Cyclones’ Hall faces stiff test against stout OU run defense
So far, so good for Breece Hall.
The Iowa State sophomore has continued the roll he was on to end 2019, leading the Big 12 and ranking third in the nation in rushing through two games. His first real test comes when No. 18 Oklahoma visits Ames, Iowa, on Saturday night.
“It’s going to be a total different defense than what we faced a week ago, and that priority is going to be put on stopping the run game,” Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said Tuesday. “It will be a really good challenge for our offensive line and for Breece, and we’ll have to do a great job helping him find some creases throughout that football game.”
Hall ran for 154 yards and matched his career high with three touchdowns in a 37-34 win at TCU. That followed a 103-yard, one-touchdown outing in the season-opening loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Oklahoma is first in the Big 12 and fourth nationally in run defense, allowing a total of 120 yards in two games and 2.4 yards per carry.
Hall has shown the ability to dent the Sooners. Last year ,he ran for 110 yards and caught four passes for 33 yards in a 42-41 loss in Norman, Oklahoma. He had 79 of his rushing yards in the last 2 1/2 quarters.
“Last year, the defense did a really good job getting on us early,” Hall said. “They were flying around, they’re real fast. It took awhile for us to get settled in. Once we got comfortable, we got rolling. If we come out early and we’re on our stuff, we should be fine.”
Hall emerged the second half of his freshman year and is averaging 107 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns over his last 10 games.
Against TCU, he matched the longest run of his career with a 75-yard touchdown run, and his 32-yard burst for a TD gave the Cyclones a nine-point lead with under 3 minutes to play.
“Game 1 I came out and thought it was going to be a cakewalk, and I was definitely in for one (surprise) there,” Hall said, referring to the 31-14 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. “After that game I had a meeting with Campbell and we watched some film. We talked about how I could be better as a whole.”
There hasn’t been much to knock with Hall. His fumble in the opener is the only one in 251 touches over his 14 career games. He’s allowed no quarterback pressures in 20 snaps as a pass protector the first two games, according to Pro Football Focus. He has two runs over 30 yards and five others of at least 10.
“We know Breece is really talented and has the ability to make really positive plays,” Campbell said. “Sometimes as a young player, especially when you’re having success, you maybe try to do too much. He should have the confidence he is a great player and know you have to stay within yourself.”
For Hall, a win over Oklahoma certainly would make his stepfather happy. Jeff Smith backed up 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier at Nebraska and was part of two wins over the Sooners before he played four years in the NFL.
Hall and the Cyclones nearly got the job done last year after making up most of a 21-point, third-quarter deficit. Brock Purdy found tight end Charlie Kolar for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left to make it a one-point game. Campbell went for two points and the win, but Parnell Motley picked off a pass intended for La’Michael Pettway.
Hall said it was like being in a dream.
“I saw the ball in the air, I saw Charlie go and get it and it was crazy,” Hall said. “And then once I saw Campbell signal for two, it was, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re going to win the game.’ I was really excited. Unfortunately, it didn’t come out that way.”
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