AMES — In its last two games, Iowa State has played two top-15 offenses in West Virginia and Texas Tech.
Combined, the defense has allowed three offensive touchdowns.
Iowa State had three interceptions in the second half, including one that linebacker Marcel Spears returned for a touchdown. Spears had two interceptions in Iowa State’s 40-31 win over Texas Tech on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
“It was fitting in the second half of the game, when our defense needed to rise up the most, they rose up and made huge plays,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “The turnovers become the difference in the football game. Marcel, I probably have to get him in on offense at some point as a guy who can catch the football. He told me he could, but I didn’t believe him. That was great and obviously Greg Eisworth. Those plays came in critical moments and a lot of credit to (defensive coordinator) coach (Jon) Heacock and our defensive staff. That’s a really good offense that has given a lot of people trouble throughout the season.”
Another key defensive play came in the fourth quarter when Texas Tech was on its 12-yard line. Red Raiders (5-3, 3-2) quarterback Alan Bowman fumbled the ball, picked it up in the end zone and as he was being pressured by defensive end JaQuan Bailey in the end zone, he threw the ball away, resulting in intentional grounding — a safety. Iowa State (4-3, 3-2) has forced a safety in each of its last three games.
“I think so much today was way more about the coverage,” Campbell said. “Obviously a really good play by JaQuan, but the coverage today in some certain situations was outstanding. I think a little bit of even back to our previous game (against West Virginia), there were some coverage situations where our guys were doing a great job covering down the field and letting those guys work. I think that was certainly a huge situation on that play, on that third-down play, and obviously JaQuan’s relentlessness to get the ball, great, but the coverage unit, talk about a coverage sack, I think the coverage, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for.”
The last eye-popping note about the defense was the rush yards it allowed. Texas Tech ran for a total of 30 yards on 24 attempts.
Iowa State true freshman quarterback Brock Purdy is tough. He’s physically tough and Saturday, he proved he was mentally tough.
He took some big hits in the game and the offense wasn’t playing all that well.
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“I feel like we’re still grinding,” Campbell said. “It was one of those games where you had to. It wasn’t perfect, Brock would tell you that. But when that kid needed to make a play — there were some third-down plays, and drops — and he just keeps playing.”
His highlight came in the fourth quarter after Iowa State forced the safety. He hit receiver Hakeem Butler for a 48-yard strike on third-and-9.
“What makes that young man special was the play he made on third-and-9 and he stepped up and delivers a big-time ball and obviously Hakeem makes a great catch,” Campbell said. “That’s a tough defense. They do a lot of things and Brock had to just grind through it throughout the football game, and I was proud of the way he did.”
Tight end Charlie Kolar also caught a touchdown pass from Purdy.
“That’s one tough kid,” Kolar said “At 18 years old, playing against dudes twice the size of him and he sticks in there. Every game he gets cracked, but he still comes back. That’s one hell of a competitor. That’s one great kid playing great football.”
Noland takes leave of absence
Iowa State redshirt sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland didn’t suit up for Saturday’s game, and it wasn’t due to injury.
“Zeb was not with us,” Campbell said. “He took a personal leave of absence this week and I don’t know where that is right now, but he did nothing wrong. There was nothing in terms of anything else other than we’ll have maybe some definitive to that here maybe sometime next week and I’ll certainly let you guys know.
“I think we’ve got really good depth here, whether Zeb chooses to be with us or not, I think there’s some really good players and obviously we’ve got a senior leader that’s one of the best leaders in our program. So I feel really comfortable with where we’re at and I certainly — I love Zeb, what he’s about and what he stands for. We’ve got to see what decision he chooses to make here.”
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