around. Starting 3-0 is one thing; finishing high up in the Big 12 is another.

“I think the things I see is from a positive standpoint,” Campbell said. “We are showing up ready to rock-and-roll.”