Takeaways: New roles on offense, big plays on defense

Former redshirt freshman Devon Moore and then-freshman Brock Purdy warm up quarterback drills before the start of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game Sept. 8, 2018.

Trevor Holbrook

The Cyclones found a way to get back in the win column in Stillwater, Oklahoma. With a new quarterback, a new rotation of running backs and a unique game from the defense, there’s a lot to unpack from the 48-42 win over Oklahoma State.

Brock Purdy

The obvious takeaway from Iowa State’s second win revealed itself on the second Cyclone offensive drive. Redshirt sophomore Zeb Noland played ineffectively on the first drive, taking a sack, dumping off a 7-yard pass to Deshaunte Jones and throwing an incompletion.

The next offensive possession, Noland remained on the sideline while freshman Brock Purdy commanded the offense. Purdy’s first drive fizzled out after two Johnnie Lang runs and a run of his own.

Coach Matt Campbell elected to stick with Purdy, giving him a second drive. Purdy helped spark a 75-yard drive, capping it off with 21-yard pass to Hakeem Butler.

The Cyclones tacked on five more touchdowns and a field goal with Purdy under center. Purdy accounted four passing touchdowns and one rushing score. The true freshman avoided mistakes, limiting himself to one turnover on a slightly underthrown deep pass intended for Matthew Eaton.

On the ground, Purdy provided an element Iowa State’s offense missed from last season. Occasionally, former Cyclone Joel Lanning jump-started Iowa State’s offense in 2017 by bulldozing defenders.

Kyle Kempt and Zeb Noland lack solid rushing skills, but Purdy showcased his abilities as a runner on Saturday. The leading rusher toted the ball 19 times for 84 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

It’s worth noting Iowa State’s history with quarterbacks regressing. Purdy certainly won’t sustain his play from Saturday, but his versatility and accuracy showed it can be problematic for defenses.

Iowa State’s meeting with West Virginia will tell a lot about Purdy, with the Mountaineers studying him all week.

Cyclones survive without Montgomery

Before the Purdy craze, most Cyclone-related thoughts drifted to junior running back David Montgomery. Montgomery sustained an injury against Texas Christian University (TCU), and the feature back sat out against Oklahoma State as a result.

Iowa State thrived on the ground against the Cowboys. Entering Saturday, the Cyclones averaged 89.3 rushing yards on 29.3 attempts per game. Against Oklahoma State, Purdy and the running backs combined for 140 yards on 38 attempts.

Outside of Purdy, Iowa State used a three man attack. Redshirt sophomore Kene Nwangwu shouldered a heavier load than normal, rushing 10 times for 49 yards. Sheldon Croney Jr. carried the ball four times for 20 yards, including a 12-yard scamper into the end zone.

Redshirt freshman Johnnie Lang received three carries, running for six yards.

The running game opened up more against Oklahoma State because of Purdy’s running threat. The option to hand off the ball or keep it left the Cowboys off-balance throughout the game.

The most notable performance from a running back belongs to Nwangwu. After suffering a knee injury and exercising his medical redshirt last season, Iowa State eased Nwangwu in to start this season.

Nwangwu ran five times and returned five kickoffs in the first four games. The 10 carries with a solid average presents a positive sign for Cyclone fans. When Montgomery returns, Nwangwu’s speed figures to compliment him.

Despite the points, defense makes plays

Iowa State’s defense allowed too many big plays, but the Cyclones also made plays on defense. Iowa State churned out seven sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. The Cyclones forced a fumble and snared an interception, too.

Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock mixed in more blitzes than normal, helping deliver more pressure on passing downs. The seven sacks surpassed Iowa State’s season total of six in the first four games.