Someone is smiling upstairs. On the emotional 100th anniversary of Iowa State legend Jack Trice’s passing, the Cyclones rolled past TCU 27-14. Second-half adjustments and the young guns continuing to play above their age led Iowa State to their second win in the Big 12 Conference.
“For us, this has not been a one-week situation, this is something we have talked about every step of the way going into the season,” coach Matt Campbell said when reflecting on winning tonight at the Jack Trice Legacy game. “You are celebrating one of the most powerful figures that have ever come through this university, again we talk about courage, and we talk about going against all odds. Here is a man that defined that for our young football team.”
Here is how the Cyclones improved to 3-3 on the season and some final thoughts as the crowd continues to sing “Sweet Caroline.”
STRESSFUL FIRST HALF
Iowa State left a lot of points on the board by the end of the first half but still held a 10-7 lead going into the locker room. The Cyclones forced three TCU turnovers on six Horned Frog drives and were only able to come out with seven points. Going into the game TCU’s quarterback Chandler Morris had three interceptions. After the first two drives of the night, the young Cyclone linebacker unit forced two interceptions, one from Will McLaughlin and the other by Beau Freyler. The third Horned Frog turnover would be the charm.
Rocco Becht and the Cyclone offense rolled down the field 49 yards in just over two minutes to get on the board first. Becht optioned it to Eli Sanders who rushed it in from four yards out.
The Horned Frogs responded by relying on the run game for most of the first half gaining 122 yards on the ground by halftime. Cyclones could not stop the run and TCU kept attacking. Averaging 5.2 yards a carry and bouncing it on the edges or going straight up the gut, Jon Heacock’s squad could do nothing about it. While the run led TCU down the field, it was a scramble by Morris and plenty of missed tackles by Iowa State that gave the Horned Frogs their first points on the board. During Morris’ scramble, Savion Williams found separation hauling in a six yard touchdown reception.
Trying to respond, the Cyclones had a promising 10-play drive silenced as Chase Contreraz missed a 42 yard field goal wide left.
Special teams come at special moments. For only the third time in his career, Darian Porter blocked TCU’s punt setting up the Cyclones with great field position in the final seconds. Horned Frogs stuffed the run, and had a great pass broken up in the endzone. A Jayden Higgins pass interference call would force the Cyclones to kick a 26 yard field goal as time expired.
SECOND-HALF ADJUSTMENTS CONTAIN THE HORNED FROGS
What Campbell and Heacock told their team in the locker room at halftime worked. Iowa State outscored TCU 17-7 in the second half. The Cyclones wasted no time making up for the points they left on the board in the first half as freshman Abu Sama broke out for a 55 yard touchdown run on just the second play of the third quarter.
“You have to remember you have a first-year starter at center, you got a true freshman starting right guard, a first-year starter at left tackle,” Campbell said. “You almost have all brand new tailbacks…I think that this group has played better each week.”
The young offensive line continued to keep their quarterback clean and safe in the pocket. Especially impressive given that they were going against a TCU defensive line that leads the Big 12 in total sacks.
Strong protection gave Campbell the confidence to go for it on fourth and short deep into TCU territory towards the middle of the third quarter. Becht connected with senior tight end Easton Dean for the conversion. Dean continued to make an impact on the drive hauling in his third career touchdown reception.
The defense continued to roll and took advantage of the unfortunate injury to Morris who did not return. It was not a welcoming sight for redshirt freshman Josh Hoover who was picked off late into the third quarter by Malike Verdon.
TCU turned over the ball one more time late in the fourth and it marked the first time since 2016 that the Cyclones forced four interceptions. The Horned Frogs scored one more time, but it did not matter as this game was over by the third quarter.
THIS TEAM IS EVERY PART OF 3-3
It is okay if you do not know exactly how to feel about this team. Yes, this was an impressive and much-needed win. Yes, the run game was charging with the Cyclones gaining 215 yards on the ground and averaging 5.8 yards a carry, but it is concerning how the defense could not stop the run.
TCU rushed all over the Cyclone defensive line. They gained 185 yards with their legs. During the first two drives, TCU was in control going 33 and 63 yards down the field with ease in less than three minutes. Iowa State was fortunate to force those two interceptions.
This defense needs to play a full game to compete with the lead dogs in the conference. Still, the momentum is favoring the Cyclones as they hit the road against Cincinnati next week.