Cyclones’ offense imperfect, clicks at right time against Red Raiders

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy runs around a Texas Tech defender Oct 27, 2018. Iowa State beat Texas Tech 40-31.

Noah Rohlfing

Nothing about Saturday’s game between Iowa State and Texas Tech was perfect on either side. 

There were turnovers, missed opportunities, sloppy penalties and some questionable fair catch decisions. It was a game with more than enough weirdness to go around.

There was also just enough offense for the Cyclones to break through when they needed it the most.

A 48-yard touchdown pass from freshman rising star Brock Purdy to redshirt junior wideout Hakeem Butler capped off a 40-31 win for Iowa State and finished a day of frustrating highs and lows for Matt Campbell’s team. 

“That is a positive characteristic at times,” Campbell said. “They made plays when they had to today.”

Purdy was harried and pressured by the Texas Tech defensive line all game long, only completing 13 of his 27 pass attempts. The Cyclones leaned on junior running back David Montgomery time and time again with Montgomery totaling 33 carries over the course of the game for 125 yards. 

Purdy had 47 yards of his own, but Butler said he’s worried sometimes with Purdy’s scrambling. 

“I tell him all the time to slide, like, this ain’t high school,” Butler said.

Early on, the Cyclones were bottled in the run game against a Tech defense giving up 4.2 yards per carry entering the contest. 

Campbell thought the Cyclones’ early struggles with protection were largely down to Texas Tech’s scheme. 

“There was a lot coming at [Purdy],” Campbell said. “Give credit to them. I don’t know if we took a total step back today.”

Purdy started off with a couple of missed throws and was hit early and often. Texas Tech helped out the Iowa State offense multiple times with penalties that occurred after the play, including three roughing the passer penalties in situations where the Cyclones had their backs against the wall in second or third-and-long situations. 

The Cyclones were also sloppy, committing four penalties and negating two defensive penalties with ineligible man downfield calls.

The Cyclones didn’t really get the offense going until late in the second quarter — even after a touchdown run from Montgomery. On their last drive of the half, Purdy found a groove for the first time all game, finding Hakeem Butler twice for 56 total yards and finding redshirt freshman Charlie Kolar for a 9-yard touchdown grab to give the Cyclones their first lead of the game. 

It was Kolar’s third touchdown grab in the past four games. Kolar was impressed with Purdy’s ability to fight through the pressure. 

“Every game he gets cracked and he still comes back,” Kolar said. “He’s one hell of a competitor — heck of a competitor, excuse me.”

The struggles were not done for Iowa State. A holding penalty stalled the Cyclones’ first drive of the second half, leading them to settle for a game-tying field goal. Following that, a pick-six and a Cyclone drive including 66 yards of passing from Brock Purdy on two completions and ending in a second Montgomery 1-yard run put Iowa State ahead, 31-24. 

Redshirt freshman wideout Tarique Milton had his highest receiving total of the season, catching seven passes for 89 yards. 

“I’ve been getting more opportunities,” Milton said. “I’ve been in my playbook more.”

After it seemed like the Cyclones were building forward momentum, disaster struck. A fair catch by Milton at the 4-yard line left the Cyclones stuck in their own end, and on second down a Texas Tech blitz got to Purdy, forcing a fumble. Red Raider linebacker Dakota Allen fell on the ball in the end zone, and all of a sudden Iowa State was back in a tie game. 

Campbell took the blame for the turnover after the game. 

“I put them in a bad situation,” Campbell said. “We had a chance to make a play down the field, and that’s bad coaching.”

After all of the stops and starts, the ups and downs and the frustration surrounding Iowa State’s offense during the game, the Cyclones found one more big play to seal the game. 

On a third-and-9, instead of running the ball and burning clock, the Cyclones went for the jugular. Under pressure, Purdy launched it downfield into the waiting arms of Butler to put a bow on a mercurial offensive performance. 

Now, for the first time this season, Iowa State had a winning record. Butler thinks there’s room for improvement, though.

“We haven’t put a complete game together,” Butler said. “It’s encouraging, but we know who we can be.”