AMES — Iowa State’s offense is on a record breaking pace through 11 football games.
The Cyclones are averaging 35.6 points per game and and 482.4 yards per game — both are second to Oklahoma in the Big 12 and both would be school records by wide margins.
Iowa State’s scoring record was set in 2002, when the Cyclones averaged 31 points per game and the total yards record was set in 1976 when the Cyclones averaged 439.6.
On Saturday, Iowa State will bring its high-powered offense to Manhattan, Kansas, to play Kansas State at 6 p.m.
What’s allowed the Iowa State offense to be so good? To coach Matt Campbell, the answer is simple.
“Brock Purdy,” Campbell said. “That’s probably how I’d explain it, really. For us, it’s the evolution of a quarterback.”
While that’s an easy answer — the sophomore quarterback is having a record-breaking season of his own — there’s a little more to it than that.
It also has to do with the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator took a one-year hiatus to coach tight ends for the Indianapolis Colts last season, so the rest of the offensive staff had to pick up the slack. It forced them to take on bigger roles and duties within the offense.
Now that Manning is back, the whole offensive staff is more aware of everything that’s going on around them — not just their position groups.
Earlier this season, Campbell called receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase a “Coaching star in the making.”
“It’s great to have coach Manning back, but it was great to have (quarterbacks coach) Joel Gordon, Nate Scheelhaase, (offensive line coach) Jeff Myers and (tight ends coach) Alex Golesh get more experience,” Campbell said. “These are guys that took on a huge role a year ago and grew and are dynamic coaches.”
It’s not often a person thinks of a coach emerging like they would a young player in program, but that’s exactly what Campbell sees.
“That staff is comparable to the emergence of some of these really talented young players,” Campbell said.
Maybe the biggest benefactor of Iowa State’s offensive coaches emerging has been the fourth-quarter offense.
The coaches are able to analyze what they’re seeing and what the defense is trying to do and, in-game, retool the offense to exploit the opposing defense.
It’s because of this that Iowa State is averaging 10.7 points per fourth quarter this season. In Big 12 play, the number goes up to 11 points per fourth quarter.
In five of Iowa State’s 11 games this season, the Cyclones have scored at least 14 points in the fourth quarter — in three of those, they've scored at least 20.
“It’s our ability to communicate amongst the staff and then getting that information relayed to the players,” Campbell said. “Then our players have enough understanding of what we’re trying to do to go win the game. All of those things kind of come into play.
“You’ve seen us change the rhythm of the game a lot. Go back to Oklahoma, and it’s a different pace and a different tempo and even last week it was a different tempo and a different pace.”
In the Oklahoma game, when Iowa State was down three touchdowns, it didn’t panic. It ran the ball with running back Breece Hall to methodically, and efficiently, score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Against Kansas last week, it was the opposite. They put the ball in Purdy’s hands and let him score three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“In the Kansas game, the run game was good, but (La’Michael) Pettway and Charlie (Kolar) were really good matchups, so we found ways to get them the ball more and more,” Purdy said. “I knew that if I got the ball to them, they’d be able to make plays — especially on 3rd and eight when I went to Pettway to seal the game.”
Kolar had six receptions for 115 yards and Pettway had six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas.
After every drive, Purdy goes over to the phone and calls up to Gordon and Manning so they can talk about how the last drive went and what they want to do on the next drive. And by the time the fourth quarter comes around, Purdy knows exactly what he’s looking at.
“We’re talking about what we’re going to do next drive, what we’ve seen and what kind of coverages they’re running,” Purdy said. “It’s on me to figure out what we’re going to do from here on out. It’s nice to be able to go on the field and be able to see what they’re seeing and exploit the defense that way.”
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