Heading into week two featuring the annual Cy-Hawk rivalry against the Iowa State Cyclones, there is certainly no shortage of questions that the Iowa Hawkeyes have to answer offensively.
Coming off a season-opening win against South Dakota State, the offense did not do much of their part in it as they mustered up just one field goal the entire 60 minutes. That said, the good thing for the Hawkeyes’ offense is that the only way to go after that performance is upwards.
With Iowa State coming to town this weekend, there is no doubt about it that the offense is going to have to carry their end of the bargain to try and extend the winning streak over the Cyclones to seven.
The defense the Cyclones will field is going to be a talent level higher than that of the FCS contender Jackrabbits and will take a much-improved offensive effort. Let’s dive into the defense the Hawkeyes will be up against this Saturday afternoon.
Iowa State 2022 statistics
AP Photo/Matthew Putney
Before jumping to any conclusions, let’s set the stage. Iowa State hosted Southeast Missouri State last week. The talent level and talent gap is much more drastic than this week will be.
The Cyclones gave up just 10 points last week against SEMO but within those points are some things that raise an eyebrow. Although they dominated, they allowed 222 yards passing and even more interesting is they conceded 98 rushing yards. SEMO putting up 320 yards on a Power 5 school is rather respectable for the talent gap in this game.
The good news is that this defense appears to have areas the Hawkeyes can attack and make some hay. The bad news is that it appears it may be that the area to attack is the passing game, which Iowa has yet to get its footing in.
Will McDonald IV, DE
AP Photo/Matthew Putney
Make no mistake about it, Will McDonald IV will be in the NFL. He is an NFL talent and is going to give the Hawkeyes all they can ask for in pass protection. Coming off of an 11.5 sack year and All-American recognition from multiple outlets, McDonald is looking to take the next step.
He is Iowa State’s all-time sack leader with nearly an entire season left. Not only can he rush the passer, he plays the run game just fine as well with a career total of 34.5 tackles for loss. The Iowa offensive line will need to contain McDonald.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 23, 2021
Anthony Johnson Jr., Safety
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth
Anthony Johnson brings in 42 straight starts to give the Cyclones’ secondary an abundance of experience. Johnson is not just a pass game defender either as he has proven throughout his time at Iowa State. With 183 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, and 24 pass breakups Johnson is a bit of a do-it-all type safety.
Johnson will be able to sit on the passing game should Iowa get something going there or roll down into the alley as a run defender if reinforcements are needed. His presence may be slightly under-the-radar but one that can make a huge difference.
Gerry Vaughn, LB
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Gerry Vaughn is getting his shot this year after spending time splitting reps and contributing on special teams. Entering his fifth year at Iowa State, Vaughn will try to improve on a 2021 season that saw 45 tackles and an increased usage on defense.
Vaughn is a guy who did it the old fashioned way. He has been with the program since 2018 and started earning time by special teams plays. He is a “glue guy” that you can be assured will be sound on his assignments this weekend.
T.J. Tampa, CB
Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK
T.J. Tampa continues the trend of experience in the secondary for the Cyclones. He played in 13 games last season and has the experience just as Johnson does. There isn’t much these two haven’t seen and will rely on that experience if Iowa tries to test the passing game.
Tampa is getting his shot with the starting role this year and while his numbers don’t jump off the screen, experience in college football and a huge rivalry can’t be discounted.
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