2019 Game VII: Iowa State (4-2, 2-1) vs. Texas Tech University (3-3, 1-2)
Date: Saturday, October 19, 2019
Time: 11:00 A.M. CST
Location: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
Line: ISU -7
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – “Viva The Matadors”
Tom Manning, Matt Campbell and the Iowa State offense just added their last piece to their Big-12 breaking puzzle – a running game.
Going into the season, the running back position was a game of musical chairs, but now there is one man alone at the top – and that is true freshman Breece Hall. Add that to the conference’s leading passer in Brock Purdy, and this offense is complete as a tailgate with Natty Lite!
The receivers and tight ends have been top notch, the quarterback superb, but what has been missing all year is an emergence of a running back. Hall’s 137 yards and three touchdowns against West Virginia proved that he is the man for the job, and should be for the remaining six games.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, as Iowa State is hitting its stride right in the middle of conference play, and is on a roll!
When we last left off….
The Cyclones started off slow, but really turned it on in the second half in Morgantown. After the break, Iowa State embarrassed the Mountaineers, outscoring WVU 24-0, and outgaining them 223 to 44.
The defense was without starters Greg Eisworth and O’Rien Vance, and didn’t miss a beat. Braxton Lewis stepped up with a fumble recovery and interception, while the Cyclones forced three on the day. Mike Rose took care of business at linebacker, and even Ray Lima came through for his first career sack (seems hard to believe, huh).
All in all, just what the doctor ordered, as ISU took care of business on the road, and looked good while doing it.
Taco Texas Tech!
Texas Tech Tidbits
Supermodel Kliff Kingsbury was apparently not getting enough camera action in Lubbock, so the Ken Doll took his talents to the NFL, somehow falling face up with the Arizona Cardinals.
In comes former Utah State coach Matt Wells, who transformed the Aggies into an offensive powerhouse in his six years in Mormon Country. In 2018, Utah State averaged 47.5 points per game and broke 34 school records, even scoring on 29 drives in under 1 minute.
Wells brought six assistants with him from Utah State, and all have a bevy of experience at other Power-5 schools. The most impressive is Dumb and Dumber co-star David Yost.
Aside from his fantastic mop for a head, Yost can call plays, even finishing as a semi-finalist for the Frank Broyles award, given to the top assistant coach in the country. Now playing a backup quarterback, Tech hasn’t missed a beat, as Jett Duffey has replaced starter Alan Bowman, who continues to sit with a shoulder injury from four weeks ago. In fact Yost and Wells are accustomed to new signal-callers, as they dealt with three different injured quarterbacks during their tenure at Utah State.
The Red Raiders were picked to finish 7th in the Big 12 Conference, and returned 13 starters. They are 3-3 on the young season, most recently upsetting previously ranked Okie State, and losing last week in a heartbreaker to Baylor in double overtime.
Texas Tech leads the all-time series 11-6, but our Cyclones have had the Red Raiders number, winning the last three contests. It has been a coming out party for Marcel Spears, Jr., as the linebacker forced TWO PICK-SIXES against Tech in successive years.
Iowa State Offense
Iowa State is one of EIGHT teams in the FBS to rank top-30 nationally in both offense AND defense. So far, they average 8.0 yards per play and the emergence of running back Breece Hall is a welcomed sight for Brock Purdy’s sore shoulders. Purdy was asked to carry the team not only in the passing game, but previously running the ball.
First Key to Victory – More Rushes than Passes On Saturday
It will be important for the Cyclones to continue their rushing success, and this one is ripe for the taking – as Tech is even WORSE than West Virginia at stopping the run. Playing on the road in a hostile environment (as this is also Tech’s Homecoming) depends even more upon rushing success, and I am confident this offensive line can do so. It keeps Texas Tech’s offense off the field and plays right into Matt Campbell’s style of winning time of possession.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see multiple running backs get carries on Saturday, even Kene Nwangwu, who can take advantage of his speed to the outside. Hall will get the start, and if he continues his smash-mouth style (and holds up in the blocking department), look for #28 to get 20+ touches again.
