It’s hard to say Iowa State may have found its running back.
At different times this season, both Kene Nwangwu and Johnnie Lang seemed to have been “the guy.”
But on Saturday at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, W. Va., Iowa State may have found its running back in a 38-14 road win against West Virginia.
After two series — one of Lang and one of Nwangwu — Iowa State inserted true freshman Breece Hall as the running back. Hall had played in four games before this one and rushed 18 times for 84 yards.
Saturday, Hall, a 4-star recruit, rushed 26 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns, running all over the Mountaineers with his combination of speed and power at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds.
Hall’s third-quarter touchdown run was a good encapsulation of his ability as a runner. He took it into the end zone from 12 yards out with a cutback at the line of scrimmage, then powering his way through a defender at the goal line.
He’s the first Iowa State running back this season to break the 100-yard barrier this season.
“He was pretty special,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said after the game on the Cyclone Radio Network. “We’ll see if he can keep being that guy. When you practice really hard and get into a grove, great things can happen. I thought he was terrific today and really the difference in the football game.”
He’s also the first Iowa State freshman running back to rush for over 100 yards since David Montgomery had 141 against West Virginia in 2016.
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To add to his impressive day, Hall became the fourth Iowa State player to rush for 100 yards and three touchdowns in the same game since 2000. The others are former running back Ennis Haywood, former quarterback/linebacker Joel Lanning and Montgomery.
Iowa State has always liked Hall’s ability as a runner and has wanted to get him on the field more, but the staff wanted him to get better at pass protection.
Hall did exceptionally well on Saturday picking up blitzes. He cut down linebackers and even passed off linebackers to other offensive linemen.
As good as the Cyclones were running the ball, they were just as good stopping the run.
The Iowa State defense allowed just 41 yards rushing and 190 yards of total offense.
Iowa State was already down defensive end JaQuan Bailey and safety Greg Eisworth, who injured his shoulder last week. In the first half, linebacker O’Rien Vance went down with an injury, meaning the Cyclones were down a key piece at each level of the defense.
Even still, the defense only allowed one touchdown — West Virginia scored its other TD on a pick-6 after Nwangwu dropped a pass on Iowa State’s second drive.
Iowa State forced three turnovers — Mike Rose forced a fumble in the first half, Braxton Lewis intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to seal the game and D.J. Miller forced a fumble in garbage time to allow Iowa State to kneel out the clock.
Rose led the defense with nine tackles and a sack. Iowa State forced three sacks even with Vance missing most of the game.
“Our kids stayed the course,” Campbell said. “We had to weather the first-half storm and we did. We weren’t perfect, but our kids kept fighting. We made some good adjustments at half time and our kids came out fighting and put a great finish on this game.”