Sam B. Richardson threw an interception on Iowa State's first play from scrimmage, Texas Tech scored a touchdown three plays later, and the Red Raiders never trailed en route to a 66-31 victory in Lubbock on Saturday.
Despite a 23 carry, 245 yard performance from Mike Warren the Cyclones abandoned the run at inopportune times when the game was within reach and paid for it due to Richardson's poor performance behind center. Richardson was relieved of his duties on the 3rd to last series of the game and finished 10-21 for 139 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.
Typically we would regale you with a drive-by-drive account of how the game broke down but it's easier to say that Tech scored on 10 of their 13 non-end of half possessions, and only one of those scores was a field goal. Iowa State simply couldn't keep pace with Richardson's early interception and a gameplan that didn't ride Warren enough until it was too late.
There were multiple turning points in the game. Richardson's interception to open things up, a touchdown reception by Tech that was not overturned upon review, Mahomes' scrambling, half of a prayer throw that Jakeem Grant came down with, and Iowa State not capitalizing on their first two possessions of the second half.
However, there is a much more sinister set of plays that cost this team the game and it started at the 8:21 mark of the 2nd quarter. Facing a 31-14 deficit Mark Mangino dialed up six passing plays in a row that ultimately resulted in a Colin Downing punt and 3:22 off the clock. Tech scored seven plays later, Iowa State responded with a touchdown at the end of the half by Joshua Thomas, and nothing really changed.
Yet if you look at the drive you see the difference between a Bill Snyder, unquestioned Hall of Fame football coach, and Paul Rhoads, unquestioned displayer of pride. Mike Warren had been averaging over 10 yards per carry up until that point, Iowa State needed to limit the amount of time Tech possessed the ball, and Warren never saw a touch on that drive.
That was when the game, and possibly the season, was lost.
This isn't to take anything away from Warren. He's easily the best back to come through the program since Alexander Robinson a half a decade ago, and he broke Stevie Hicks' freshman season rushing record early in the 3rd quarter. If Ennis Haywood was an M1 Abrams tank then Warren is the M3 Bradley: not as intimidating but just as effective. Warren is the lone bright spot of the offense currently and it's criminal he was being used in garbage time in the 4th quarter and not when the game mattered midway through the 2nd.
Tech improves to 4-2 (1-2) on the season while Iowa State falls to 2-3 (1-1). The vaunted pass defense that was to lead the Cyclones this season fell apart behind a 39-56, 515 yard, six touchdown performance from three Tech quarterbacks and will now try to pick up the scraps when facing equally dangerous offenses in TCU and Baylor the next two weeks.
We'll have a final word on the game on Monday, and the Cyclones are back in action on Saturday at 6 PM against TCU in Jack Trice Stadium. That game can be seen on either ESPNU or ESPN 2.