AMES — Big Game week can mean big things for formerly lesser-known players.
Not unimportant players, just those who don’t often stride into the spotlight, or fit the textbook definition of “star.”
In other words, non-quarterbacks.
“Anyone that steps on the field can change the game and swing the game,” said Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp, one of several supporting cast members who could directly impact the outcome of Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Iowa.
Take last week.
Van Der Kamp dropped five punts inside the Tulsa 16-yard line, which earned him Big 12 special teams player of the week honors.
He punted just twice in last season’s 44-41 triple-overtime win over Iowa, belting one to the Hawkeyes’ five-yard line.
A second-quarter three and out.
Dueling fumbles later, ISU scored it’s first touchdown on a Steele Jantz pass to Darius Reynolds, pulling within three points at 10-7.
“It’s important every time I go out there that I focus in and do my job,” Van Der Kamp said.
Flashy players adopt that no-nonsense approach, too.
Aaron Horne’s one of the Cyclones’ top receivers, but remains somewhat in the shadows of Josh Lenz and emerging pass-catching threat, Chris Young.
Horne made the single longest catch from scrimmage for ISU last season: a 57-yarder that helped his team take a 17-16 lead over Iowa.
As X-factors go, his spot is marked with a Sharpie.
“He’s got really, really good quickness,” Cyclone offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. “He may catch it and be stopped when he catches it, but then he has the ability to accelerate and be going full speed in about one step.”
Situational pass rusher Rony Nelson could be among 12 players dotting ISU’s defensive front.
The son of Haitian refugees knows he won’t see the field a ton, so makes every snap count.
He dropped Tulsa quarterback Cody Green once in last week’s win — and nearly got him a second time.
Today, he’ll go after Iowa play-caller James Vandenberg, who was sacked six times by Northern Illinois.
“Whatever I can get, I get,” Nelson said. “To contribute to the team — I like it.”
Same goes for Deon Broomfield, a wild card at nickel when ISU faces likely passing situations.
He turned his first interception into a 51-yard jaunt that helped seal the Tulsa win.
“When I first caught it, I didn’t know if I should take a knee or not because in practice, we always take a knee in a two-minute situation,” Broomfield said. “Then I think Jeremiah (George) grabbed me and was like, ‘C’mon. let’s run.’ I was like, ‘All right.’”
It’s unknown how much Broomfield will see the field today, as the Cyclones expect to run it’s base 4-3 defense more often.
That makes George another ISU X-factor at MIKE linebacker.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to make a lot of plays,” said Cyclone linebacker Jake Knott, one of the headliners.
Stars emerge from relative obscurity in this game.
Player such as Jantz, who had one up-and-down start under his belt before hitting the Hawkeyes with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions in last year’s win.
Stars in waiting.
“It’s so early in the season, there’s so many unknowns, so many question marks,” said ISU running back Jeff Woody, a short-yardage specialist who delivered the final punishing blows in last season’s double-overtime win over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State. “It’s exciting — because I’ve obviously been there — for fans to play the roulette of who’s going to be the one that makes the big play?”