2020 Game IV: #24 Iowa State (2-1, 2-0) vs. Texas Tech (1-2, 0-2)
Date: Saturday, October 10, 2020
Time: 2:30 P.M. CST
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Capacity: 61,500, (only 15,000 will attend)
Line: ISU -12.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – Viva the Matadors
If there’s any room on this Cyclone bandwagon, you better buy your ticket now, cuz they aren’t going to last…
This ISU team is now tied atop the league lead at 2-0 in the Big 12 Conference. Now I know what you’re all thinking – no reason to pretend that the Cyclones can run the table, or even dream of representing the Big 12 as its #1 contender in a bowl game.
This team is different. The mental toughness and coaching approach of one game at a time is working. #TrustTheProcess
All that aside, this Cyclone team did not play their best game (again), and still came out on top. Uncharacteristic penalties, an underwhelming performance from our quarterback (again), and a defense that allowed 159 yards in the first quarter – you would have thought there’s no way we could beat the Sooners on national television.
The Cyclones made adjustments - most importantly sending pressure at an unproven quarterback, and feeding our running back as the game wore on. By the way, Breece Hall played one of his best games as a young Clone – as he channeled his inner David Montgomery with an impressive number of yards after contact. The most important quarter of the game – the fourth – we saw Mr. Hall scamper for 67 yards, and the go-ahead touchdown.
It was a special night, and one that was well-deserved for loyal fans. I’ve experienced many a heart-attack watching ISU football, and 9 times out of 10 we lose that game. But this team showed their resilience and mental toughness to pull through.
Still a lot to work on, but if there’s anything I know about this coaching staff – they are impeccable at minimizing mistakes and improving week to week.
When we last left off….
The black uniforms are 4-0, as ISU beat Oklahoma for the first time in Ames in 60 years, and can create their own destiny in the Big 12 conference.
After starting slow, the defense did a good job of containing OU’s deep shots, and completely bottled up the running game. The blitzes forced by wizard Jon Heacock worked wonders against a freshman in Spencer Rattler, and Isheem Young finished it off with a game-sealing interception.
The offense has formed a new identity as a potent rushing attack behind a heavy dose of Breece Hall (who is making a name for himself in the B12) and the play-action pass of Brock Purdy. While Purdy only completed 50% of his pases, he got the most out of every throw – averaging an absurd 21 yards per completion. ISU found mismatches down field, and did all they could to feed Charlie Kolar, but it was #28 who stole the show.
Texas Tech Tidbits
Taco (Texas) Tech is now in their second season under Matt Wells, and have been just another ho-hum program in the Big 12. They have not quite formed their own identity, especially since quarterback Alan Bowman can’t stay healthy, and the defense has been downright pitiful.
This team is full of seniors on defense, but not nearly as deep as a team like Iowa State’s. The Red Raiders have been known as an air-raid passing attack, but also have some game-breakers at running back. They were picked to finish 9th out of 10 schools in the Big 12, yet have been right in both conference games. They almost lost their home opener to FCS Houston Baptist, and if not for forcing two turnovers at the goal line, they could be 0-3.
Week two was an utter collapse against in-state rival Texas. After blowing a 15-point lead with three minutes to go, and not securing an onside kick, the Longhorns lucked out, with a video-game like score of 63-56 in OT. Week three saw backup quarterback Henry Colombi enter the contest against K-State midway through the first quarter. And while it took the Utah State transfer time to get in rhythm, he led the team on three-straight touchdown drives, and a 21-17 lead. That’s when the well ran dry, and Taco Tech’s defense got shredded faster than Mexican cheese at the local Tequila Mockingbird.
This defense has been bad – ranking dead last in the Conference in total yards, pass defense, pass defense efficiency, and 2nd to last in scoring D. To say our SB Nation friends are unhappy with this side of the ball, would be well – an understatement.
The Red Raiders are 11-7 all-time in the series, yet Matt Campbell’s ISU team has yet to lose to Tech. The Cyclones have won the last four.
Iowa State Offense
I see a big day out of Brock Purdy and the Cyclone receiving corps, as our deep threats of Tarique Milton, Joe Scates and Xavier Hutchinson should all see ample opportunities for big plays downfield. This will be a good confidence booster for #15, as his completion percentage has been lacking in the first few games.
It’s the perfect slump-buster for Purdy, as Tech gives up an absurd 346 yards per game through the air, and have gotten beat time and again in the secondary. Look for a heavy dose of Kolar (as we found out he was battling a sports hernia earlier), and the dreaded three tight end look for running downs.
First Key to Victory – Keep the Foot on The Gas
Texas Tech is one of those teams that can score in an instant, and it will be important for Tom Manning to start fast in this one. Last year in Lubbock, Purdy passed for 300 yards in the FIRST HALF, and I would love to see him watch all his haters eat crow.
We’ve got to find a nickname for Breece Hall, as this BEAST has gone from good to great in his sophomore campaign. I expect another 20+ carry effort, but Campbell also knows if he wants Hall to stay healthy for the entirety of the season, others will need to tote the ball. That means Kene Nwangwu (who is licking his chops), and Johnnie Lang who can spell #28.
The offensive line appears it will probably miss Trevor Downing for a few more games, but has been above average without their best lineman missing. Guard Robert Hudson came in for multiple series last week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays more as the weeks go on.
Texas Tech Defense
The Kliff Kingsbury era was a revolving door for defensive coordinators, and it already appears most media outlets are calling for the head of DC Keith Patterson. The group he coaches (safeties), has been one of the worst in the nation at pass coverage, and just as bad at tackling. This defense is soft, and ready for a warm butter knife to slice right through it.
