2019 Game V: Iowa State (2-1, 0-0) vs. Texas Christian University (3-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, October 5, 2019
Time: 11:00 A.M. CST
Location: MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Line: ISU -3
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – Frogs O’ War
I know what you fans are thinking. From the words of Aaron Rodgers, just take a deep breath and R-E-L-A-X.
The season is not lost. In fact, it has just begun, and if history proves anything, October is the month for coach Matt Campbell and the Cyclones, as they are 7-0 since 2017.
Granted, our first few games have been disappointing, but I tend to live life as a glass half-full kind of guy, and so far, while this team has not lived up to the hype on the scoreboard, there are still many positive signs.
For one, Iowa State may have a top tier quarterback, and not just in the Big 12, but in the country. Among active starters, sophomore Brock Purdy ranks THIRD nationally in career passing efficiency. His sample size has grown, and shown us that he not only can lead on the field, but after his locker room speech in the Baylor game, has also stepped into a leadership role.
ISU has also lost both of their games to teams with veteran quarterbacks and tough defenses. Looking ahead at the schedule the only programs that fit that bill are OU and Texas…the Cyclone defense is nasty and will continue (as they always have) to play better as the year goes on.
When we last left off….
ISU paved the way to your nearest Emergency Room with yet another heart-attack waiting to happen, in familiar dramatic fashion. After failing to finish on FOUR drives inside the opponent’s 50-yard line in the first half, Baylor took full advantage, jumping out to a 20-0 lead.
That is when Brock Purdy went to work, leading the Cyclones on three scoring drives in under nine minutes of play, and a 21-20 lead. It was all for not, as BU methodically drove down the field for a back-breaking game-winning field goal.
There were many things to improve upon – most notably the running game, which only accounted for TWO first downs (out of 23 on the day). Also, the lack of a go-to wide receiver was evident, especially with Tarique Milton out, (who should be ready to play come Saturday). The defense played admirably, and quite honestly kept the Cyclones in the game.
Baylor matched up quite well against the Cyclones, but Campbell and company are tired of excuses. It is time for this offense to finish drives, and for this defense to start FORCING TURNOVERS!
Gary Patterson is quite honestly one of the most underrated coaches in all of America. As the 2nd-most tenured coach, he has won 22 different national coach of the year honors, and the Horned Frogs have FIVE 11-win seasons this decade, (the same number as all other FBS Texas programs COMBINED). He has posted seven top-10 finishes, and butters his bread on the defensive side of the ball.
And nobody sweats more profusely than this man!
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, TCU has finished 1st or 2nd in total defense in all years but one (and that year they won 11 games). They lead the conference in interceptions and are second in sacks during that span, and do it with a very distinctive 4-2-5 scheme. It is magical to watch, trading beef for speed with three safeties on the field at all times, and a stout front that excels at stuffing the run.
TCU has not been afraid to schedule tough games, and went on the road this year to demolish the Big Ten’s Purdue Boilermakers. They came back down to Earth the following week, losing to a top-25 program in SMU at home. That 38-41 loss was mostly due to costly turnovers and Texas transfer Shane Buechele shredding the depleted secondary. TCU followed that up with an easy win against Kansas, and are now 3-1. They were picked to finish fourth in the Big 12, but have question marks with a true freshman at quarterback.
TCU leads the all-time series 8-2, with both teams splitting home victories the last two seasons. ISU beat the then #4 squad in 2017 in a 14-7 slugfest, while the Horned Frogs avenged last year in Fort Worth 17-14.
Iowa State Offense
In my opinion, Saturday’s game will be the toughest task of the entire season for our offense. The Horned Frogs’ speed will negate any advantage that ISU thought they had. Deshaunte Jones and Tarique Milton will struggle to get open underneath for crossing routes, and our outside receivers will be covered tightly.
I was impressed with Brock Purdy’s patience in the pocket last week, and with TCU only being able to sack the quarterback eight times on the year, that is an advantage for the offensive line and Iowa State (especially since they struggled to contain the 3-man rush at Baylor). Purdy is 2nd in the Big 12 with 332 passing yards per game, and I expect another big day from #15.
