By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George vividly recalls what happened after his team’s 2011 bye week.
He vows there won’t be a repeat when Texas Tech comes to Jack Trice Stadium for the Sept. 29 Big 12 opener slated for 6 p.m.
Last season, Texas rolled into Ames after the Cyclones’ off week and scored the first 34 points en route to a 37-14 rout.
“I know without a doubt that (ISU) Coach (Paul) Rhoads is going to have us ready to play,” said George, the Cyclones’ second-leading tackler with 21 stops entering this week off from games. “We’re going to work hard.”
That type of commitment — from the playbook to the practice field — has transformed George into one of ISU’s defensive stars.
He plays middle linebacker when the Cyclones employ their base 4-3 set, then watches as productive nickel back Deon Broomfield comes in as the situation warrants.
It’s proved to be a potent combo.
Broomfield is tied for the team lead in interceptions (one), pass breakups (three), and passes defended (four).
“You’ll see me more in the Big 12, for sure,” he said recently.
Both he and George are fine with splitting time, though, considering the results.
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They’ve helped the Cyclones (3-0) limit Tulsa, Iowa and Western Illinois to an average of 10.7 points, which ranks 13th best nationally.
“We’re tackling well and we’re playing good team defense,” Rhoads said after Saturday’s win. “When I use that phrase I’m talking about 11 guys working on doing their job and not more than that.”
George, a junior, began to emerge as a down-and-distance playmaker this spring.
His progress extended into training camp — and the first starts of his career.
“I’ll tell you this: It’s a lot different going against your own offense than it is going against Tulsa, Iowa, or even Western Illinois,” George said. “I felt like those were my first three starts, which they were, and I still have so much more to learn. But it’s such a great feeling. I know that I’m getting better each week, so the light, it’s shining, and having Jake (Knott) and A.J. (Klein) talk to me and be there by my side and help me continue to grow is amazing.”
George said Rhoads takes extra time to break down a handful of pivotal plays with him every Tuesday.
Questions are answered.
Knowledge is gleaned.
Preparation is enhanced — whether there’s a game on Saturday or not.
“Just like three or four plays so I can have a better understanding of what I’m seeing and what I can do to play even faster than I have been playing,” George said. “Three plays in a ball game can make the difference between a win or a loss. And if I can get better on this play or that play, I’m going to do my best on it.”
ANOTHER PUNTING PLAUDIT: Cyclone punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was named the College Football Performance Awards punter of the week. He averaged 47.2 yards per kick last week.WOODY QUESTIONABLE: Rhoads said in Monday’s teleconference running back Jeff Woody was hurt on his team’s final PAT attempt Saturday. “It’s a knee,” Rhoads said. “No ACL and (he) should have a chance to be on the field against Texas Tech, but we’ll just have to wait and see.” Woody, a valuable short-yardage runner and blocker, had already been slowed by an ankle injury sustained in the Tulsa game.