The TCU Horned Frogs (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) will hit the road for an 11 a.m. showdown Saturday with the Iowa State Cyclones (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) in Ames, Iowa.
Last year, TCU beat Iowa State 17-14 at Amon G. Carter Stadium, but in the last meeting in Ames, Iowa State held the upper hand, handing the 2017 Horned Frogs their first loss of the year in a 14-7 decision.
Here are five things TCU fans need to know about the Cyclones.
Built on defense
Much like TCU, Iowa State has staked its claim on being a strong defensive team. The Cyclones haven’t allowed more than 21 points in regulation this year and have yet to give up a fourth quarter touchdown. They’re No. 36 nationwide in rushing defense and No. 52 in overall yards per game.
Iowa State uses a three-man front helmed by defensive ends JaQuan Bailey (10 tackles) and Zach Peterson (12 tackles) and will drop eight men in coverage to protect against the pass. But the Cyclones aren’t afraid to blitz, either. Linebacker O’Rien Vance has 5.5 sacks through four games, and his position-mates Marcel Spears Jr. (29 tackles) and Mike Rose (28 tackles) are aggressive as well.
The Cyclones lost running back David Montgomery, a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2017, to the NFL Draft this offseason. But while they’re still searching for someone to replace him in the backfield the offense hasn’t suffered too badly. Instead, it’s been quarterback Brock Purdy picking up the slack.
Purdy, a sophomore, has set school records for single-game total offense, passing efficiency and completion percentage. Against ULM, he became the first quarterback in Big 12 history to pass for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns and run for three more scores in a single game.
While Purdy doesn’t have Allen Lazard to throw to anymore — Lazard is now with the Green Bay Packers — he’s found new targets in his tight end. Sophomore Charlie Kolar ranks second nationally among tight ends with 4.8 catches per game, and 15 of his 19 catches have gone for first downs or touchdowns.
The ISU offense, more than anything else, is steady. The Cyclones have only two three-and-outs all season long.
Coming off a near comeback
Iowa State cracked the Top 25 in the country last week after blowing the doors off Louisiana-Monroe in a 72-20 win. But the Cyclones lost to Baylor 23-21 last week in Waco.
The score indicates that it was a close game, but it doesn’t capture how wild it was. Baylor had a 20-0 lead entering the fourth quarter before Iowa State ripped off 21 consecutive points to take the lead. The Bears had to kick a field goal with less than a minute remaining to preserve the win.
Even though Iowa State lost, that fourth quarter is a reminder of how dangerous the Cyclones’ offense can be. All three scoring drives took just six plays, showing that ISU can move the ball in a hurry when it needs to do so.
That loss may give the Cyclones a little bit extra motivation entering this week.
Matt Campbell has drawn a lot of eyes his way since his arrival in Ames three years ago. After starting his Iowa State tenure 1-8, he’s brought the Cyclones back to .500 under his administration and is the two-time defending Big 12 Coach of the Year.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson spoke about his respect for Campbell, and how the ISU coach’s background shows why he’s succeeded.
“Mt. Union (Campbell’s alma mater), you look at the defensive coordinator from Oklahoma (Alex Grinch), he’s from Mt. Union originally,” Patterson said. “They’ve got a great history. I always look at people’s lineage and their trees and where they come from, where they learn things from. Not surprised at all with Matt doing well. Every place — obviously he did well up in the MAC, and Iowa State.”
Home field advantage
Jack Trice Stadium in Ames is one of college football’s most difficult environments. The fans are rowdy, and as Patterson pointed out in the press conference, the turf on the field typically plays slower than in other places, which can cause trouble for offenses.
The Cyclones thrive at their home stadium. Iowa State has won four straight Big 12 games at home and is 8-2 at home over the last two seasons. But in their school’s history, they have never won five in a row at home in conference play.
TCU players David Bolisomi and Tre’Vontae Hights both said on Tuesday that Ames is one of the toughest places the Frogs will play all year.