Last year’s tussle with the Iowa State Cyclones was easily the best game of the year and potentially the best game of the Neal Brown era. A back and forth affair that saw the Mountaineers offense look explosive, featured several lead changes, an amazing endzone catch by Bryce Ford-Wheaton and one of the best passing days by Jarret Doege.
In 2022, the Mountaineers travel to Ames, Iowa, where the Mountaineers have lost the last two times they’ve traveled there. There was the 2018 debacle and then the 2020 trip which was a particularly low point for the team. The staff hopes that this time will be different.
Iowa State has the distinction of attempting to replace two of the better players to play for them, with quarterback Brock Purdy exhausting his eligibility and being selected by the 49ers in the 7th round and Breece Hall being selected in the NFL Draft. The two players last year combined for 4,400 yards.
Replacing Purdy will be former four-star quarterback Hunter Dekker. Dekker has been the main backup to Purdy the past two seasons and now looks to take over as the main behind center. The scouting report on Dekker is that he has a stronger arm than Purdy but can still make plays with his legs.
Replacing the quarterback is one problem, replacing your all-world running back is another, but the Cyclones have an answer with Jirehl Brock ready to take over. Brock was in the same recruiting class as Hall but Brock was the higher rated recruit.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Cyclones have to replace some of the best tight ends to ever play at the school, much like they have to do at quarterback and running back. Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen are gone. Easton Dean and Tyler Moore will be asked to be reliable players.
The offensive line was a weak point of the Cyclones in 2021 and senior Trevor Downing will be asked to anchor the line from the center position. Jake Remsburg is back from an injury and will man one of the tackle positions.
On defense, the Cyclones again lose a ton of production. In fact Iowa State returns only 40% of their production on offense and defense from 2021 (37% on offense, 43% on defense). That is the fourth lowest amount in all of Division 1 FBS.
On the defensive line Will McDonald IV returns as Iowa State’s all-time career sacks leader. He’s tallied 22 sacks since 2020, which is second in the nation in that time frame. Isaiah Lee and Blake Peterson will be along the line, hoping to create more havoc for the Cyclones.
O’Rien Vance is back after missing 2021 with an injury and his 32 games will be needed to help guide Colby Reeder, a FCS transfer from Delaware.
On the back end of the defense, the loss of Isheem Young (transferred to Ole Miss) stings, as does the transfer of promising youngster Craig McDonald, although Beau Freyler played a lot at safety in the second half of last season. Iowa State loves its young cornerbacks Myles Purchase and T.J. Tampa. Veteran Anthony Johnson Jr. has moved from corner to safety for his extra year of eligibility.
2021 Full Game and Highlights
Prediction that will be right: Iowa State will be good by the time the Mountaineers visit Ames.
Prediction that will be wrong: JT Daniels will enjoy Ames.