116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State tight end Chase Allen and defensive end Zach Petersen are in the same boat.
Both have gotten off to as good of a start as they ever have in their careers but players at their respective positions tend not to grab the headlines.
On Saturday, as Iowa State (2-2, 0-1) plays Kansas (1-3, 0-1) at 6 p.m. in Jack Trice Stadium, Allen and Petersen will do what they’ve always done. The dirty work.
If they get rewarded with statistical production, great. But they have no problem putting their heads down and doing things that are unnoticed, except by the coaches.
“Our ‘A’ players have to get As,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said. “We’ve always identified Chase Allen as an ‘A’ player. If you look at just the offensive grades over the first four weeks, what’s been so impressive is Chase Allen has had an elite start to the season. Chase has played outstanding.”
Allen has nine catches for 112 yards this season. The 112 yards are the third most on the team behind receiver Xavier Hutchinson and fellow tight end Charlie Kolar but 98 of Allen’s 112 yards came last week against Baylor.
“It was nice to get some catches but I’m a guy that never makes things about me,” Allen said. “I just wanted to be available where and when I was supposed to be and I’m glad I could do my job.”
Even though most of his statistical production came last week, Campbell said Allen has still had an elite start to the season.
“He’s blocked as good as he’s ever blocked in his career, which I think is a product of him being the healthiest he’s ever been,” Campbell said. “For that guy to grade out to well over 90 percent in every game so far this season, and now to get some production. He’s as trusted as any player in our program.
“Chase is off to a great start and has really been one of the guys to get things going over the last couple of weeks. I think the offense is really starting to rise fast and I think a lot of the credit goes to his leadership and certainly what he’s been able to do.”
The defense hasn’t necessarily had to rise. It’s been elite since the first snap of the first game.
While Will McDonald and Enyi Uwazurike grab a lot of the attention as the starters at defensive end, Petersen, like Allen, has done the dirty work to get noticed by the coaches.
“Zach, equal to what Chase Allen is doing on offense, Zach Petersen has been the pillar of consistency in our program,” Campbell said. “And you love to see those guys that are the pillar of consistency, get to this point in their career and have dominant aspects of who they are. And I think Zach is doing that.”
Petersen’s dominant aspect is his ability to create penetration in the run game. Against Baylor, after the Bears returned a punt to the 16-yard line, they had an opportunity to put the game away. A touchdown would’ve sealed it.
Baylor ran the ball three times and Petersen made every single play to hold the Bears to a field goal and give Iowa State a chance.
“Zach's always been there for us in the biggest moments,” Campbell said. “Well, unfortunately, you would have loved to win the game because Zach would have been the hero, right? You look at the last drive he was on the punt team. The ball carrier gets loose and it was not a great punt, the guy gets loose out the back gate. Zach runs it down, stops it — he and Tucker Robertson make the play at about the 16-yard line.
“The next three plays — and we can't let them score — Zach’s the guy who makes all three plays, all three tackles. Tackle one, minus-2 (yards). Tackle two, minus-1. And then the last play, they try to run a jet sweep and he makes another play. And to me, I think it's the epitome of what this kid’s about. Cut him open, it’s all about Iowa State. It's all about the team.”
Perhaps nothing epitomizes his team mentality more than asking coach Campbell to get back on the kick coverage team.
Petersen burned his redshirt his freshman year because he was invaluable on the kick coverage team. Saturday, the Bears returned a kick for a touchdown. The next kickoff, Petersen was back out there.
“I honestly don’t know how I got back out there,” Petersen said. “I think it was just one of those where every week I’m like, ‘Oh c’mon coach, you know you want me out there.’ And I just kind of joke around with it. Then, all of a sudden, he said, ‘All right, you’re back on the kick coverage team.’ I was honestly really surprised like, ‘Holy s---, I’m actually going back out there.’ It’s always fun to run down there.”
Petersen has 15 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss this season. The 15 tackles are the most by any Iowa State defensive lineman despite him not being a full-time starter.
“He's going to strain to be the best version of himself, even if it means running down on our kickoff when it's 97 degrees,” Campbell said. “When you also play 60 snaps on defense, I just don't know if there's anybody that's giving more of himself to our team and the betterment of our team and then producing at such a high rate than what Zach is, so a lot of credit to him and what he’s doing for us.”