2018 Game X: #18 Iowa State (6-3, 5-2) vs. #13 Texas (7-3, 5-2)
Date: Saturday November 17, 2018
Time: 7:00 P.M. CST
Location: Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX
Line: Texas -3
Television: Longhorn Network – click here for options to watch
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Boy oh Boy! This one is for all the Marbles!
Iowa State is ALL IN - Nothing holding us back, pulling out all the stops, and we are going to leave it all on the field!
Never have I remembered a more pivotal Cyclone football game in my 31-year life as a fan. Needless to say, Iowa State is still perceived as underrated, underappreciated, and the forgotten team of the Big 12.
That can all change with one victory – on the road in Texas’s house.
LETS DO THIS!
When we last left off….
I was tremendously impressed by Baylor last week, as they found the chink in Jon Heacock and the defense’s armor with an outstanding game plan.
It was simple – take whats in front of you, dink and dunk your way down the field, and if it isn’t there – let your quarterback tuck and run. By lining up in 4-wide sets, ISU was not allowed to keep the spy, and they were very patient and disciplined in their approach.
With that being said, the Cyclone defense clamped down in the Red Zone and made plays when it had to. I’m sure coach Heacock and company have ironed out the flaws and are ready for a new game plan when they go up against another stellar running quarterback.
The offense was efficient, or might I say Brock Purdy was, as he started the day 9-for-10 and ISU converted on their first SIX third downs. We saw a new wrinkle with more Run-Pass-Options and have started to open up the playbook for this God-gifted true freshman.
While Iowa State did beat Baylor 28-14, the Bears left points on the board. Now we move forward to a matchup against the Longhorns without one of our best (David Montgomery) in the first half.
Texas has had a roller-coaster type of season. First, they lay an egg to Maryland, only to come back and beat Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown. Not only that, but they string out SIX straight victories and jump all the way up to #6 in the rankings.
Then Oklahoma State happens. LOSS. Then West Virginia. LOSS. And after sneaking one out against Texas Tech this Longhorn team is reeling with an injury-depleted defense, yet are seeing their quarterback – Sam Ehlinger hit his stride.
Led by second-year coach Tom Herman, this team has turned the corner, and may not be “Back” quite yet, but they sure are knocking on the door.
Once known for a stout defense, this Todd Orlando-led unit has been awful as of late, giving up an average of 560 YARDS PER GAME to their last three opponents. They have been hindered by missed tackles, blown assignments and are unable to get off the field in key situations, (even ALLOWING 57% Conversion Rate on 3rd DOWNS in those 3 contests)
Iowa State is playing Texas at the perfect time, as they are banged up. Multiple starters are questionable to play, among them All-Conference receiver Collin Johnson, starting running back Keontay Ingram, and a possibility of FOUR defensive backs sitting on the sidelines.
Texas leads this all-time matchup 13-2, and have been winners of the last two. The last time Iowa State won in Austin was a landmark victory in 2010, led by then offensive coordinator Tom Herman…
Iowa State Offense
I know, I know, all of you are worried we are without do-it-all running back David Montgomery for the first half. I’m here to tell you its all going to be ok. Nobody prepares better for these situations than Matt Campbell, and he will have his boys ready to play, no matter the situation. With that being said, I think we see all three running backs in at certain points of the game. Johnnie Lang has taken a step above the rest and I see him playing the majority of snaps. Kene Nwangwu and his speed factor will play a role, and don’t count out the always dependable Sheldon Croney on third downs and in the red zone.
Iowa State will go up against (on paper) a stacked defensive line. The only problem is, they haven’t been themselves, and there are gaps to attack. Look for more read-option with players like Tarique Milton in motion, and Run-Pass-Options with Deshaunte Jones in the flat. Think Oklahoma State all over again – where we spread the defense out, and Brock runs wild.
First Key to Victory – Put up TDs (not FGs) IN RED ZONE
To start the season this was a big problem, as Iowa State didn’t have the run-pass threat of Purdy. Now that #15 is back there, he has been an ANIMAL. That throw to Deshaunte Jones in the back of the end zone was an NFL-caliber pass. Not only that, it was on a key third-down play where ISU had to make a play. The Cyclones have done a great job of targeting tight end Charlie Kolar when they get deep into opponent territory, and look for my main man Hakeem Butler in 1-on-1 situations.
