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Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones get creative, shoo road bug away

Tyler Coe
Rocco Becht celebrates a touchdown against Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Oct. 14, 2023.

CINCINNATI — The Cyclones kicked their road bug by taking down Cincinnati 30-10.

Both sides of the ball dominated the day, as the team helped head coach Matt Campbell pick up his 50th win as a Cyclone. The win was also the first conference road win in two years.

When big plays needed to happen, the Cyclones made them happen.

Wacky drive puts Cyclones up early

Although Iowa State had three points on the board early, the first real scoring drive did not come until a little later in the first half. The Cyclones were moving the ball but were still faced with a fourth-down attempt.

Iowa State went to the ground on fourth down, as the Cyclones trusted Cartevious Norton’s ability to fall forward for a couple of yards. Norton did more than just that.

“Keep the drives alive, that’s all we’re thinking,” Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht said.

Norton broke past the line to find himself in open field. All Norton had to do was beat a couple of deep defenders with the help of Easton Dean.

Dean tried to give Norton a small boost, but he bumped him a little too hard and Norton stumbled to ground a ways away from the end zone. After that big pickup, the Cyclones struggled again on early downs.

Iowa State was faced with another fourth down after a stalled-out drive. Another field goal was on the way.

“We didn’t get here doing that, we got here by being a little bit fearless,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said about playing it safe with a field goal. “That doesn’t mean we have to be crazy. It means we have to do a great job when the opportunity presents itself.”

Chase Contreraz lined up for the field goal, but with everyone ready for the ball to get punched through the uprights, no one expected what happened next. Contreraz wanted to run the ball, not kick it.

“I didn’t even know that it was a run,” Iowa State wide receiver Jayden Higgins said. “I just heard, ‘Oh, oh, oh,’ so I actually thought it got blocked honestly. But then I seen him break a couple tackles, and I told him he looked like a running back out there.”

Contreraz received the snap himself and barrelled forward six yards for a first down. Iowa State’s drive continued yet again.

“That was some fun football,” Contreraz said. “My holder looks up at me and gave me the signal. Easton Dean on the edge gave me a big alley to run through. Unfortunately not big enough to score, but that’s on me. That was fun.”

However, even sitting just 10 yards away from the end zone, a touchdown was still not guaranteed. After a short rush and a broken up pass, another field-goal attempt was quickly approaching.

After Becht tossed a ball into the end zone that was nearly picked off. However, Becht caught a break as Cincinnati was called for roughing the passer, resetting Iowa State’s downs.

With a fresh set of downs, and only a few yards to go, the Cyclones quickly found the end zone. Becht finished the job he and Contreraz started as he rushed forward for two yards to put the Cyclones up 10-7.

“That’s a huge momentum builder,” Contreraz said. “Although I didn’t score, getting that first down and taking four more points rather than a field goal I think is a big momentum builder for the offense.”

That momentum carried through the remainder of the first half, as the Cyclones’ next drive resulted in another touchdown. After a 75-yard long catch by Higgins, Benjamin Brahmer was the next Cyclone to find the end zone.

After two quarters of play, Iowa State held onto a 17-7 lead.

Settling for field goals

Two drives ending up near the goal line in the third quarter. However, the Cyclones could not get anything moving and were forced to settle for field goals.

Jaylin Noel picked up a 72-yard kickoff return to start Iowa State’s second half off deep inside Cincinnati territory. Iowa State could not capitalize off the field position and kicked a 34-yard field goal.

“Special teams came out and played well today,” Becht said. “We knew where we needed to attack, and Jaylin with the ball in his hands, he can do really anything.”

As the third quarter started to wrap up, the Cyclones had another chance in the red zone. However, after driving down the field well, they could not punch the ball into the end zone and had to settle for three points.

Iowa State had three field goals by the final quarter, with the longest being 34 yards. All three were around 30 yards following drives that stalled out near or inside the red zone.

The Cyclones had plenty of chances to get easy touchdowns, but when it came down to it, they left the red zone with field goals.

“You saw continued growth again,” Campbell said. “I thought all three phases had some really great moments, and I’ll also say there’s a lot of growth to happen.”

It was not all too bad for the Cyclones. Although they left the red zone with field goals on a handful of drives, they also punched the ball in at other times to maintain a lead throughout the game.

With time counting down in the final quarter, the Cyclones had a 20-point lead.

Higgins has a day

Higgins and Becht had a special connection against Cincinnati. With Noel dominating the return game, it was up to Higgins to take over the receiving game.

From the jump, it looked as though Becht would favor Higgins all day long. Higgins caught multiple balls early on to extend Cyclone drives.

“We wanted to take shots all week,” Higgins said. “We knew we were gonna be able to have our shots, we just had to make plays when they came.”

Higgins most impactful play came in the first half as he blew past his defender to get open for a 75-yard catch. He ran down the sideline to get the Cyclones in the red zone, but could not quite punch it into the end zone.

“I kinda thought I overthrew him for a second, but he caught up to it,” Becht said. “His ability to make plays on the field just helps us a lot, so he’s gonna be big for us the rest of the season.”

The 75-yard catch was not the only big play Higgins got. When the second half rolled around, Becht found Higgins again in the middle of the field.

Higgins shook off his first defender and wrapped around to the edge to break off a 30-yard catch and run. Shortly after, Higgins got another ball deep into Cincinnati territory that led to a Stevo Klotz touchdown.

After weeks of quiet performances, Higgins made it known how big of a threat he can be in the air. Higgins finished the game with six catches for 172 yards.

Higgins’ efforts helped Iowa State bring home its first road win of the season and enter the bye week with a winning streak.

“Eventually it’s all gonna come together,” Higgins said. “So, if we’re struggling at one point, it could be the next play that we have a big play. We just gotta keep going.”

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    Nel Cochren | Oct 15, 2023 at 4:53 pm

    We looked sharp out there!! Keep this up!! GO CYCLONES!!!❤️