AMES — Matt Campbell is on his way to taking Reggie Jackson's “Mr. October” nickname.
Iowa State has won six straight October football games dating back to last season. In that stretch, the Cyclones have beaten three top-6 teams.
On Saturday night, Iowa State fans rushed the field at Jack Trice Stadium after a dominant defensive performance in a 30-14 win over No. 6 West Virginia at Jack Trice Stadium. A game that Iowa State won 30-14.
The Mountaineers (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) didn’t have a drive longer than five plays. Their only offensive touchdown — an 18-yard pass from Will Grier to David Sills V — came after a Brock Purdy interception in the first quarter that set up a 44-yard drive. The other touchdown came on Derek Pitts Jr.’s 72-yard blocked field goal return in the second quarter, which could’ve turned the tide in the game.
Iowa State (3-3, 2-2) led 20-7 before the blocked field goal and it allowed the Mountaineers to get right back in the game.
“Starting off 1-3 probably kills most teams, too,” Campbell said of the adversity his team faced after the blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. “The reality from my end is this is what’s made this team really special. I think it started last year with that senior class. Adversity is going to happen, things aren’t perfect. I don’t think it was anybody’s fault per se, but it happened and our ability to respond to it was really powerful.
“That’s kind of been our niche a little bit — having great resolve here over the last year and a half. We’re really fortunate to have some great leadership in our locker room. That’s not coach driven, that’s player driven.”
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Much of the Cyclones resolve came from the defense’s second straight seven-sack game. Six Cyclones recorded a sack and defensive end JaQuan Bailey was the only Cyclone to record more than one sack.
“The ability to be multiple throughout the football game (led to the sacks),” Campbell said. “Our defensive staff did a great job of constantly switching up the looks and be as multiple as we could. I think that’s maybe the most multiple we’ve been. Grier’s one of those quarterbacks where if you’re in one look too long, he’s going to make great adjustments. Our defense did a great job all night.”
Grier was uncomfortable the whole game. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 100 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Grier also rushed for minus-37 yards. The West Virginia offense had 148 total yards, 378 below its season average.
The Mountaineers converted just one third down the entire game.
“No. 1, we put ourselves in a lot of good third down situations,” Campbell said. “I thought that was really big for our football team. As we’ve continued to go down this journey as a football program, the one thing we’ve put an emphasis on, on both sides of the football, is third and fourth downs and situational football.”
Safeties Greg Eisworth and Braxton Lewis led the Cyclones with eight tackles and one sack apiece. Ten Iowa State players recorded at least three tackles and 17 players recorded at least one tackle.
“That’s really just preparation,” Eisworth said. “Those kinds of plays and that kind of execution just comes from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Then, it happens like that on Saturday. It’s also the coaches giving us a good game plan.”
Outside of the third quarter, which was an abysmal offensive quarter for both teams, Iowa State’s offense was productive with Purdy at the helm. Purdy went 18 of 25 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 39 yards on 11 attempts.
The true freshman made plays all night, highlighted by a touchdown to Deshaunte Jones in the fourth quarter.
Purdy casually stepped up in the pocket as pressure came from the edge in the fourth quarter. He dropped a dime into Deshaunte Jones’ lap over double coverage for a 32-yard touchdown.
“He’s a great player,” Jones said of Purdy. “When he gets his confidence, you can’t tell him he can’t do something. He’s going to do great things when he has the ball in his hands.”
Iowa State converted a 2-point conversion for a 28-14 lead. That was the only time the offense rewarded the defense — which held the Mountaineers to 40 second-half yards — in the second half.
“The defense played lights out, unbelievable against a Heisman candidate,” Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler said.
The defense even got in on the scoring by forcing a safety via a holding penalty in the end zone with 5:14 left.
To go along with Purdy’s passing attack, running back David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 189 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He also had one touchdown. Montgomery missed the Oklahoma State game with an injury last week, but the junior didn’t appear to miss a beat Saturday.
“The rushing yards, that’s cool and all,” Montgomery said. “But that’s forgotten about. This win won’t be.”
As usual, Butler was a problem for the opposing defense. The 6-foot-6 receiver caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He also forced three pass interference calls.
“I just like making plays and helping my team,” Butler said.
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Purdy spread the wealth in the passing game, also throwing a touchdown to tight end Charlie Kolar. In total, eight players caught passes for the Cyclones.
Kolar was more than impressed with Purdy.
“He had to have redshirted somewhere to be ready to go because that dude is too mature,” Koalar said.
The defense’s performance was somewhat of a surprise because Iowa State was down two starters. Safety Lawrence White and nose guard Ray Lima were out with injuries. White has 19 tackles on the season, sixth on the team. Lima doesn’t put up the numbers, but he constantly disrupts plays on the line and forces double teams allowing his teammates to make plays.
The defensive line didn’t seem to miss him, recording 13 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
“That’s as much of the story tonight, defensively,” Campbell said. “Yes, Ray Lima is a phenomenal football player, but it’s Jamahl Johnson’s turn to step up. Last week, it was the running backs. You look at the captains and it’s like, ‘Holy smokes, it’s almost been a jinx to be a captain because they’ve had some injuries.’ Those are great players and great people.
“My pride is when those guys are hurt, they’ve been great teachers and leaders for the next guy. And then the next guy has stood up and really risen to the occasion.”.
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