Butler has the talent to beat any cornerback, and Saturday will be no different. He isn’t leading the country in yards per catch (22.7) for no reason, as #18 will see plenty of balls thrown his way. It’s when the defense keys on him when I get worried.
I’ve been beating a dead horse all year for another receiver to step up and claim his role as best supporting actor. It will be a by-committee approach – with the likes of Tarique Milton (downfield threat), Deshaunte Jones (screen and short-yardage), Matthew Eaton (red zone), and Landen Akers (SPEED) who will all need to do their duties on Saturday.
Second Key to Victory – Take Care of The Ball
Texas leads the conference in turnover margin, and while they have not forced as many as you would think (11), it’s their offense that doesn’t give it away (only 2 turnovers). In what I think will be a low-scoring affair, the margin for error is razor thin, and will be important for Brock Purdy and company to take care of the football.
Going into the season this Longhorn defense was known by many to be the best in the conference. While they did lose a few key contributors in all-Big 12 linebacker Malik Jefferson and a man with an All-American name, defensive tackle Poona Ford, this unit has bled more than a stuck pig.
Texas was top-3 in rush defense, total defense, pass defensive efficiency and scoring defense in 2017. Now they are in the bottom half in all those stats, and have been dominated to the tune of 40 points per game against OU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Iowa State’s average against those same teams? 31.
The strength of this unit is in the secondary, as they are led by a bevy of 4- and 5-star recruits, and none better than true freshman Caden Sterns. The free safety has started from week one, and leads the team with four interceptions. Their best true cover corner is Kris Boyd, who has 13 pass-breakups, and at the JOKER spot when Texas likes to blitz in pass-heavy downs they are led by strong safety Brandon Jones. All in all, this unit has a veteran presence, with 108 combined starts among the starting five.
The Longhorns run a 3-3-5 stack with a variation of multiple sets (similar to Iowa State), and have traded beef up front for speed in the back end. They have still allowed 288 yards per game through the air, and are surprisingly porous at stopping the run.
They have three seniors starting on the line, and are led by end Charles Omenihu, who has 11.5 tackles-for-loss and a team-leading 7.5 sacks. Preseason All-Conference end Breckyn Hager has been ravaged by injuries, but is still a force with the outside rush.
Texas has their new great linebacker in do-it-all Gary Johnson. The 225-pound senior leads the team in tackles, tackles-for-loss, and has a knack for getting to the quarterback, with five sacks and six quarterback hurries. If there is ever a time Texas brings pressure, it is usually with Johnson.
The Verdict – ISU, but not by much
If you were to compare this team on paper it would seem Texas is the clear-cut favorite. Not so fast my friend! Since Brock Purdy has taken over at quarterback, ISU has averaged 35 points per game and 427 yards of offense.
The X-factor to the offense has been the success rate of Brock Purdy’s legs on third down. Whenever ISU is in a 3rd-and-long situation, Purdy’s wheels have saved the day. Not only that, but the true freshman has been crazy efficient when throwing it – he ranks third nationally in QB passing efficiency. Don’t look now folks – but we have a legitimate future Heisman candidate in Ames, Iowa.
Iowa State Defense
If there is one identity to this 2018 Cyclone team – it’s how good their defense has been. They have held all opponents to nearly 13 points below their season-scoring averages, and are ranked as the best unit in the Big 12 Conference.
Boy will they have their hands full on Saturday.
Third Key To Victory – CONTAIN Ehlinger in the Running Game
Texas loves to run the quarterback in a stretch-zone with one and sometimes two lead-blockers at the point of attack. It is their bread-and-butter in the red zone, and there is not a better downhill runner in the Big 12 than Texas Quarterback Sam Ehlinger. While he is small in stature, he can pack a punch with his 230-pound frame, and always falls forward for positive yardage. Iowa State may have to sway away from their 3-man front in short-yardage situations, but it’s the scrambling ability that I’m worried about.
That man for the job is middle linebacker Mike Rose, who will play spy on Ehlinger, as well as backup O’Rien Vance. I’ve noticed ISU loves to “Green Dog Blitz,” which means when a running back stays back to pass-protect they send a linebacker on a delayed blitz. At times that has worked wonders, forcing the quarterback out of the pocket, but as we saw last week, Baylor killed Iowa State with the quarterback scramble.
Texas loves to spread it out with 3- and 4-wide sets, so Marcel Spears, Jr. and Willie Harvey will again be called upon in pass coverage duty. Safety Greg Eisworth has started to creep up more and more to blitz, but I think that may come to a halt, as Texas has two big-play threats on the outside.
