Iowa State Cyclones

JaQuan Bailey, Greg Eisworth stand out on strong Iowa State defense

Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Greg Eisworth tackles Akron Zips wide receiver Jonah Morris on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Greg Eisworth tackles Akron Zips wide receiver Jonah Morris on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

AMES — The Iowa State defense’s motto is “play 11 as one.”

The concept is simple. All 11 defensive players play in sync, help each other out and swarm to the football.

Last Saturday against Oklahoma, 22 players registered tackles. But sometimes, like Saturday in Iowa State’s 26-13 win over Akron, it’s individuals who stand out.

“JaQuan Bailey was here all summer long, every day, in this facility trying to become the best he can be. Greg Eisworth was in here from the day he came on campus. Through three games, they’re playing some really good football,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “You’d say, ‘Man, those guys are really good football players. They’re playing at a really high rate.’

“That’s the thing I can lay my head down at night knowing that we’ll continue to go in the right direction because those guys are our best leaders. I know I said this before the season and I still feel really confident about it — when your best players are your hardest workers and they’re the guys that are all working everybody else, sooner or later, everybody is going to try to catch up to those guys.”

Eisworth, an Ole Miss transfer by way of Trinity Valley Community College, leads Iowa State (1-2, 0-1 Big 12) in tackles with 29. Against Akron (2-1), he had nine tackles, one tackle for a loss and three pass breakups.

His approach is simple.

“I think the majority of it is mentally knowing your job and anticipation, knowing film,” Eisworth said. “Then the rest of it is letting your athletic ability take over.”

Bailey called Eisworth the defense’s “Head Honcho.”

Eisworth excels playing downhill in run support and attacking underneath routes.

Bailey, a defensive end, recorded seven tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks on Saturday. Most of the time, Iowa State only rushes three, maybe four players. Getting a sack, especially against a mobile quarterback like Akron’s Kato Nelson is no small task.

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“(The fact) I can get sacks shows that our secondary can cover for more than five seconds at a time,” Bailey said.

When asked what it feels like to fight off a double team for five seconds and still get a sack against a mobile quarterback, Bailey thought about it for a bit and simply said, “It’s fun,” through a big grin.

Iowa State’s offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders Saturday, but running back David Montgomery wasn’t concerned.

Akron only scored 3 points in the second half — since Iowa State’s game against Akron last year, Iowa State has only allowed 97 points in the second half of games, which is less than a touchdown per half.

“(The defense’s ability to get stops) is very encouraging,” Montgomery said. “You have people like Greg Eisworth who strain, strain and strain to get better. You have people like Willie Harvey, Mike Rose stepping in early and taking care of business. I love my defense. I never worry about my defense.

“I worry about my offense before I worry about my defense. I have so much trust and faith in those guys — they can handle anything that’s thrown at them.”

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