The Cyclones have a plethora of options to attack this aggressive defense, and will be able to turn short-yardage catches into big gains. Those types of players who will benefit are Deshaunte Jones, Tarique Milton, Landen Akers and my main man Charlie Kolar.
La’Michael Pettway was a one-man wrecking crew last week, as the Arkansas transfer became Purdy’s best target on third down, hauling in a career-high 8 receptions.
Second Key to Victory – Don’t Turn the Ball Over
The offensive line is playing against an aggressive scheme, as we will see a multitude of blitzes from the linebackers. Also the defensive backs are ball-hawks and are not afraid to go after any pass thrown their way. In fact, Tech leads the Big 12 with 12 takeaways (all coming in the last 4 games). That means ISU can counter with double moves and disguises in play-action, as Tech has been susceptible to big plays. That being said, it will be important for Purdy to make the smart throw and not get caught up (or baited) to make passes into tight windows.
Texas Tech Defense
Matt Wells also brought over his defensive coordinator from Utah State in Keith Patterson, and the man has a lot of experience with 30 years of coaching. He is known for his aggressive style and scheme and primarily plays a 4-man front.
In the Baylor game Tech moved to 3-man lines and played 8 back in coverage on passing downs. They were exploited on the last drive of regulation, as the Bears went 99 yards down the field to tie it up. There are some holes in this defense, as they rank in the BOTTOM HALF of the League in pass defense, rush defense, total defense and scoring defense.
What stands out to me is they give up the most yards per pass attempt in the Big 12 (8.5), which means they give up explosive plays (81 of 20+ yards so far) and are below average at tackling in the open field.
One man that is not bad at wrapping up is linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who leads the Big 12 in tackles (68), and is tied for the lead in tackles-for-loss (11.5). The senior was named Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Oklahoma State.
The Red Raiders run multiple sets, and have shuffled players around the last couple of weeks. They have moved safeties to the SPUR (nickelback) spot, corners to safety, and even linebackers to defensive end. Their “Raider” spot is that of a stand-up end, and is undersized at 220 pounds.
The defensive line carries its strength with end Eli Howard, who has 24 career starts and a sack in all 3 Big 12 games thus far. Their corners are inexperienced, as they brought in Zech McPhearson in the offseason from Penn State.
The safeties are two of the best – in Adrian Frye (who led the Big 12 in INTs in 2018), and Douglas Coleman III (who currently leads with 6 on the year).
The Verdict – ISU
Again, a high-risk, high-reward type of defense that can and will be exploited by Iowa State and Brock Purdy. I expect #15 to find the open windows and he needs to take the throws they give him. On top of that, I would like to see the running game continue its chugging along, as Tech simply has been unable to stop it.
Iowa State Defense
A tall task for this unit, especially now that both Greg Eisworth AND O’Rien Vance are questionable to play on Saturday. I was uber-impressed by their fill-ins, as this defense did not miss a beat, and is clear that ISU’s depth is a positive factor already.
As stated before Marcel Spears, Jr. loves to play against Tech, as he earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors both times he played them. Spears has quietly led the team in tackles this year and has been overshadowed by the play of Vance and Mike Rose. If Vance can’t go, then look for ISU to supplant him with Jake Hummel, who has played meaningful snaps all year and graded out well.
Third Key to Victory – Contain the QB Run
This one is much easier said than done. Believe it or not, Duffey led the team in rushing yards a year ago, but has changed his game to more of a drop-back passer. With that being said, he is still slippery as jello, and can wreak havoc for a defense that has been unable to contain running quarterbacks when plays break down.
I expect the Cyclones to stay back in their zone coverage and drop eight on passing downs. The SPY role will fall on Rose and Hummel, as Spears excels in pass coverage. It will be difficult for the defensive line to gain pressure, as Tech is 2nd in the conference in allowing sacks. That’s ok though – they just need to play contain and do their job of stuffing the run.
