AMES — A closer look at Saturday’s Big 12 Conference football game between No. 23 Iowa State (3-2, 3-1) and Kansas (0-5, 0-4) at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. Kickoff is 11 a.m. (FS1).
Iowa State offense
Outside of Breece Hall, Iowa State’s offense has been pretty average.
Quarterback Brock Purdy is playing well but certainly isn’t blowing the doors off and Iowa State’s receivers outside of Xavier Hutchinson have had a tough time stringing good games together.
The Cyclones are a middle-of-the-pack offense in the Big 12 in pretty much every category except rushing yards — including on third downs.
Iowa State is converting 40 percent of its third downs, which is fifth in the Big 12. Against Oklahoma State last Saturday, Iowa State was just 23 percent.
Coach Matt Campbell isn’t worried as much about third downs as he is about first and second downs. Third-and-2 is a lot easier to get than third-and-12.
“I think a lot of it has to do with putting ourselves in some tough situations in terms of what we did on first and second down,” Campbell said. “A couple of those were penalty-induced that created long yardage and that (Oklahoma State) is a tough team to put yourself in the third and long (against).”
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Iowa State defense
With Kansas running back Pooka Williams out, Iowa State’s defensive focus shifts a bit to true freshman quarterback Jalon Daniels.
Daniels is a true dual-threat quarterback who has shown flashes of what he can do but hasn’t been consistent.
He has 381 passing yards and has gained 111 rushing yards. Both of his touchdowns have been rushing touchdowns.
“I would think it’s to try to limit him to one (thing),” safety Greg Eisworth said. “Try to limit his pass game, or try not to allow him to kill us with his feet as much. But he’s a great athlete and a great player. You see that on film. But obviously if you take away one threat, then you can kind of focus on the other.”
Williams wasn’t Kansas’ only offense when he was playing. An argument could be made he wasn’t even the best running back for the Jayhawks.
Sophomore Velton Gardner has 324 rushing yards and two touchdowns compared to Williams’ 209 yards and two touchdowns. Kansas Coach Les Miles also feels confident in freshman running back Daniel Hishaw, who will pick up more of the load with Williams out.
Kansas’ three players who have the ball in their hands the most are all sophomores or younger. Two of them are true freshmen.
Campbell can relate to what Miles has on his hands. Campbell has started a true freshman at quarterback and has started two true freshmen at running back during his time at Iowa State.
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“There is a challenge and then there is an overall joy to coaching a young team, I’ll be honest with you,” Campbell said. “I’ve always really enjoyed coaching young teams because the growth that you see from week-to-week is so impressive, especially when you have talented guys like you’re seeing on the film with Kansas. The frustration at times is that everything that they’re seeing is for the first time.
“There’s a process to be great at this level and it’s a natural process. I don’t care who it is or how you slice it, you have to go through that to get there. A lot of that is facing experience and responding to it. That’s a process and you’re not going to snap your fingers and have it happen right away. The joy that you find, you find it in the growth. You can certainly see so much of that in this young Kansas team.”
Kansas’ defense is not good. It ranks dead last in rushing defense and second to last in total defense.
The only redeeming quality is the pass defense, which ranks fifth. That being said, it’s also given up 12 passing touchdowns, which is the second most in the Big 12.
The Jayhawks only have one interception this season and just five sacks in five games.
Put Breece Hall down for another 100-yard rushing day.
Prediction — Iowa State 35, Kansas 10