Wallace, Hawkeye linebackers prepared for Cyclone run game

Iowa will attempt to slow the Cyclones’ potent run game with its base 4-3 Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.


Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

In a nationally televised, top-10 matchup, No. 10 Iowa will take on No. 9 Iowa State this Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

While the Hawkeyes will rely on junior running back Tyler Goodson to handle the majority of their workload out of the backfield, the Cyclones have a bevy of options to run the ball.

“There’s really no secret there, we’re going to have to be in a 4-3 defense from a personnel standpoint,” Iowa linebackers coach Seth Wallace said in a Zoom press conference with reporters Wednesday.

A 4-3 defense features four down linemen and three linebackers — better suited to protect against running plays.

In the Hawkeyes’ latest depth chart, junior Jack Campbell is listed as the starting middle linebacker, while junior Seth Benson comes in at middle linebacker and junior Dane Belton checks in at the cash position. Jestin Jacobs is Iowa’s starter at strongside linebacker when that position is on the field.

The Hawkeyes’ linebackers and defensive linemen will be tasked with slowing Iowa State’s stout run game Saturday.

But the Cyclones’ not-so-secret weapon in 2021 comes in junior running back Breece Hall. The 2020 unanimous first-team All-American rushed for 1,572 yards last season to top the national leaderboard.

For Wallace, Hall draws comparisons to former Cyclone David Montgomery — who now plays for the Chicago Bears. In the Hawkeyes’ 2018 matchup against the Cyclones, Iowa held Montgomery to just 44 yards on 17 carries in the 13-3 victory.

“Whether it be David Montgomery — and we’re reminded of that daily, the success that he had and the challenges that he presented — but even more so now with the decorated accolades that Breece Hall has,” Wallace said. “…When Breece Hall, when he’s out in the open, he’s as good as they are in college football. And we have to do everything we can to keep him inside and in front of us.”

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Wallace also noted the defensive line will have to watch out for Cyclone quarterback Brock Purdy, who frequently utilizes the quarterback run game. In Iowa State’s season-opener against University of Northern Iowa on Sept. 4, Purdy rushed for 58 yards on nine carries.

The Cyclones’ starting tight end, senior Charlie Kolar, missed Iowa State’s season-opener because of a right ankle injury, but the 2020 second-team All-American is expected to start this Saturday. Kolar led the Cyclones with 591 receiving yards in 2020.

“I think Iowa State, they’ve got four guys that obviously understand what they’re doing tight end-wise,” Wallace said. “Whether it’s 88 [Kolar], whether it’s 11 [Chase Allen], whether it’s 43 [Jared Rus], or even this young kid 87 [Easton Dean], it does present some challenge to us personnel wise.”

The last time the Hawkeyes and Cyclones met in 2019, Iowa gave up two big plays — a 51-yard and a 73-yard touchdown reception. While Iowa held on to win in Ames, 18-17, Wallace said the main focus of the Hawkeye defense against the Cyclones is preventing plays over 25 yards.

“There’s something we stress around here defensively more than anything,” Wallace said. “That is the big play … A big thing for us is just that we have to keep the ball inside and in front of us, realize there’s a lot of unknowns in it, and let’s not try to do too much in the beginning. And then, we’re going to have to put our feet in the dirt, toes in the dirt, and fight.”

The Hawkeyes will take on the Cyclones at 3:36 p.m. in Ames on Saturday. The game will be televised on ABC, and ESPN College GameDay will host the pregame show starting at 8 a.m.