First Key to Victory – Score 7s not 3s in the Red Zone
Scoring opportunities will be few and far between in this matchup, so when ISU gets inside the Case IH Red Zone, they need to capitalize. While the Cyclones have been able to move the ball, they have come away scoreless on SIXTEEN possessions after crossing midfield. The Horned Frogs moved a free safety over to their corner spot, and his backup is a freshman. Look for our larger options – La’Michael Pettway and Sean Shaw, Jr. (who has come on as of late) to benefit in the red zone for back-shoulder and jump-ball throws.
I’m still waiting for a breakaway run where the running back can break some tackles (or ankles). Our running game is the Robin to Batman’s aerial attack, but if Kene Nwangwu can stay healthy, look for him to be the catalyst for big runs to the outside. If not, Johnnie Lang has shown flashes, and will need to churn out those much-needed yards to make 3rd down much more manageable for Tom Manning to call his play
Tight End Charlie Kolar ranks 2nd in the nation amongst TE’s in receptions and 5th in yards, so look for big #88 to continue his dominance in the middle of the field. A 6-foot-6, he is another big-time red zone threat.
The offensive line will have its work cut out for them, as TCU runs a 4-man front and brings pressure (mostly from the second level). They can blitz on any given play, but don’t carry the horses they once had off the edge (losing two best rushers to NFL in the offseason).
The scientific experiment that is the 4-2-5 scheme originated in Fort Worth. No one has been more successful, as TCU is top-3 in SEVEN different defensive categories in the Big 12. Again.
It all starts up front with the defensive line, and while Corey Bethley garnered Preseason honors in the Big 12, I think the better man in the middle is Ross Blacklock. The 305-pound junior has taken on double teams with passion and allowed space for the linebackers to roam.
That linebacker, who is the best of all in the Big 12, is Garret Wallow. The junior (who moved over to MIKE recently) will be all over the field, and is 2nd in the nation in tackles for loss (10) and fourth in stops (48). His counterpart is a freshman that was recruited as an “athlete,” and goes by the name of Dee Winters. TCU has moved safeties to linebacker spots, and linebackers to ends, but still don’t miss a beat at stopping the run.
They only allow 79 rush yards per game, but have yet to find a premier pass rusher off the edge. Among ends, they only have 0.5 sacks, with the majority of quarterback takedowns from the linebackers.
The secondary has had some injuries and is also a bit inexperienced. They got down to their 3rd-string cornerback in the KU game, and have recently had to play freshmen at both the safety and corner positions. Their best cover corner is safety Jeff Gladney, who was nabbed as first-team all-Big 12 in the Preseason. He has great closing speed, and has collected three interceptions in his last 6 games.
The Verdict – TCU
There is nobody better at preaching defense than Gary Patterson. His stable may lack some horses off the edge, but he carries with him the best linebacker in the conference, and still a potent unit that plays as one. TCU plays tough bump-and-run man-to-man defense on the outside and leave their corners on islands. Look for ISU to exploit with their weapons at receiver, especially the bigger targets.
Iowa State Defense
This unit kept ISU in the ball game last week, and improved tremendously at making 3rd down stops. Jaquan Bailey’s injury is not as bad as once thought, but will be unlikely to play on Saturday. In his spot steps in sophomore Zach Petersen, who has received rave reviews from Campbell.
“We are really fortunate that’s an area where we have great depth (defensive line). The one thing about Zach is that he’s played the best of all of our defensive linemen up to this date,” said Campbell at his weekly press conference.
Ray Lima continues to demand double teams, and I’ve been waiting for Enyi Uwazurike to make a name for himself. He is a swiss-army knife at the end spot, and has been unable to reach the quarterback, but does a tremendous job at run support.
Second Key to Victory – STOP THE RUN
This is the best matchup of the day, as TCU will run, run, and run some more. ISU’s defense will be up to the task, as they rank 3rd in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game. Expect to see a constant rotation, and even Will McDonald at the end spot (as he moved there from LB on the depth chart).
Missed tackles hurt ISU a week ago, and they will not be able to afford that on Saturday. The Horned Frogs have one of the best in running back Darius Anderson, and it will be crucial for our linebackers to break down and wrap up at the point of attack. Expect a big day out of Mike Rose in the tackle column, and O’Rien Vance to continue his streak of sacks, as he leads the entire conference with 5.5.
Bobby McMillen III will see playing time, as ISU will go with more three-linebacker sets, and may even play four on the line a time or two.