The secondary will have its hands full with 3- and 4-wide sets all game, and I expect the Cyclones to exchange linebackers for defensive backs. That means more of Amechie Walker, Justin Bickham, D.J. Miller, and Arnold Azunna.
If Eisworth can’t make it look for Braxton Lewis and Lawrence White to play the STAR role, with a bit of Bickham mixed in. I think Lewis is best served at deep safety, and will be important to help our corners against a vaunted group of wide receivers.
Texas Tech Offense
Texas Tech’s claim to fame has always been offense, and in the Matt Wells regime that is no different. He calls the plays, and has begun to use more of a balanced approach. Quarterback Jett Duffey really struggled in his first game against OU, but has turned it on as of late, with a 424-yard day against Oklahoma State, and another 362 against Baylor.
They spread it all around, and utilize the short- to intermediate-passes the most. Heck, Tech even has tight ends now, as previous coach Kingsbury simply didn’t have any on the roster! SIX different pass-catchers have corralled 15 or more balls already, and are led by 6-foot-6 T.J. Vasher. He can be used any which way, and is a prime target in the red zone.
Freshman Erik Ezukanma has turned it on as of late, with 155 yards in the last two games, and R.J. Turner led all receivers with 7 grabs and 138 yards against Baylor.
The Red Raiders like to run a lot of jailbreak screens with their offensive line coming out to block, and simply just get the ball to receivers in space. The downfield throws haven’t really been there, as the 7.2 yards per attempt backs up this short passing attack.
The offensive line lost their best player two weeks ago to a season-ending injury, and have had to move some players around. They still have three seniors starting, and have paved the way for a rushing attack good for 4.8 yards per carry.
That running back reaping the rewards is redshirt freshman SaRodorick Thompson, who had a breakout game last week with 153 yards and two touchdowns. He has tremendous speed and agility, and can turn on a dime, as he did here last week, late on a 3rd-and-2 crucial drive.
The Verdict – PUSH
With Texas Tech playing at home and their quarterback coming into his own I could see the Red Raiders putting up some big numbers between the 20s. But what matters most is on 3rd downs and in the red zone. Tech has struggled to score TDs inside the 20 (15 out of 27 tries), and are LAST in Third Down Conversions (38%). With that being said, ISU’s injuries will play a role and the inability to get to the quarterback will give Duffey all day to throw.
Believe it or not, Wells brought over his Special Teams coach from Purdue, and had to start over from scratch with both a new kicker and punter.
Freshman field-goal kicker Trey Wolff has been fantastic, as he is 11-for-12 on kicks, with a long of 45. The Red Raiders have been just as good at punting, as freshman Austin McNamara leads the Big 12 with a 42.4 net average.
I thought ISU punter Joe Rivera had one of his better games last week, and it was nice to see Brayden Narveson with his first action – nailing a 45-yarder. He will be called upon for the longer kicks moving forward, with Assalley on the shorter ones.
Both return units are so-so, but Tech did give up a 60-yard kick return last week to Baylor.
Verdict – TECH
The proof is in the pudding, and so far these Red Raider freshmen are two of the best specialists in the Big 12.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst American Idol singer of all time (William Hung), and 10 being Carrie Underwood (duh), I give the Cyclones a Maddie Poppe chance of winning!
Just watch this atrocity. Man I forgot how bad he was..
This one should be within a score, as I’ve been impressed with the coaching from Matt Wells, and his ability to handle adversity. The home field advantage should help Texas Tech, and their offensive prowess will put up yards.
It all comes down to Iowa State being able to hold onto the ball and not making mistakes on special teams. Matt Campbell preaches the little things and winning in the margins. So far this team has shown they can do it, and I expect them to again in Lubbock.
Iowa State 27
Texas Tech 21
Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!