It's the only time of year where you can fit Halloween, Homecoming and an Iowa State football game in one day.
2015 Game VIII: Iowa State (2-5, 1-3) vs. University of Texas (3-4, 2-2)
Date: October 31, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM CDT
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Line: Texas -5.5, O/U 51
Television: Fox Sports 1
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Wow what a week for Iowa State football! Joel Lanning takes over the starting gig at quarterback, safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is deemed out for the season due to injury, and, oh yeah, we have a new offensive coordinator.
As you can read here, the new play-caller is none other than Todd Sturdy. Sturdy, who is an Iowa native, brings a balanced attack to the table. Rhoads has said since day one that he wants to run the football, and also exclaimed on Monday that there aren't going to be any drastic changes to the offense.
Lanning outplayed, outgunned, and outran Sam Richardson in last week's affair against Baylor, and deserves to be named the starter on Saturday. But don't be surprised if Richardson takes some snaps too. Some of Sam's best days have been against the burnt orange of Texas.
This week, a lot of issues came to light for this program. There seemed to be a riff in the coaching staff, and it appears that Rhoads has taken care of that issue. We may never know what the cause of that was, but all we can do as fans is move forward and believe in the coaches at the helm.
When we last left off....
Another game, another incomplete performance. Baylor shot out to a 35-0 lead in the second quarter, then for the remaining 38 minutes we saw a glimpse of promise for ISU. The Cyclones lost to the No. 2 team in the nation, albeit a 45-27 score, but the defense looked surprisingly faster and the offense moved the chains with a new quarterback.
Cornerback Nigel Tribune and the secondary held Baylor to its lowest output in the passing game, and the defensive line garnered pressure in Baylor's backfield. Running back Mike Warren and his bash brother Joshua Thomas ran wild as both averaged over five yards per carry and moved the ball successfully against an athletic defense.
The most excitement came from new quarterback Joel Lanning. The Ankeny native changed the dynamic of the offense by adding a threat in the running game. What that does is put the defense's main focus on not just one runner, but two, forcing the safeties to creep up, and the linebackers to always take a step forward, in turn creating windows for the receivers (and tight ends) to get open in the play-action. All season Sam Richardson has been advised by his staff to not run the ball due to injury concerns. Joel "LANRAM" Lanning has the body to take hits and the power to fall forward for the extra yard. Advantage Iowa State.
Only Texas has found more Iowa State ways to lose than, well, Iowa State. They started 1-1, only to lose to California on a missed extra point (we feel your pain), in addition to a last-minute gaffe by their punter against Oklahoma State. Then came a 50-7 loss to TCU and a career-saving win for Charlie Strong against Oklahoma. Texas has turned it on as of late, behind 294 rush yards per game in their last two outings.
The Longhorns are 3-4 overall, 2-2 in the conference, and haven't lived up to the expectations of Strong and his staff. They carry a young roster, starting SEVEN true freshmen, plus a redshirt freshman at quarterback.
To top it all off, one of the Longhorns gave Iowa State some more locker room motivation this week:
Texas DT Paul Boyette: "Iowa State's not a very good team. One week can play well, and the next week they can be flat."— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) October 26, 2015
Texas leads the all-time series 11-1, and has never lost in Ames.
Of course, we all remember this play from two years ago.
Which led to another patented Rhoads tirade.
Iowa State Offense
As explained earlier, Joel Lanning gives the Cyclones another dimension in the running game. He displays a knack for breaking tackles and doesn't get nervous like Sam in the pocket.
First Key to Victory - Keep The Playbook Simple
Utilize your power run game, and reduce Lanning's decision making process. Now that pass-happy Mangino is out the door, look for the Cyclones to run to set up the pass. Sturdy will focus on his strengths at hand, not mold the players around a system. The strength of this offense is their three-headed monster in the backfield with Lanning, Warren and Thomas. Once the run game gets going, then the play-action opens up.
The offensive line will have their work cut out for them though, as Texas has held their last two opponents to an average of 101 yards per game on the ground.
Second Key to Victory - Gain Yards on First and Second Down
In order to make Joel Lanning's first start easier, the offensive line will have to pave the way for easy runs on first and second down. ISU needs to hand the ball off, even if it is just three yards and a cloud of dust, and allow Lanning to make the easy throws to move the chains on third down.
Wide receiver Allen Lazard has been upgraded to probable with a rotator cuff injury, and may be a game-time decision. Even without Lazard in the lineup, this receiving corps still has weapons. Jauan Wesley is flourishing in the slot position, and we have seen Quenton Bundrage absolutely torch Texas in the past. I like this matchup for the Clones.
The Longhorns run a mix of 4-3 and nickel packages, and are led by second-year defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. They have turned it on in the last two games, holding their opponents to 13 points per game, and 260 total yards per output.
The Texas defense carries two seniors on their front line, plus preseason All-Big 12 defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway. They are third in the Big 12 with 18 sacks on the year.
The linebacking crew is raw, as they start two true freshmen. The other starter is senior Peter Jinkens, who claims the strongside role and leads the team in tackles.
In the secondary, the Longhorns are led by preseason All Big-12 cornerback Duke Thomas. The senior has started 30 games in his career. This Texas defense prides themselves on creating turnovers, and have already scored three times by way of defensive scores.
