What does Brock Purdy bring to the table that seems to have taken the Cyclone offense to another level last week in Stillwater?
Without a doubt, Purdy’s mobility was the key to the offensive explosion last week. Kempt and Noland are both perfectly capable of being effective Big 12 quarterbacks, but both tend to be statues in the pocket. Purdy is a true dual-threat quarterback, which allows the coaches to run tons of RPOs with jet actions from slot receivers, which creates a lot of pre-snap motion. Simply put, when Brock Purdy is in the game, the playbook becomes about twice as big as when Kempt or Noland are in. His performance last week was good enough that it was actually somewhat easy to forget that David Montgomery, currently rated as the number one running back available in next year’s NFL draft, never even put his pads on for the game.
What would John Heacock’s perfect gameplan to shut down Will Grier and the West Virginia offense look like?
Given that Grier isn’t really a run threat at all outside of scramble situations, my guess is Heacock will be perfectly content with dropping eight into coverage and letting any combination of JaQuan Bailey, Ray Lima, Enyi Uwazurike, Jamahl Johnson, Matt Leo, and Will McDonald create pressure with a three man rush. First the first time probably ever, the Cyclone defense has Big 12 talent on the entire two deep at virtually every position, and the staff utilitizes basically everyone. Against Oklahoma State, 20 different players recorded a tackle, and each of ISU’s seven sacks came from a different player. What this means is that Heacock could utilize some of the exotic blitz packages we’ve seen the last couple weeks to keep Grier off-balance.
As far as a general gameplan, my guess is that they’ll do their best to take away the deep ball, which is probably Grier’s greatest strength. He’s certainly accurate enough to take the short and intermediate routes that the defense will likely give him early in the game, but my guess is that the Cyclone defense will try to coax Grier into getting impatient and play into his tendency to force some throws into tight windows, hopefully forcing turnovers along the way.
If David Montgomery is limited on Saturday, who should West Virginia fans look out for when Iowa State runs the ball?
Last week, DM didn’t play at all, and nobody really noticed. That’s obviously not a knock on David, but a testament to the performance of both Purdy and the three-headed running attack that filled in. Kene Nwangwu is the fastest guy on the team, and one of the fastest players in the Big 12. You’ll likely see his carries most often come out of jet sweeps designed to get him to the edge to turn the corner. Johnnie Lang is a smaller guy, but is extremely quick and elusive. You’ll see him get some carries out of shotgun formations, but you may also see him line up in the slot for the screen game. Sheldon Croney Jr. is more of a traditional one-cut back, and his primarily the guy that gets the carries between the tackles. He’s not super elusive, but can be difficult to bring down.
Worth noting is that all three will be used in the passing game, and it shouldn’t surprise you to see two of them on the field at the same time to divide the attention of the defense.
What makes Ames such a special and difficult place for opponents?
The obvious answer here is the fans. It’s quite a statement of character to see the fifth-losingest program in the history of college football continues to buck the trend of declining attendance, going so far as to add seats to the stadium a few years ago by closing in the south endzone. Combine an extremely passionate fanbase a healthy dose of booze from one of the best tailgating scenes in the Midwest and you get an environment that genuinely creates an on-field advantage for the Cyclones. Outside of the fans, weird things tend to happen to opponents when they come to Jack Trice Stadium for night games. In 2005, the Joel Klatt led Colorado Buffaloes came to Ames, only to be confronted with an ACTUAL TORNADO, which cleared the stadium and delayed the game (not ones to concede a good time for a little weather, most Cyclone fans just went back to the tailgates and kept drinking while the tornado passed just a few miles away from the stadium. A few more upsets later, and the Cyclones take down #2 Oklahoma State to spoil their chances at National Championship. That upset can effectively be credited as the final impetus for the creation of the College Football Playoff we all enjoy today (you’re welcome, America).
Finally, how do you see Riot Bowl VII shaking out?
On paper, the Mountaineer offense looks borderline unstoppable, and their third down efficiency is definitely going to be a concern for Iowa State. However, if you watch game tape and look at personnel, one thing becomes pretty clear. This Iowa State defense is basically built to stop the West Virginia. Its scheme is basically a perfect counter punch to the high flying WVU passing game, and the defensive line’s ability to create pressure on the quarterback and stop the run with just the three down lineman frees up the linebackers to make plays all over the field. Call me a homer, but I see that as basically a coin-flip matchup.
Thus, the key matchup in this game is the Iowa State offense vs. the West Virginia defense. Without a doubt, the ‘Neers have played well above expectations, but they’ve been shown to be vulnerable to dual-threat quarterbacks, especially when they have limited film to go off of. Brock Purdy does have a game of film to review, but he does only have one game of film. If he plays to a similar efficiency as last week, I really like our chances in this game. If he struggles against the 3-3-5, it’ll put even more pressure on the defense to make plays, which they may not be able to do for the entire game, resulting in a Cyclone loss.
My guess is that Brock ends up somewhere in the middle, but is able to make enough plays with his legs to make the difference.