Welcome to the Big 12 Cincinnati. The 15 days off for the Bearcats were not enough as the Iowa State Cyclones took care of business on the road with a 30-10 victory on Saturday. Iowa State improves to 4-3 (3-1 in the Big 12) and Matt Campbell earns his 50th win as the Cyclones head coach. The young team continues to show major growth and improvement on both sides of the ball rolling into the bye week sitting alone at second in the Big 12.
SLOW FIRST QUARTER DOES NOT SLOW DOWN THE CYCLONES
The Bearcats and Cyclones struggled to find a rhythm offensively early in the first half. The elite secondary of Iowa State was tested on the first drive when Emory Jones overthrew his intended receiver Dee Wiggins in what would have been a for-sure touchdown.
Deep in Cincinnati territory, the Cyclones regained possession of the ball after TJ Tampa picked off Jones for the Cyclones’ 11th interception of the season. Starting where they left off after stealing four passes against TCU. Once getting inside the 10 yard line, Iowa State was stalled out. A dropped touchdown reception by Ben Brahmer forced the Cyclones to kick a 30 yard field goal putting them on the board first.
There were not many highlights in the passing game for the Bearcats through the first half. Jones who came into the day with over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, appeared uncomfortable in the pocket. Outside of a 20 yard passing touchdown to Chamon Metayer, the Iowa State defense held the senior quarterback in check. Jones finished the first half with only 83 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Jeremiah Cooper picked off Jones to end the half. This marked Cooper’s fifth interception on the season and the Cyclones sixth pick in the last six quarters. The defense continued to get the ball into the hands of the offense in a hurry as Cincinnati converted only one of their six third-down attempts all day.
Iowa State’s shifted the momentum of the game on their 17-play 59-yard drive to start the second quarter. After moving up the field slowly, it appeared the Cyclones would be stuffed inside Cincinnati’s 30 yard line, being forced to kick a field goal. Campbell took a chance, and it paid off. Chase Contreraz showed off his running ability by faking the 30 yard field goal gaining six yards and setting up the scoring drive.
Rocco Becht and the Cyclones did not waste the pivotal fake field goal. Driving down the field cutting out over seven minutes of the game clock ending with a quarterback rush for Iowa State’s first touchdown of the game.
After driving 59 yards in 17 plays, Becht fired a 75 yard pass to Jayden Higgins wasting no time getting right back into Cincinnati’s red zone. Brahmer who had dropped an open touchdown in the first quarter redeemed himself by hauling in a 14 yard touchdown reception putting Iowa State up 17-7 going into halftime.
NEVER LOOKED BACK
Going into the game, the defense struggled against Big 12 offenses allowing home run-type plays early on and giving up nearly 400 yards of total offense in three straight weeks. Today, the defense played one of their best games of the season holding the Bearcats to only 214 yards. Jones was sat once the game was out of reach for Cincinnati with 96 passing yards.
What else can be said about this defense? Before kickoff Cincinnati’s Xzavier Henderson ranked second in yards per game (82.8), third in receptions per game (6.0), and fourth in total receptions (30) in the conference. Today, the star receiver was nowhere to be found with NFL prospects Tampa and Cooper containing him to zero receptions.
Cincinnati was not able to get the ball to their playmakers, that was far from the case for Iowa State. Becht dished out the ball to five different receivers. Higgins hauled in a season-high 172 yards. His second most in his career (185).
Iowa State outscored the Bearcats 27-3 in the second half with another week of complete and balanced play calling. The Cyclones rushed for 123 yards with one rushing touchdown and passed for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Becht was once again consistent throwing for over 200 yards for the third time this season and no turnovers.
The Cyclones have completely turned themselves around since the Ohio loss, winning three of the last four, and look set and ready to battle for bowl eligibility.