The secondary has only one man to keep an eye on – and that is Jalen Reagor. Datrone Young and Anthony Johnson, Jr. both got beat on double moves last week, and can ill afford to see Reagor stretch the field. Safety Greg Eisworth has been bit by the injury bug and a sore shoulder, and was not himself versus Baylor. He will gut it out though, and look for Lawrence White to spell him at the STAR spot if needed.
Max Duggan, the pride of Council Bluffs, IA spurned both in-state schools for TCU and finds himself starting as a true freshman. He took over for K-State transfer Alex Delton beginning in the SMU game, but both will see the field on Saturday. Neither are great at passing the ball, but both provide a threat running it.
Duggan started the SMU game 1 for 10, and was 7 for 18 against Purdue, so his accuracy is a bit of a concern. He did turn it on versus SMU, but still has yet to master getting touch on the ball – as he zings it on every throw. (Think Nate Stanley a few years ago). TCU averages only 213 yards through the air, as they do the majority of their production on the ground.
In fact, the Horned Frogs have run the ball on 60% of plays, as Mike Leach disciple (and offensive coordinator) Sonny Cumbie has flipped the script towards his running game.
Darius “Jet” Anderson leads a unit that is 8th best in the country in rushing yards, as he is having his best year in a purple uniform. The senior has three straight 100-yard games, and averages an insane 8.2 YARDS PER CARRY.
Behind him is a man on Bruce Feldman’s “FREAKS” List in 770-pound squatting machine Sewo Olonilua. The 240-pound behemoth still has some wiggle, as he gets touches every which way, especially in the red zone. Look for Olonilua to be in a WILDCAT formation, as Cumbie runs all sorts of disguises and packages to take advantage of every inch on the field.
4.29 speed is God-given, and that is exactly what wide receiver Jalen Reagor has. Going into the season, many projected Reagor to vie for top honors as the best wideout in the Big 12, but so far he has underperformed, only grabbing 11 balls for 117 yards. Dylan Thomas has seven catches in his last two games, and four-star recruit Te’Vailance Hunt is a deep threat who can stretch the field.
TCU has a game-breaker at Tight End for the first time in, well ever. Pro Wells has been uber efficient in the red zone, as he has three touchdowns on five receptions in the last two games.
The offensive line was a struggle a year ago, but has progressed nicely into 2019. They start FOUR seniors, and the best is right tackle Lucas Niang (no relation to Georges), who has yet to allow a sack in the last two seasons.
Verdict – ISU
I love this matchup, as it will pit an inaccurate quarterback against a defense that can swallow up the run game. Both teams are one-dimensional in their offensive approach, and I think the advantage goes to ISU with their run stopping prowess.
Yet again, another opponent with an innate ability to change the game in Special Teams.
Punt returner Jalen Reagor combined for an ASTOUNDING 129 yards in his first three returns versus Kansas, bringing his second one back to the house. He is 2nd nationally in average.
ISU will struggle to gain any yards on either return team, but look for punter Joe Rivera to avoid kicking to Reagor at all costs.
TCU’s kicker Jonathan Song is 9-for-10 on field goals, and ranks FIFTH amongst all active kickers in career field-goal percentage. Connor Assalley got roughed up last week, but 49-yard tries are not easy. He drove the first kick really well, only to see it barely go WIDE RIGHT (natty lite).
Aussie punter Jordy Sandy has done a good job of pinning opponents on pooch punts, but only averages 39 yards per kick.
Verdict – TCU
Til death do us part. Gotta go with the opposition on this one.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Very similar to last week’s matchup, and for that reason I see the chances of winning as similar to selecting red or black in a game of roulette.
ESPN has given the good guys a 65% chance at winning, and rightly so – as we have the better quarterback and play in the friendly confines. Just need to make sure we clean up those mistakes.
This game is all about the little things that Coach Campbell preaches. Both defenses are rock solid, and will not have any mental lapses. I don’t see any long passing plays, or broken runs, as most scoring drives will come in the clock-eating fashion, with a hit-you-in-the-mouth type mentality.
Third Key to Victory – WIN THE TURNOVER MARGIN
It’s as simple as this – if ISU can force turnovers they win. In TCU’s lone loss they coughed the ball up 3 times against SMU and got behind the sticks. A good TCU running game will be overshadowed by an inexperienced quarterback. And ISU has the better one in their back pocket in Brock Purdy.
Give me the Clones in a tight one.
Iowa State 17
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