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2018 Bowl Coverage

Alamo Bowl First Look: Cougars, Cyclones Almost Exact Opposites Of Each Other

In so many ways, this one is a clash of styles. At least on paper, that seems to advantage one team.



Getty Images - David K. Purdy

Iowa State and Washington State meet in the Alamo Bowl on December 28th, and the game’s worth a quick glance before we get more into it.

The most interesting aspect of this matchup is that between the Cyclone defense and Washington State’s Air Raid that Mike Leach brought with him to Pullman.

Leach is entertaining in front of a mic but he’s also one of the best in the business at developing efficient offenses that can throw the ball amd score. Washington State’s stats highlight that in spades – the Cougars average 38.3 yards per game and 379.8 yards passing per game.

Iowa State Cyclones gear at

Iowa State, meanwhile, has not been the kind of team that is going to necessarily be overly impressive in terms of numbers. They tend to play closer games, evidenced in part by their 4.3-point margin of victory, which doesn’t compare favorably to Washington State’s 15.2 more points scored per contest than their opponents.

The Cyclones have also only outgained opposing offenses by eight yards per game, reflecting the fact head coach Matt Campbell’s team tends to play a relatively close game against whoever they’re facing.

Washington State probably hasn’t played the kind of dynamic offenses that Iowa State’s faced all year, but the Cougars have put up some fairly good numbers defensively. Their 345.3 yards per game allowed is above average, and their 23.1 points per game allowed is Top 40 in the nation.

Points Per Game 26.8 38.3
Points Allowed/Game 22.5 23.1
Yards Per Game 359.0 461.8
Opp. Yards Per Game 351.0 345.3
Points Per Play .411 .490
Opp. Points Per Play .307 .345
Yards Per Play 5.6 6.1
Opp. Yards Per Play 4.9 5.1
3rd Down Conversion % 38.62 44.44
Opp. 3rd Down Conversion % 42.07 35.14
Turnovers Gained 15 20
Turnovers Lost 16 14
Average Time of Possesion 28:42 32:27

Iowa State’s had some instability at quarterback, a likely contributing factor to their unimpressive numbers offensively.

Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy gave a real boost to the offense after he became the starter in October. Since then, he’s been one of the most efficient passers in the Big 12. Purdy has elevated the quarterback position for the Cyclones, highlighted by his 172.7 QB rating.

The numbers also don’t tell the full story on running back David Montgomery, one of the best at his position in the nation. Montgomery has an elite ability to fight through tackles and find running lanes, but he’s managed 4.7 yards per carry despite having to often take on tacklers in his own backfield.

ISU – B. Purdy 128/193 1,935 10 16 5 172.7
WSU – G. Minshew 433/613 4,477 7.3 36 9 148.4
ISU – D. Montgomery 231 1,092 4.7 12
WSU – J. Williams 119 522 4.6 12
ISU – H. Butler 51 1,126 22.1 9
WSU – D. Patmon 55 740 13.5 4

The Cougars have talent on the offensive side of the ball as well. The biggest story for them all season has been senior Gardener Minshew, the signal caller who really makes the offense go.

One of the most impressive stats is Minshew’s 4-to-1 ratio of touchdowns-to-interceptions, a statistic that definitely contributes to a 148.4 passer rating. And he’s thrown it plenty this season, averaging 51 passes per game.

That contrasts sharply with the Cougars seeming lack of interesting in running the ball, which they only do a little over 20 times a game. Indeed, under Leach Washington State is a true “Air Raid” team with receivers all over the field.

Overall, the raw statistics in this game look much better for Washington State than they do for Iowa State, but there’s a good reason to think that this will be a close game. The Cougars’ offensive output compares favorably to teams in the Big 12, with whom the Cyclones have shown they can hold their own. Iowa State has faced a couple of Leach proteges this season, and managed to bottle up those offenses.  It will be interesting to see if they do so again on the 28th of December.

Washington State and Iowa State kickoff inside the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX at 8:00 p.m.

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