After knocking off back to back ranked opponents before the bye, Iowa State would look to continue their run to the top of the Big 12 against a rising Texas Tech team. Tech came to Jack Trice with a 5-2 record with and back to back wins of their own. The Red Raiders entered the game having scored at least 30 points in every game but 2, and freshman QB Alan Bowman lighting up opposing defenses for 348 yards per game. Alan also had 14 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions on the season. With receivers like Nate Vasher and Antoine Wesley, the Iowa State defense would have to step up. Put the freshman in some tricky situations; get some pressure on him, and make him make a mistake.
Needless to say, the defense came through. Tech only scored 17 points (on offense) and the defense intercepted Bowman 3 times. 2 of which came in the 4th quarter, and the 3rd was a Pick-6 by Marcel Spears. (Because who else would get a Pick-6 against the Red Raiders?)
Other than the defense, what else went right? And what needs to be better in order to make a run to December?
What Went Right
Alright. Now that we’ve covered the outline of what the defense did, let’s look a little closer at how the defense shut down an explosive Texas Tech offense. The front 7 completely took the Tech run game out of the game. Da’Leon Ward had just 16 yards on 10 carries, and Ta’Zhawn Hentry mustered just 10 yards on 4 carries. Overall the Cyclones held Tech to just 30 rush yards, and kept them one dimensional the whole game.
Bowman did still throw for 323 yards, but the Cyclones figured him out and were able to make good adjustments later in the game making some great reads to intercept him, and get the ball back to Purdy and the offense to grind the clock and limit possessions. Earlier in the game, Marcel Spears did what Marcel Spears does. Read a QB, jump the throw, take it to the house:
Added on to this, the defense scored a safety for the THIRD straight game. With the game tied at 31, the Cyclones were forced to punt, and Corey Dunn pinned the Red Raiders at their own 15. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Alan Bowman had trouble with the play action, and the ball rolled into the end zone. Bowman threw the ball away and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Butler & Tarique ‘The Freak’ Milton
Tarique Milton started off the game with 6 receptions before anyone else even made a catch. In the time it took for the offense to find it’s groove, the freshman wide receiver stepped up in a big way. Milton ended with 7 catches for 89 yards, averaging 12.7 yards per catch.
After Purdy got warmed up, he found Butler 4 times for 148 yards, a massive 37.0 yards per catch. Butler also iced the game with a 48 yard score. This put the Cyclones up 9 with just 2:25 to go in the game.
Butler has been the Cyclones go-to deep threat this year (because, duh) averaging 25.42 yards per catch in conference play, and has been particularly productive with Brock Purdy at the QB spot, averaging 3 yards per catch more in the last 3 games.
Another stand out freshman on Saturday (and over the recent weeks) was Tight End Charlie Kolar. Charlie only had one catch for 9 yards on Saturday, but it was a great catch in traffic for a touchdown. This gave the Cyclones the lead in the 2nd quarter, and capped off an 89 yard drive.
Kolar has 3 touchdowns in the last 4 weeks. As the commentators brought up during the game, over the 4 years prior to this one, Cyclones Tight Ends had 0 TD receptions. ZERO.
What Went Wrong
After having an amazing first 5 games, the Cyclones’ Special Teams unit has really struggled over the last 2. After having a blocked field goal last week, the Cyclones continued to struggle in the kicking game. Assalley has missed 3 of his last 4 (including the block.) The most recent being a 37 yard attempt in the first quarter on Saturday. Connor did redeem himself on the first drive of the 2nd half by tying the game at 17. Hopefully that is a sign of better to come for the rest of the season.
Surprisingly enough, the field goal unit wasn’t the unit with the worst play of the day. This came on the Cyclones’ first possession of the game. After the Tech defense forced a 3 and out, Corey Dunn had his punt blocked by Thomas Leggett who also recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
This is the 2nd game in a row in which the special teams has blocked a kick and returned it for a touchdown. With 4 conference games left, including a date with #17 Texas, the Special Teams has to sure up their protection.
After back to back games with a school record 7 sacks, the Cyclones were only able to get to QB Alan Bowman twice. Credit to the Tech O-line for standing strong against the Cyclones’ pass rush, and also credit to Bowman for moving in the pocket and getting rid of the ball quickly.
Getting that consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been one of the mainstays of the Cyclone defense so far, and will need to continue should the Cyclones make late run in the Big 12.
Special Teams: B- (Focus on protection)
Towel Ropes: Very festive
Ass Alley: 50/50
Red Raiders: Wrecked