AMES, Iowa (AP) — With three games left, Iowa State is in position to put up the best offensive season in school history.
The Cyclones (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) enter Saturday’s home finale against Kansas (3-7, 1-6) — which has the league’s worst defense — with a chance to move closer to breaking the program record for points per game (33.5) set in 1976. Iowa State is averaging 35.1 points a game in 2019, and it only trails Oklahoma in points in league contests at 33.3.
The Cyclones, who are also outgaining opponents by over 120 yards per game, have surged toward the school record behind an improved line and the rapid development of multiple skill position players.
“I think diversity in the offense is always good,” tight end Charlie Kolar said. “When you have multiple guys who are able to catch the ball, it’s harder to key in on one target, which opens thing up for (quarterback) Brock (Purdy) more and the running game. Can’t go wrong with that.”
Purdy has gotten a large share of the credit for Iowa State’s explosive offense. He’s third nationally with an average of 320.3 yards passing, trailing only Washington State’s Anthony Gordon and Heisman Trophy front-runner Joe Burrow of LSU.
But Purdy wouldn’t be where he is without the somewhat unexpected contributions of Kolar and graduate transfer La’Michael Pettway.
Kolar, who caught just 11 passes a year ago, has 41 catches for 549 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
Pettway, who never had more than 30 receptions in a season while at Arkansas, has caught 42 passes — and four of those went for scores. That’s despite missing spring practice, which coach Matt Campbell said put Pettway behind schedule entering fall camp.
Pettway had arguably his best game in last week’s win over Texas, catching eight passes for 100 yards.
“I think it takes a really special guy to come in here that wants to come in here, that wants to fit with our culture and what we do and how we do things here,” Campbell said. “La’Michael has done an unbelievable job of fitting in to that.”
One player Iowa State expected to lean heavily on is senior wide receiver Deshaunte Jones.
Jones has rewarded the Cyclones’ faith with the best season of his career.
Jones, whose career high for receptions was 43 last year, already has 63 catches for 748 yards. He also made perhaps the biggest grab of his career against the Longhorns.
Texas had cut Iowa State’s lead to 10-7 with a 75-yard drive that lasted just 30 seconds to close the first half. But on the first play of the third quarter, Jones broke free deep and waited until Purdy could find him.
Purdy eventually located Jones, and the two connected on a 75-yard touchdown that gave Iowa State the momentum back.
Jones is now sixth in school history in catches in a season and is 18 shy of tying the program high of 81, set by Tracy Henderson in 1983.