By Anthony Hanson, KURE Sports Reporter
AMES- Iowa State returns to Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday to take on Kansas State. All eyes will be on the rushing attacks of the Big 12 rivals as they search for a conference win under the lights.
Iowa State will attempt to prevent a three-game losing streak in the 6:30 p.m. matchup. The game can be streamed on ESPN+ Big 12 Now.
Tale of Two Backfields
The Kansas State backfield of dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Deuce Vaughn certainly deserves some attention. Martinez and Vaugh both filled the stat sheet in wins against Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Martinez gained 300 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in the wins, and he’s enjoyed the company of Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson as the only Power 5 quarterbacks in the last 15 years with a similar two-game stretch.
Vaughn was an All-American in 2021, and he notched career highs in rushing yards in the same two games. The tandem powered the Wildcats over the No. 6 ranked Sooners, a receiving votes Texas Tech team and earned them a spot in the top-20 nationally.
Safe to say, the dynamic duo has played a major part in putting Kansas State back on the map in the Big 12 landscape. Kansas State is currently second behind Kansas with a 4-1 overall record in the Big 12 standings.
The Iowa State backfield enters Saturday’s matchup in a different spot entirely.
Injuries and inexperience have limited the Cyclone ground attack and the offense as a whole. Iowa State gained only 26 rushing yards in its loss to Kansas last week with Jirehl Brock out, and Cartevious Norton also dinged up.
Head coach Matt Campbell admitted the Cyclones missed Brock in the run game while facing the Jayhawks. But the Cyclone head coach downplayed the rushing woes, saying the game’s flow helped neutralize the rush. Iowa State did play from behind most of the matchup and faced 23 third and fourth downs, not exactly the conditions for a big game on the ground.
The offense that has been tasked with replacing current NFL rookie Breece Hall has been underwhelming. But it’s not just one unit that takes the blame, Campbell said. The Cyclones have new faces in new spots in just about every position group.
“Globally offensively, we’ve been a hair off at times,” Campbell said. “We need to be a hair-on and be better. That’s not just one group; that’s the global whole.”
There’s lots of growth ahead, according to Campbell, as the Cyclones mend “self-inflicted” wounds, get healthy and gain more experience in the coming weeks.
In the passing game, Iowa State has enjoyed a more balanced approach. As early-season standout Xavier Hutchinson gains more attention from defenses, receivers Dimitri Stanley and Jaylin Noel have been able to even out the attack.
Stanley, in particular, feels he’s gained more trust from quarterback Hunter Dekkers. He was on the receiving end of a 53-yard connection last week. It was the game’s longest offensive play for Iowa State.
Stopping the run
While the offense may have been off in the Kansas loss, the defense kept Iowa State in the game. Iowa State limited Jalon Daniels and the ground attack of Kansas. Daniels had proven he was a dynamic runner and passer in the early season, but Iowa State didn’t allow any big plays to the Jayhawk quarterback.
Linebacker O’Rien Vance even added another forced fumble to his league-leading total of three.
“We got to stop the run,” Vance said. “That’s been one of our main focal points all season. If we can stop the run game, we can give our back end an opportunity to make plays on the ball and create turnovers.”
This week, the Cyclones have another capable dual-threat quarterback lining up across the line of scrimmage.
“This, by far, is going to be an extremely physical game because that’s what it is,” Vance said. “It’s one of those rivalries where it’s fun – it just brings out the best in your team.”