AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell has liked the play of his offensive line for most of the season.
He recognizes the group struggled against Baylor, but he likes how the group — particularly former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Bryce Meeker — bounced back against a really good TCU front seven that likes to send pressure in Iowa State’s 49-24 win over TCU on Saturday.
“I thought they were much better today,” Campbell said Saturday. “Bryce Meeker, great kid, I thought he played really well today. He had a tough game last week. I think it shows — Bryce is a very good testament to our team — that you just have to stay the course. Just keep playing.
“... I was really proud of Bryce. Nobody wants to not play your best game last week, but man, that guy came in today, I thought he was really special.”
Iowa State’s offensive line kept the pocket clean for quarterback Brock Purdy and gave him all day to throw. He finished 9-of-24 passing for 247 yards and two touchdowns through the air along with 12 rushing attempts for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Purdy credited his big day both through the air and on the ground in large part to the offensive line.
“The offensive line did a great job picking up blocks,” Purdy said. “The offensive line did an amazing job today. If they didn’t do the job they did, we’re not scoring all these points.”
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The offensive line opened up holes for running back Johnnie Lang, who had his best game as a Cyclone.
Lang finished with 16 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
On the two touchdowns, Lang ran in untouched. He also had a 23-yard run that was made possible by a gaping hole on the left side of the line.
“Offensive lines, you tell their story at the end of the season,” Campbell said. “Can we take what we did this week and grow from it? Can we be consistent week in and week out? I think that offensive line will tell its story at the end of the football season.”
The offensive line wasn’t the only line unit to play well Saturday. Iowa State’s defensive line came up big as well.
TCU has two of the best running backs in the Big 12 in Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. Anderson was averaging 8.2 yards per carry coming into the game and Olonilua was averaging 5.2.
Saturday, Iowa State cut those averages by nearly half in Anderson’s case, and rendered Olonilua a non-factor.
Anderson rushed 11 times for 49 yards, averaging 4.5 per carry. Olonilua carried the ball nine times for just 13 yards, 1.3 per carry.
Iowa State sacked TCU quarterbacks Max Duggan and Alex Delton twice and registered eight tackles for loss.
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“I thought we took a big step,” Campbell said. “I thought we’d been OK early in the football season. I think (defensive line) coach (Eli) Rasheed, myself, coach (Jon) Heacock challenged that defensive front. I think just our program in general is getting everybody’s best shot. Other teams are coming for you, and you have to be ready to raise your level of excellence every week.
“We have really good players (on the defensive line). Guys that have the ability to do what they did today, and I thought that was just big. It was big to watch that group really take a huge step.”
Zach Petersen had six tackles and a forced fumble, Enyi Uwazurike had five tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, Ray Lima had three tackles and a tackle for loss, Matt Leo had two tackles and a tackle for loss and Will McDonald had a sack.
The coaching staff also considers linebacker and former Cedar Rapids Washington prep O’Rien Vance as the fourth member of the defensive line when Iowa State plays mobile quarterbacks because Vance is often tasked with spying the quarterback, and fitting run gaps.
Vance made a team-high eight tackles, including a strip sack that led to a touchdown.
“That play by O’Rien Vance, obviously, not being in the front three but you could almost count him there,” Campbell said. “That was a gutsy effort. A tough play. That was a game-changer for us when Enyi picked the ball up and scored.”
That allowed Iowa State to move ahead 14-3 early in the second quarter, and the Cyclones found their groove the rest of the game thanks to the play of both lines.
Iowa State will find out if it can maintain this level of play and play with Campbell’s desired consistency next Saturday in Morgantown, W. Va., against West Virginia.
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