Football heads to Iowa State for first conference away game

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TCU will need big performances from quarterback Max Duggan (15) and running back Darius Anderson (6) to come away with a win in Aims on Saturday. Photo by Heesoo Yang.

TCU football will return to Ames, Iowa this weekend for the first time since 2017, where the No. 5 Horned Frogs went into Cyclone country and were stifled by a 5-2 Iowa State squad, 14-7.

“I don’t think they’re similar,” head coach Gary Patterson said, comparing the 2017 team to the current team. “[Those are] two different teams.”

TCU’s last game at Iowa State followed a 43-0 win against Kansas. This week, the Horned Frogs face a very similar situation. TCU heads to Ames this Saturday following another dominant win over Kansas at home last week. 

Though they stand at just 2-2, Iowa State’s record is deceiving. Their two losses have come to No. 19 Iowa and an undefeated Baylor team by a combined three points.

“They’ve kept themselves in ball games,” Patterson said. “They don’t beat themselves a lot. They play better when they play at home.”

The Cyclones have won their last four games against Big 12 opponents at home, which has become one of the conference’s toughest places to play.

“Ames, Iowa—tough place to play, good team, second Big 12 game—[I’m] just excited for it,” right guard David Bolisomi said.

To change that, TCU will have to stop the nation’s seventh-best quarterback. Brock Purdy averages 332.8 passing yards per game, a huge reason why the Cyclones come in 13th in the country with 500 yards of total offense per game.

In Iowa State’s 72-20 blowout of Louisiana-Monroe, Purdy broke the Iowa State single-game total offense record with 510 yards. The sophomore posted six touchdowns in the win, three passing and three rushing

While TCU only gives up an average of just 166.8 passing yards per game, they have yet to face a quarterback of Purdy’s caliber. 

Deshaunte Jones has been Purdy’s primary target this season. The senior from Cincinnati has caught 27 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown. His 6.8 catches per game ranks 15th nationally.

Jones is not the only pass catcher for the Cyclones, though.  Tight end Charlie Kolar has been stellar thus far, recording 4.8 receptions (second nationally) and 62.2 yards (fifth nationally) per game this season.

With cornerbacks Julius Lewis and Kee’Yon Steward doubtful for Saturday, look for senior Jeff Gladney to try and limit Purdy’s connection with Jones that has been so successful this season.  Meanwhile, linebacker Garrett Wallow (third in FBS with 31 solo tackles) will attempt to stop Kolar from being dangerous down the middle.

First-year Max Duggan is expected to start for TCU, though graduate transfer Alex Delton will most likely be seen in the first half.  The game represents sort of a homecoming for Duggan, who is from Council Bluffs, Iowa, just over 160 miles from Ames.

In 2018, Iowa State had one of the Big 12’s better run games behind David Montgomery, who rushed for 1216 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year.  With Montgomery now a member of the Chicago Bears’ roster, the Cyclones have a much weaker ground game, gaining just 152.2 yards per game, ninth in the Big 12. 

On defense, the Cyclones are led by linebacker Vance O’Rien, who leads the Big 12 with 1.4 sacks per game. O’Rien has posted at least one sack in every game this season, leading a defense that has given up an average of just 115.0 rushing yards per game this season.

TCU will certainly test the stout run defense of Iowa State, as the Frogs are averaging 275.2 rushing yards per game this season, third in the Big 12. The rushing attack is led by Darius Anderson, the conference’s second-best rusher.

Running back Darius Anderson ranks 13th nationally with 483 rushing yards this season. Photo by Heesoo Yang.

“It’s amazing,” Bolisomi said about blocking for Anderson. “Jet [Anderson] is a very very good running back.”

Anderson has rushed for 483 yards and five touchdowns so far. He is currently on a streak of three-straight games with 100 or more rushing yards.

Receivers Mikel Barkley, Tre Hights and Taye Barber are all questionable to play on Saturday. With this in mind, keep an eye on tight end Pro Wells, who has caught three touchdown passes in the last two games.

Kickoff against the Cyclones is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.