Iowa State Cyclones

Alamo Bowl Play Action: Iowa State vs. Washington State analysis

Iowa State takes on Washington State in the Alamo Bowl at 8 p.m. Friday in San Antonio, Texas. (USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State takes on Washington State in the Alamo Bowl at 8 p.m. Friday in San Antonio, Texas. (USA TODAY Sports)

SAN ANTONIO — Iowa State plays in its biggest bowl game ever on Friday against No. 13 Washington State in Alamo Bowl.

Kickoff is 8 p.m. CT, televised on ESPN.

Here’s a closer look at the matchup.

Washington State

— A lot gets made of Washington State’s offense, and rightfully so. The Cougars perform Coach Mike Leach’s air-raid to near perfection. They are the No. 1 passing offense in the nation.

But Washington State’s defense shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Cougars aren’t afraid to send pressure — especially on third downs — with a bevy of stunts and blitzes. Washington State has recorded 35 sacks, tied for 16th best in the nation. It’s not just one player, either, it’s a team effort. Domini Silves leads the Cougars with 4.5 sacks, but 15 different players have recorded at least one sack.

The defense is led by linebacker Peyton Pelluer, who has 85 tackles, including nine tackles for loss. He also has a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

— OK, time to talk about the offense. Leach basically invented the air-raid offense and he’s broken numerous records with it, including 17 at Oklahoma in just one season.

It hasn’t slowed down any at Washington State. Quarterback Gardner Minshew has thrown for 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive, no doubt, but his 71 percent completion percentage is the most impressive thing to Leach.

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“Really, it’s remarkably simple: find somebody that’s accurate, and don’t compromise accuracy,” Leach said of what he looks for in a quarterback. “Everybody says all he has to do is work on his accuracy. That’s where you start. You don’t work on accuracy, you start with a guy that’s accurate. Then, you want a guy that can make good decisions.

“After that, you have all the other things — does he have quick feet, a strong arm, is he fast? I can’t think of anybody in the NFL Hall of Fame that’s got all five of those things, but I think you have to get those first two, then you can continue to polish them.”

Iowa State

Iowa State is one of the hottest teams in the country. After starting the year 1-3, the Cyclones have gone 7-1 since and have found different ways to win games.

One of the biggest reasons for the surge has been freshman quarterback Brock Purdy.

“I think the biggest thing for Brock is he’s been able to lean on some of those players around him, with obviously David (Montgomery), Hakeem (Butler) and Matt Eaton — the tight end position continuing to grow within the offense,” ISU Coach Matt Campbell said. “I think that’s been probably what he’s done the best, is play within himself.

“I think for a young guy, especially at the quarterback position, it’s what you hope to see, is a guy that doesn’t try to do too much, has the ability to play within himself.”

Leach also is impressed by what he’s seen from Purdy.

“I think the best thing he’s done impressively is he’s been effectively able to take the reins at a young age and elevate the players around him,” Leach said. “I think that’s the hardest thing. I think sometimes a young guy doesn’t feel entitled to lead because everybody has been there longer than they have, things like that.

“It appears to me just watching film from the outside, he’s kind of embraced that role as being the guy that guides the offense there.”

— While Washington State’s offense has the same “air-raid” label as a lot of the Big 12 offenses Iowa State has faced this season, defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said the Cougars do a number of different things that keep teams off balance.

Cornerback Brian Peavy said they’re like a mix of West Virginia and Texas Tech.

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“We have seen parts of it, we have not seen all of it like you see with Coach Leach’s offense,” Heacock said.

Prediction

Iowa State 27, Washington State 24

Cyclone fans will remember the Alamo.

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