116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State running back Breece Hall made waves last year after the Texas game when he declared “it’s five-star culture versus five-star players.”
The Cyclones had just beaten the Longhorns to earn a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Hall, a four-star recruit, has cemented himself as one of the best running backs in college football.
His Longhorn counterpart, Bijan Robinson, was a five-star recruit and the No. 1 rated running back prospect.
He’s lived up to his billing.
On Saturday, Hall and Robinson will undoubtedly put on a show as Iowa State hosts Texas inside Jack Trice Stadium.
Hall, a junior, leads the Big 12 in rushing with 986 yards and 12 touchdowns on 179 attempts. Robinson, a sophomore, is right behind Hall, rushing for 967 yards and 11 touchdowns on 163 attempts.
The two aren’t just electric running the ball. They’re just as good catching the ball out of the backfield.
Hall has 26 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown while Robinson has 15 catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’d say a lot of things separate Bijan from other running backs,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “He’s as explosive of a football player as we’ve competed against at the running back position since I’ve been here. His ability as a pass catcher, his ability to run in the dynamic running style that he has and his ability to explode out of a cut are as good as I’ve seen.
“He’s a dynamic football player who plays really, really hard and he’s very consistent. One thing we’ve always said about true tailbacks is they have to do three things at an elite level. They have to be able to run it, catch it and be able to block. And he does all three.”
Sounds an awful lot like how Campbell describes Hall.
“It’s very similar,” Campbell said. “Elite athleticism, he has the ability to make one cut and get vertical, he’s explosive down the field and very similar in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and be very dynamic out of the backfield.
“Both guys have some very similar styles, and yet, a little different in some ways as well.”
Campbell calls these upper-echelon players “erasers” because they can erase mistakes made by those around them and they can erase good plays made by the defenders.
If a block or a hole isn’t perfect, that’s OK. They have the ability to make it work and make it work for a big gain, more often than not. And if a defender is in the hole, where he’s supposed to be, both running backs have the ability to make him miss and not be tackled by the first guy.
So how does a defense go about limiting players of that caliber?
“It’s really all gap control,” safety Craig McDonald said. “Even as safeties, we have to come down and help fill gaps, sometimes. And if (Robinson) does get through, and we didn’t have a gap assignment, then we have to track, hit and tackle.”
For Iowa State, it goes back to the same old stuff.
“For us, it goes back to precision and detail on defense,” Campbell said. “We’re going to have to be as detail-oriented as we’ve been to be able to have success and play the type of football game that we need to play to be able to win the game.”