Iowa State beats TCU by shutting down the run game

Then sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy rushes into the end zone for another Cyclone touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs on Oct. 5, 2019. Iowa State won 49-24.

Matt Belinson

In Iowa State’s blowout win over TCU on Saturday, the Cyclones had a slight edge in containing the running game over TCU — mostly thanks to the Cyclones’ versatility on offense compared to TCU’s run-heavy scheme.

That being said, the Cyclones and Horned Frogs struggled on the ground. Luckily for the Cyclones, their offense does not rely as heavily on the run as TCU has all season long.

In TCU’s previous four games, the Frogs have had one game where the offense generated more passing yards than rushing yards.

That number jumped to two games after Iowa State held TCU to 221 yards passing and 108 yards rushing. The Horned Frogs came into Saturday’s matchup averaging 275 rushing yards a game.

TCU has had good reason to keep going back to its run game, with senior running back Darius Anderson walking into Jack Trice Stadium sitting as the number two running back in the Big 12 in terms of rushing yards per game, with Anderson averaging 120.8 yards a game.

Anderson racked up five touchdowns and 493 yards in the first four games of the 2019 season.

Anderson would have a much different experience on Saturday against a tough Iowa State run defense. 

“As I told Coach Campbell, they kicked our butts. Every phase. Pretty simple,” said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. 

Iowa State’s run defense came into the game against TCU having given up two rushing touchdowns on the season, the lowest total in Big 12. The Cyclones came into the Horned Frogs matchup holding their opponents to 3.2 yards per attempt.

Anderson was shut down by the Cyclones, with the veteran running back finishing his day with 11 carries for 49 yards and one touchdown — Anderson’s second-lowest yardage total with at least 10 attempts in the last two seasons. His career-low in rushing was 19 yards on 11 carries against West Virginia on Nov. 10.

TCU came out on its first drive of the game looking to show its run identity once again, with no passes being thrown on the first drive. The drive ended in a punt. 

TCU went three drives before Anderson got his first carry of the game at the 3:40 mark in the first quarter.

On the third drive, Anderson had four carries for 34 yards and TCU ended up at the Iowa State 23 yard line and kicked a field goal to get on the board 7-3 at that point in the game.

Anderson was used heavily in the third drive, but Iowa State shut him down the rest of the afternoon. 

By the end of the first half, Purdy had more rushing yards than Anderson (56 to 37).

“[Iowa State] had a quarterback run game that they had not done up to this point,” Patterson said. “We didn’t do a good job of adjusting until later on.”

With all the issues TCU faced in the run game, Iowa State had its fair share of problems when it came to running the ball, with TCU holding the badge of the Big 12’s No. 1 ranked run defense. 

TCU opponents were averaging 79 yards a game with the Horned Frogs only allowing five touchdowns in four games. TCU came into Saturday’s game holding opposing teams to 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. 

The box score for the Cyclones provided a deceiving look into Iowa State’s effectiveness on the ground.

While Iowa State ended the game with 189 yards rushing, Brock Purdy had the majority of the yardage for the Cyclones.

Purdy ran for two touchdowns on the day and had 102 of Iowa State’s 189 yards on twelve carries.

“[Purdy’s] a guy that gives us the ability to be a dual-threat football player,” Campbell said. “I think when they overload on stopping the run game, [Purdy’s] got the ability to take some heat off of the running game, and I thought today he did what he needed to do.”

If Purdy’s yardage was removed from the game, Iowa State’s running backs combined for 82 yards on 21 carries — good for 3.9 yards a pop. While it may seem decent, it was a one-man effort for the backfield.

“When we are having fun we play our best,” Purdy said. “We had better flow and momentum than we had in recent games. It’s a game, we all understand that, so we just go out there and throw the ball around, play catch and scoring touchdowns — that’s having fun.”

Johnnie Lang had the most yards of the Iowa State running backs, rushing for 72 yards on the day. Lang was able to punch in two scores, but it didn’t go further than that for Iowa State outside of Purdy in the run game.

Campbell was impressed with Lang’s performance as well, saying that Lang had his “best game to date” as a Cyclone. Campbell said that Lang’s ability and potential are high and his work ethic makes him a weapon for Iowa State.

Purdy’s running ability was felt right away on the first drive of the game. Purdy chose to keep the ball on a run-pass option and took off on a 44-yard run to set up a passing touchdown to Chase Allen, which put the Cyclones up 7-0 in the first quarter.

Purdy also threw a touchdown to tight end Charlie Kolar. It was Kolar’s only catch of the game, but he could still appreciate how Purdy played in the run all game. 

Kolar said having a mobile quarterback like Purdy not only creates more options for the offense of the Cyclones, but also makes the opposing defense think about the quarterback as a real threat to take off.

Campbell agreed with Kolar, saying there isn’t much else to say when it comes to Purdy.

“I think Brock is really special,” Campbell said. “I don’t really have any different feelings for the words that I could use for Brock Purdy that I use consistently all year.”

Iowa State running backs totaled eight carries for 10 yards in the first half, while Purdy led the way with 56 yards on the ground. 

By the game’s end, the yardage distribution for the Cyclones was skewed toward the top of the board. The running backs after Lang and Purdy struggled throughout.

Jirehl Brock had the second most rushing yards for an Iowa State running back with eight yards and a fumble (recovered by the Cyclones). Breece Hall had one carry for two yards. 

The running game was a one-man show for a majority of the game, with Johnnie Lang not getting a majority of his carries until the second half. 

Purdy’s teammate and top-target against TCU, Deshaunte Jones, said Purdy’s ability to run helps the offense “tremendously.”

Jones was the recipient of 10 catches and 110 yards, but said that Purdy’s legs made the biggest impact on the offense.

“It gives us a little diversity in the offense with [Purdy] being able to run the ball,” Jones said. “Everyone keeps saying it’s ‘Brocktober,’ I always joke with him about it since the first day in October and he shrugs it off, but that is us just being loose and having fun.”