AMES — Iowa State backup quarterback Re-al Mitchell got his first extended playing time in Iowa State’s 72-20 blowout of Louisiana Monroe.
Mitchell, who played a little bit as a true freshman in the Alamo Bowl last year, showed what he could do.
He only passed twice, completing one for a 9-yard touchdown to Sean Shaw. But he proved how lethal he is on his feet.
He ended up being Iowa State’s second-leading rusher with four carries for 65 yards and a touchdown.
“I think anytime Re-al gets really meaningful reps is going to be important for this team,” Coach Matt Campbell said. “He’s one play away from playing being the starting quarterback here. He’s a guy that has earned the right to be a really good football player to be really honest with you. Re-al’s worked really, really hard and he’s a guy that certainly gives us a lot of different options and can do a lot of things for our football team.
“I think to watch him function offensively for the first time live, I think it was really big for everybody, but he’s earned the right to go play well because that’s how (he’s been) in practice.”
Mitchell said he actually felt a little pressure. Not because the game was close, but because of something punter Joe Rivera said to him.
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“He was like, ‘Keep it going, I haven’t had to go out there,’” Mitchell said. “I didn’t realize that, so I thought, ‘OK, no pressure.’ It feels great to be out there and contributing.”
After turning the ball over on its first two possessions, Iowa State scored on its next 11 drives, including the three led by Mitchell.
Mitchell wasn’t the only young player to stand out. True freshman running back Jirehl Brock got his first playing time of the season.
Brock had five carries for 40 yards.
Redshirt freshman receiver Sean Shaw also saw his first playing time. He caught two passes from each of the quarterbacks and both were for touchdowns.
“I think there are a lot of young guys today that gave us confidence, which was really big,” Campbell said. “Sean Shaw, Arnold Azuna, Connor Greene had some huge plays today, I thought Jirehl Brock had a really good day today. There are a lot of guys playing with confidence. And confidence is earned under the lights when there are people in the stands. You earn that right through how you practice every day.”
Defense steps up
Iowa State’s defense didn’t have its best game giving up 425 yards, but it came up big when it needed to.
After the Cyclones turned the ball over on their first two offensive possessions in their own territory, the defense didn’t allow a Louisiana Monroe point, which allowed the offense to get on track.
“We played like a football team for the first time this year,” Campbell said. “And I say that because you felt like we were playing off each other for the first time all year. I know I’ve said that multiple times, but it is really our only chance to be truly the best version of us we can be. When we play with each other, when we play special teams, offense, defense and flow, then you have the opportunity to be a really good football team."
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Center Colin Olson was still out for the Cyclones on Saturday, but the offensive line held up well. To the point where Campbell said they were “elite” in pass protection — Iowa State didn’t give up a sack.
Safety Greg Eisworth and running backs Kene Nwangwu and Johnnie Lang all left the game due to injury.
Campbell said they were all minor injuries and had it been a competitive game they probably would’ve kept playing.
“I think they will be fine, it’s way more precautionary than anything,” Campbell said. “We’ll know better as we get to Tuesday, but I’d expect those guys to be ready to go.”