Iowa State was without three of their best defenders this past Saturday in JaQuan Bailey and Greg Eisworth didn’t play at all, and O’Rien Vance left with a concussion in the first half, but didn’t miss a beat on the way to allowing less than 50 yards of offense in the second half.
Zach Peterson, Bobby McMillen III, Jake Hummel, and Braxton Lewis all stepped up in huge ways and didn’t show any signs of a drop off.
Crazy enough, I was down to those three players when I was deciding who my player to watch was this week, and I decided on Lewis because of what his role will probably look like.
Last week against West Virginia, Lewis played a lot in the STAR position normally played by Eisworth. He stepped up in a huge way with four tackles, an interception, and a pass deflection.
However, that is West Virginia. The Mountaineers haven’t been anything resembling a prolific offense for most of the season, and losing their starting quarterback to injury after an Anthony Johnson strip sack hampered their offense even further. Thus, it’s not surprising that Braxton was able to take advantage of some mistakes.
On the season, the senior has 15 tackles, two pass deflections, a fumble recovery, and the one interception. He’s been a consistent force over the past few seasons, earning a scholarship after beginning his career as a walk-on.
With Eisworth still described as “questionable to probable” by Matt Campbell heading into Saturday, Braxton will need to continue to play at a high level for the defense to contain an inconsistent, but high-potential Tech offense.
The Red Raiders are a typical Taco Tech team: spread offense and gunning. They rank 15th in the FBS in yards per game with 489.3. Even without Alan Bouman, the Raiders are 11th nationally in passing yards per game. Typical.
So like pretty much every Texas Tech game since the beginning of time, the safeties will be tested. This is why Lewis’ performance on Saturday will be the x-factor of the game. Who will be testing Lewis exactly?
His name is Jett Duffey (that’s a pretty awesome name), he’s a junior who played a small role for Tech last season. Through the four games he played in this season and the three that Bouman started, their stat lines are pretty identical.
Admittedly, I haven’t watched a lot of the Tacos this season, but if they are anything like the average Tech team, they are going to attack the middle of the field on a lot of crossing routes. This is an area of coverage that Eisworth and Lewis both excel in, so there should be opportunities to create a turnover.
Iowa State’s defense has given up just 32 plays over 20+ yards this season (as opposed to the 81 that Tech has given up), so Tech will likely be forced to work in short yardages. As long as Iowa State does what they have all year and Braxton Lewis is a presence over the middle, the Cyclones won’t have too much of a problem.