The Verdict - Even
This one is tough, because ISU trots out a brand new quarterback, with little experience and a small playbook to choose from. That can also be an advantage, as the opposition has little tape of Lanning playing. Texas's defense was subpar to start the season, but their young roster has continued to improve. All in all, there are 10 freshmen in the two-deeps, but a bevy of talent. I look for ISU to win the Bill Snyder way, by running the clock, and running to set up the pass.
Iowa State Defense
Even though ISU's record hasn't been what we wanted it to be, the defense has still out-performed to our regular standards (save the Texas Tech game). This defense has held both TCU and Baylor to below their season averages in points and yards, and have given the offense ample amount of opportunities to convert.
The left defensive end position has been decimated with injuries, as Gabe Luna, Trent Taylor AND Jhaustin Thomas have all been hurt due to ankle injuries. In walks J.D. Waggoner, who is an undersized end, but has stepped in admirably. Tucker and Pierson need their third amigo to make this defense click, and the "Sack Mamba" needs to regain his form, as he has been held without a sack in the last three games.
Quite possibly ISU's best defensive player - Kamari Cotton-Moya - has a major hamstring injury, and will more than likely be out for the season. His long lost brother Darian Cotton will fill that role, but don't worry fans, Cotton at the free safety spot is MUCH better than his demoralizing play at the strong safety spot. The strong safety is responsible for man coverage with the slot receiver and tight end, and having Cotton roam as a free safety is much more optimal.
Just like the defense, the Texas offense has picked it up in the last two games. They went from averaging 171 yards on the ground in the first five games, up to a stellar 294 in the last two. Iowa State isn't the only one to get rid of their offensive coordinator this season, as Texas has turned the play calls over to former Oklahoma coordinator Jay Norvell.
Texas runs a two-quarterback system, with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard and junior
Sheryl Tyrone Swoopes. Heard has started since game two, and is a one-dimensional player, as he averages almost as many yards on the ground as he does in the air. Heard is not an accurate quarterback, and it shows, as he only throws for 116 yards per game. Texas is trying their best Bell-Dozer moniker, as they call Swoopes the "18-wheeler." Swoopes has averaged over five yards per carry and scored five TD's since the inception of their short-yardage package.
Third Key to Victory - Stop the Running Quarterbacks
Texas is not fancy in their offensive approach. They want to run the ball down your throat, even when you know it's coming. It will be important for the Iowa State defense to stay sound in their gaps and not allow the big Texas quarterbacks to get into the second level.
Texas also has two solid running backs with what seems like eighth-year senior Johnathan Gray and sophomore D'Onta Foreman. Gray is more of an every-down back, and Foreman is the speedster. On the outside, the Longhorns bring out shifty Daje Johnson, who is 5-foot-9 and can flat out run. Other than that, their receivers don't see a lot of passes thrown their way.
The Verdict - ISU by a nose
If there is anything to say about this year, it is that this ISU defense is for real. Even with Cotton-Moya out, this defense is still competent. Demond Tucker will be the key cog on Saturday, as he will eat up two blockers in space and disrupt the running game. ISU showed last week that it can contain the run, and I see Wally changing his approach with more defenders in the box and daring Texas to throw the ball.
It appears that redshirt freshman Chris Francis will handle the kickoff duties, and Cole Netten the place kicks. I'm sure the kicking duel was one for the ages this week in the Bergstrom facility.
Texas has a stud in return man Daje Johnson, as he is second in the league in punt returns and has taken one to the house.
Advantage - Texas
Iowa State might as well go for it on fourth down in the red zone..
KnowDan's Beer Pick of the Week
Stout season is upon on us, and while I normally recommend these for early tailgates I cannot resist the urge to do so this week due to the weather in Ames and it being the second to last home game. This week I'll bring you two brews from Decorah's Toppling Goliath Brewing.
The first is one you can find in mass distribution: Rover Truck, an oatmeal stout that's roasty and sweet but not overpowering. This is TG's base stout and it's one of the better ones out there. Bombers you find in stores are produced locally while cans and bottles are produced from TG's contracted brewer in Florida. It hardly matters though as most people cannot taste the difference.
The second is harder to find and came out recently. If your'e really nice to NormanUnderwood you might be able to get your hands on a bottle (after I do, of course). It's Mornin' Delight, an imperial stout that's designed with the coffee drinker in mind. From everything I have heard about this beer it's best suited to those of you who like your morning cup of coffee, and not of the Starbucks latte variety.
Buckle up, because this is going to be a close one folks. Texas may have turned the corner in their last two games, beating Oklahoma and Kansas State. But before that they failed to stop anybody on defense. Which team will show up on Saturday?
ISU has staked their claim recently, with an "Us Against the World" mentality, and have rallied behind Rhoads and the new coaching staff. A mid-season departure could go one of two ways, and it sounds like everyone is behind Sturdy. This team is hungry for a win, and wants to show their fans that they can bring home the victory on Homecoming.
Lanning is a fresh new face for the offense, and is just what the doctor ordered. This team needed some change, and now they have an identity with the power run game.
Texas has talent, but it is mighty young. The Longhorns have scored all of 10 points in road affairs this season, and play right into Iowa State's strengths. I like this matchup for the Cyclones and predict the good guys to win on Halloween night.
Iowa State 31