I think both KU and BU took advantage of a young Matt Leo on the outside, but now that the redshirt junior has three games under his belt, he is up to speed. Unheralded Ray Lima will have his work cut out for him on Saturday, but we all know he will come through with flying colors.
Some were worried cornerback Brian Peavy was hurt last week, but all accounts say he is good to go on Saturday. That will be crucial, as Texas has two tremendously gifted receivers. Lil’Jordan Humphrey is known for his ability to break tackles and gain yards after the catch, just like this game-winner last week.
This Longhorn offense has taken shape as of late, and Sam Ehlinger has been the one to catapult them. He has been hitting his stride, throwing for a career-high four touchdowns last week versus Taco Tech, but it his legs are his calling card.
The signal-caller led the team in rushing yards a year ago, as Tom Herman has brought his Ohio State QB-Run-Heavy approach to Austin, and the wheels are finally starting to turn. Ehlinger leads the team with nine rushing touchdowns, while true freshman Keaontay Ingram is beginning to flourish. Playing sparingly to start the season, Ingram got his first career start three games ago, and now leads the team with 568 yards.
Not far behind him is Cal grad transfer Tre Watson, who is more of a straight-ahead runner, and has 484 yards of his own. Its no doubt this team gets its offense moving when they run the ball, but they have two electric receivers.
It appears 6-foot-6 Collin Johnson has been downgraded to doubtful with a knee injury, and that may be a blessing in disguise for Cyclone Nation. Johnson is a tremendous downfield threat, as he has 675 yards and five touchdowns on the year, including this great snag against TCU.
Leading the team in grabs is Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who now has back-to-back 100-yard games. He has been all over the field, with 63 catches and 947 yards, while also rushing AND passing for a touchdown. If Johnson sits, look for Devin Duvernay to step up, as he corralled two touchdowns last week.
The offensive line was decimated by injuries a year ago, and have put together a patchwork group. Left tackle Calvin Anderson came over from Rice as a grad transfer, and has been solid. The Longhorns best lineman is guard Patrick Vahe, who has 41 starts. All in all, this line has given up only 2 sacks per game, but have struggled to open up holes, only giving Texas rushers 3.7 yards per carry.
Verdict – Texas, by a Nose
It all comes down to the quarterback here. Sam Ehlinger is on fire as of late, and if there was one critical downfall to this team, it has been the ability of a running quarterback.
Dicker the Kicker will go down in Longhorn lore, making one of the biggest clutch kicks of his career against OU in week six. Cameron Dicker is only a true freshman, but is a solid 14-for-19 on field goals to start his tenure.
Punter Ryan Bujcevski had to fill the void of the Nation’s best in Michael Dickson, and is doing a solid job, booting his balls for a 40-yard average and NO Touchbacks.
Iowa State has gotten the better Connor Assalley as of late, and this is THAT game I have been talking about, where he will be called upon in big situations. Kene Nwangwu continues to light up the stat sheet, to the tune of a 33-yard return average, so if given the chance – watch out!
Texas has the league’s best punt return unit, and are led by D’Shawn Jamison and his 14-yard average.
Verdict – Texas
Dicker the Kicker just has a ring to it, and this has been ISU’s Achilles Heel since the season started. Gotta give the nod to Texas here.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Everyone has a pair of identical twins as friends, and when they go out to the bars, there is always one (not both) that can’t seem to hold his or her alcohol (you all know what I’m talking about). Both Texas and Iowa State are identical in the fact that their talent is even, and boy is this is going to be a long night of drinking (literally). I think Texas gets a little cocky, and after a few too many jaeger bombs passes out, leaving Iowa State the last man standing.
I foresee a lower scoring affair, with multiple punts and a knack for special teams and field position looming large. When it comes to preparation there aren’t many better than Matt Campbell, and I think ISU can hang right in it without David Montgomery in the first half.
Neither team turns the ball over, so you will see physicality at its finest, and good old fashioned power football. The difference in this game however is the play of Brock Purdy, and so far you can’t bet against the man.
Give me the Clones in a tight one down in Texas.
Iowa State 27
Let us know your thoughts below
Will Iowa State Win on Saturday?
This poll is closed
Matthew McConaughey ain’t got nothing on Iowa State
Give me a Hard Fought Victory
This one will go down to the wire, but UT survives
The Big 12 gets what they always wanted...