AMES — My thoughts on Saturday’s Kansas-Iowa State football game at Jack Trice Stadium:
While Kansas’ record remains bad, the Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6) have shown signs of life.
Kansas went on the road and beat Boston College, beat Texas Tech at home and it went back on the road to Texas and almost came away with a win.
But on the weeks where they aren’t playing good football, the Jayhawks have looked like the Kansas of old.
They lost 51-14 to a mediocre TCU team, 12-7 to Costal Carolina and have lost back-to-back weeks by a combined 69-23.
The Jayhawks have some talent, they just need consistency.
“That’s one of the things when you ask, ‘What have you seen from Kansas this year?’” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “The last couple of years, it’s never been lip service or coach speak to say they’ve had really good players. You can just see over the last couple of years the guys that have gone on to play in the NFL and then they probably have five or six draft picks right now — it’s probably more than we have.”
Running back Pooka Williams isn’t draft eligible yet — he’s a true sophomore — but he’s probably the Jayhawks’ biggest NFL prospect.
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Williams has the second most rushing yards among Big 12 running backs with 791 on 162 carries. He also has 22 receptions for 135 yards.
“For them to go on the road, you see the value of that Boston College win, what they’ve done in Texas and how they’ve played,” Campbell said. “I think I’ve seen that belief, their kids play with a really high spirit. Watch offense, defense and special teams — there’s not an area where they’re not playing hard. A lot of credit to Coach (Les) Miles because he’s got those guys playing really good football.”
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) is one of two teams nationally to have four players with at least 500 yards receiving at this point in the season.
Quarterback Brock Purdy said at the beginning of the year whoever is open will get the ball. He’s backed that up.
After a season of Hakeem Butler dominance, the Cyclones have found an incredible balance.
Deshaunte Jones has 63 receptions for 748 yards and two touchdowns, Tarique Milton has 29 receptions for 611 yards and three touchdowns, Charlie Kolar has 41 catches for 549 yards and seven touchdowns and La’Michael Pettway has 42 receptions for 504 yards and four touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Tom Manning said it can be useful to have one go-to target like Butler, but being able to spread the ball around keeps the defenses off balance.
Pettway came to Iowa State as a graduate transfer from Arkansas. He missed spring practice, so he had to make up ground during fall camp. But he’s found his stride.
“He took the reins and started leading,” Campbell said. “It’s been really fun to watch and I think he’s been a huge asset to the youth of that receiver room. Him and Deshaunte have done a great job.”
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Defensively, Iowa State did some different things against Texas. Jamahl Johnson started at defensive tackle instead of Ray Lima. Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said Lima didn’t do anything wrong, they just wanted to get a more frequent rotation going in the middle to keep everyone fresh. That rotation worked, but it wasn’t the only one.
Mike Rose also moved back and forth from outside linebacker to middle linebacker throughout the game. And Iowa State substituted its cornerbacks more than usual.
The rotations Heacock implemented worked against Texas and will likely be used again against Kansas.
Iowa State 38, Kansas 17
Kansas might be marginally better than it was last season, but it’s still a bad football team. Iowa State shouldn’t have too many problems in this game and I’d expect backup quarterback Re-al Mitchell to get some playing time in the fourth quarter.
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