116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Every opponent knows Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald is coming, but the last two weeks, none have stopped him.
He has had two sacks in each of the last two games despite seeing constant double teams.
Against Kansas State two weeks ago, both were strip sacks. During Oklahoma State’s news conference last week, Coach Mike Gundy said McDonald is a guy you have to formulate your game plan around because he can cause so much havoc.
And for three quarters, Gundy’s plan worked. McDonald didn’t record a sack. Then in the fourth, Gundy got comfortable. He stopped sending double teams to McDonald and tight ends stopped chipping him in the fourth quarter. That’s when he got back-to-back sacks late in the fourth quarter to help seal the Cyclones’ 24-21 win.
It was a decision that baffled the ultra-talented McDonald.
“They messed up their offense,” McDonald said after the game. “I figured they’d keep chipping me but that’s where they messed up their momentum. It seemed like they forgot about me. I don’t know what happened but it just gave me a better chance to get back there to the quarterback.”
McDonald, a junior, leads the Big 12 in sacks with 7.5 and is a half sack away from tying JaQuan Bailey’s career record.
What makes McDonald’s production more impressive is he just started playing football at 16 years old.
“I'll never forget meeting Will for the first time,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “We’re over at Hilton (Coliseum) at a basketball game and sitting in one of the offices. He had come down with his high school football coach to his first visit. His basketball film was probably what intrigued me more than anything initially. I saw this unbelievably talented basketball player and probably a guy that in a lot of ways looked like a low level Division I basketball player at the time.
“He was a guy that just had a great explosion, he was a great scorer and had great leaping ability. Then you turn on the football video and it's like, ‘Man, this guy's not afraid, can really run.’”
Campbell wasn’t sure if McDonald would be a tight end, outside linebacker or what. But he knew he wanted him.
“I think we knew he was a dynamic playmaker of some sort and it just so happened it's going to be at defensive end,” Campbell said. “But to say, did you know what he was going to become? No. Did you know what his spirit was? Did you know what he was about? Did you know he had elite athleticism? Yeah, I think we had a really good idea about that. But boy, Will’s done an incredible job for us.”
Tarique Milton making plays
It’s been a quiet season for senior season receiver Tarique Milton. He has 12 catches for 146 yards and no touchdowns.
He’s had an injury-filled career that’s slowed him down some, but he’s proven he still can come through in big moments. Late in the game against Oklahoma State, Milton caught a 33-yard pass to set up the eventual Breece Hall touchdown to put Iowa State in the lead.
“I mean, just for Tarique — I mean that guy has had so many battles, from physical to the mental battle that it can have when you're physically constantly beat up over the last two years,” Campbell said. “The talent that Tarique has, the ability that he has, and the growth that he has made in our football program is nothing short of exceptional. And to see in the biggest moment of the season so far, there’s Tarique Milton making a huge play in a huge moment. I just think it says so much about the character of Tarique.”
Iowa State injury report
Linebacker Mike Rose didn’t finish the game against Oklahoma State when he was injured for a second time on the second-to-last drive.
Campbell said after the game he didn’t think it’d be anything long term and reiterated that message on Tuesday during his news conference.
“He seemed really good yesterday,” Campbell said. “We feel very confident that he’ll play in the football game (on Saturday). We don’t think it’s an issue that will be very long. It’s one of those things where it’s probably more day-to-day than it is anything else.
“It’s just kind of some nerve stuff that he’s dealing with but he’s really responded fantastic and was awesome on Sunday and was tremendous yesterday.”