By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads leaned in as his strong safety Deon Broomfield prepared to answer reporters’ questions.
“Deon wants to be a coach,” Rhoads said of the Florida native late in fall camp. “I’ll be anxious to hear how he handles these questions. His poise — does he stop and think?”
Broomfield, a senior, laughed.
But there’s nothing funny about his proven ball-hawking ability entering Saturday’s 5 p.m. home game against Iowa — nor that of his predecessor at the position, Durrell “Pig” Givens.
“I can’t explain it,” senior free safety and captain Jacques Washington said.
It’s a good kind of head-scratcher for ISU, which has worked to clean up several less encouraging developments in the aftermath of the 28-20 season-opening loss to Northern Iowa.
Broomfield, primarily a nickelback last season, forced and recovered two fumbles against the Panthers, one of which — raked free near the Cyclones’ goal line with 1:44 left — kept hope for a comeback alive.
The other, collected in UNI’s red zone, set up a short Cole Netten field goal.
“One of them, I just made a tackle and got up and the ball was right there,” Broomfield said Monday with a shrug. “The other one, I thought (UNI’s David Johnson) was about to score. I don’t know how he fumbled it, but I was right there. Not big plays, where you think you’re going out of your way. Just making a regular play.”
With very uncommon results.
Broomfield’s pair of recoveries gave the Cyclones a total of eight fumble scoop-ups at strong safety in the past 14 games.
Givens pounced on a FBS-best six last season.
So something’s happening at strong safety for ISU — whatever its basis.
“I think it’s rare, for sure; coincidental,” Rhoads said. “But you’re talking about two players that play the game hard and hustle all over the field — play the game from snap through the whistle. When you’re doing that, guys that hustle usually end up around the football and making plays. Deon and Pig are both guys that play the game that way. Certainly, we’d like to see that trend continue.”
Similar drive-stopping efforts by Broomfield and other Cyclones (0-1) will likely be needed against the Hawkeyes (1-1), who tied for 13th among FBS teams last season at plus-12 in turnover margin.
And though Broomfield pegged his proclivity for takeaways as 50-50 skill and luck, Washington saw something else.
“One of those hits Deon made was just an incredible play,” said Washington, who intercepted three passes last season, including one in the grinding 9-6 win over Iowa.
So Broomfield, the future coach, calls his plays “regular.”
Washington frames them in glowing terms.
Either way, the root causes remain the same.
“Some guys might just be content,” Broomfield said. “But day in and day out I try to find at least one thing I can get better at.”
NEW GUY: Iowa State coaches hinted true freshman cornerback Nigel Tribune might not redshirt near the end of fall camp. Now, it’s almost certain the 5-10, 179-pounder will play. “I think he’s going to start on one or two special teams,” Rhoads said of Tribune, who also rose to No. 2 at right cornerback on the depth chart. “So it’s full speed ahead. We’re pushing him out of the nest.”
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