Notebook: TCU’s speed, forcing turnovers and the special-teams star

Wide receiver, Hakeem Butler, and running back Deshaunte Jones, celebrate after Butler scored a touchdown during the game against University of Akron at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 22. The Cyclones won 26-13.

Noah Rohlfing

Matt Campbell’s weekly press conference focused on Texas Christian University, what the Horned Frogs do well, what Iowa State needs to improve on and more.

TCU’s team speed and forcing turnovers

TCU has a hell of a lot of speed on its roster. Coach Campbell was clear on Tuesday the Horned Frogs have speed on both sides of the ball, and they use it as a core part of their identity.

“They know where they need to be,” Campbell said. “He allows his players to play fast.

“It’s almost like you’re watching them in fast forward.”

The Horned Frogs, on defense, run a 4-2-5 base scheme that head coach and defensive mastermind Gary Patterson has long been tweaking and using to the dismay of Big 12 offenses. Last season, the Horned Frogs were first in the conference in total defense, giving up 331 yards per game and leading the league in nearly every defensive category along the way.

TCU was also the only defense in the conference to allow fewer than 20 points per game. Patterson utilizes the speed he recruits to keep TCU ready for the array of offensive weapons that preside in the Big 12.

The Horned Frogs play fast and play mean.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Hakeem Butler said the Cyclones aren’t going to reach but push their brand of football on TCU.

“We’re a more physical team,” Butler said. “We can’t game plan to what they do best. We have to do what we do best.”

On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones will be seeking to replicate last year’s performance against the Horned Frogs, in which TCU committed two red-zone turnovers that changed the complexion of the game.

The Cyclones forced 20 turnovers last season en route to a plus-10 team turnover margin. This year, the margin is minus-one, with three turnovers — one in each of their three games so far — and only two turnovers forced.

The TCU offense has made a recent habit of back-to-back turnovers, giving the ball back on consecutive possessions of both the Ohio State and Texas games and turning leads into double-digit deficits.

Iowa State will try to exploit that, and redshirt senior cornerback D’Andre Payne knows the Cyclones have to get more takeaways.

“We’re close. We’re starting to do that,” Payne said. “Down the road it’ll be very important for us to make those plays, just playing the teams that we gotta face in the future.”

Assalley helping out on offense

The funniest moment of Tuesday’s presser came when a reporter asked about Iowa State’s starting kicker, redshirt sophomore Connor Assalley.

The reporter asked if Assalley had a sense of humor, given his last name, and what his personality is in the locker room.

Following a few moments of laughter, Campbell responded by saying Assalley has a confidence about him, so much so that Campbell can’t get a rise out of him in practice.

“He’s really kinda dry, to be honest with you,” Campbell said. “He’s a really neat kid.”

The Cyclones’ leading point-scorer confirmed as much.

“I’m pretty quiet when I’m here,” Assalley said.

Assalley was a surprise starter at placekicker in the would-be first game of the season against South Dakota State in a somewhat surprising turn of events, given most of the talk during the spring and summer surrounded redshirt senior Chris Francis and true freshman Brayden Narveson.

The walk-on has taken the job in stride, making all seven of his field goal attempts so far this season, including four in the Cyclones’ win over Akron.

While the Cyclones have said they need to improve their red zone execution, Assalley being a safe fallback option has proven helpful.

Butler likes Assalley’s start, but doesn’t want him on the field as much.

“It’s definitely good to know that you have those three points,” Butler said.

If anyone can get a rise out of Assalley, it has to be the enigmatic Butler, right?

“Connor’s really focused, but he has a lot of fun at practice,” Butler said. “He’s always smiling.”