They run primarily a 3-man front, with three safeties and the SPUR position (as ISU’s is the STAR). The defense does have six seniors, and even returned EIGHT starters from a year ago, but have yet to slow down anyone at the point of attack. The rush defense has been average (147 YPG), and the pass rush is not something to be worried about, as the Red Raiders only have 6 sacks on the year.
They are led up front by sixth-year senior end Eli Howard, who has 25 starts to his name, and paves the way for a great linebacking corps. He was selected as first team all-Big 12 by preseason voters. The Red Raiders leading tackler is Krishon Merriweather, and not far behind him Riko Jeffers. The third man is Colin Schooler, who transferred in from Arizona after three straight all-conference selections in the Pac-12.
The secondary lost a step, as previous 1st team All-Big 12 Adrian Frye has been demoted to backup cornerback. Safety Eric Monroe transferred in from LSU, and his senior counterpart Thomas Leggett have both struggled to say the least. So far, Tech is in the bottom five in the NATION in total defense and pass defense, and have given up multiple 40+ pass plays.
The Verdict – ISU
This is a landslide, and just what the doctor ordered for Purdy and company.
Iowa State Defense
Iowa State leads the conference in sacks, and ranks 12th nationally with 11 through 3 games. They will be tested, as Tech has only allowed ONE sack all year, and gets the ball out quick.
I expect to continue multiple subs up front to keep the legs fresh, and, with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm, a wide array of blitzes. Tech loves to run tempo and keep the defense on their heels, but it will be important for Iowa State to make them work for their yards. Last year they moved the ball, but most drives were 10 plays plus, and played right into the hands of genius coordinator Jon Heacock.
Watching the OU game back, I thought ISU’s secondary improved, namely the safeties, and this game they will need to be solid again. Tech likes to use every inch of the field, and it will be important to wrap up in the open field. As the game wears on, look for our pass rush specialists to see the field more – especially Will McDonald and Latrell Bankston.
Second Key to Victory – Bend Don’t Break
The only way Tech has a chance to win this game is if they complete downfield passes for big yards. Our cornerbacks have been solid at pass coverage, yet have not been able to knock down as many passes as I would like. That’s ok, as they have still been in position to make plays. The game plan for this week – do not get beat deep.
The linebackers will have their work cut out for them, as the Red Raiders love to throw to their running backs. PS I think Mike Rose is having an All-Big 12 type of season. He has continued to be in the right place time and time again.
Texas Tech Offense
The Red Raiders claim to fame was once one of the best air-raid attacks that college football had to offer. Now that Mike Leach and Kliff Kingsbury are gone, coach Matt Wells has pivoted to a more balanced approach. They still run shotgun at all times, and have finally recruited a tight end (kid you not, they had none on their roster with Ken Doll Kliff).
Now this game really hinges on the health of quarterback Alan Bowman, as he left last week in the first quarter due to an ankle injury. His status is up in the air for Saturday, but his replacement, Henry Colombi, is serviceable. The junior Bowman is a much better pocket-passer, and his experience in big games would help Tech on the road. Colombi does have one thing Bowman does not – the ability to scramble and gain yards with his feet.
Regardless, Tech did not change their game plan with their new quarterback, and he led them on three straight touchdown-scoring drives against KSU. He has a bevy of receivers at his disposal, as TEN different Tech players have at least one catch in their first three games.
The scariest of all targets is 6-foot-6 senior wide receiver T.J. Vasher, who has 21 career touchdowns to his name. Their do-it-all pass-catchers are KeSean Carter and Erik Ezukanma, as the two have combined for 37 grabs and 449 yards in three games. Needless to say, the Red Raiders throw it all over the field, mixing in screens with double moves, play-action passes down the sideline, and always have the running back in the flats.
The stable of running backs is led by sophomore SaRodorick Thompson, who started the season with two 100+ yard efforts, and leads the team with 4 touchdowns. Last week, backup Xavier White was electric, garnering 113 yards on only 12 carries.
I almost forgot – aside from a deep and talented receiving corps, the next best unit is Tech’s offensive line, as they bring back three starters. They are led by 1st Team All-Big 12 guard Jack Anderson, and have only given up one sack on the year.
The Verdict – Tech
This is a fantastic matchup on paper, as Jon Heacock and company will have their work cut out for them. The Red Raiders will put up points, there is no doubt about it. They average 37 points per game, and will have a few drives where we are scratching our heads. The difference in this one all comes down to the resiliency of the quarterback position, and if the Cyclones can limit the big play.
We may have found a special teams just as bad as the Cyclones! Somehow, someway kicker Trey Wolff has missed all three of his field goals. Especially since he was making them at 90% last year.
Kansas State did block a punt last week against Tech, but that is more impressive for the Wildcats – as they have three games in a row with such a feat.
Iowa State did everything right last week, as Connor Assalley did his job, and we had no lapses on returns. The play of the game in my opinion was none other than Kene Nwangwu’s 85-yard kick return. That. Was. Awesome.
Tech does have a phenomenal punter in sophomore Austin McNamara, who averages 45 yards per boot, and was named preseason first-team in Big 12. You want to guess who is first in the conference at 45.1 yards per punt? Iowa State’s Joe Rivera.
Verdict – Tech
We are trending in the right direction though.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
This is one of those games in the past where we see Iowa State play down to their competition. I tell you what - those previous rosters don’t have the mental toughness that this one encompasses…
Now that we are in harvest season (and I will have to miss the game due to combining), on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the desert of New Mexico and 10 the rich soils of Iowa (of course), I give the Cyclones an Illinois-farm ground chance at victory.
The Cyclones are riding high after a big victory last week against Oklahoma, and have everything right in front of them for the taking.
Third Key To Victory – Play Mistake Free Football
This game will come down to coaching, and the fact that ISU carries with them one of the conference’s best in Matt Campbell, he will have our boys ready to play. PS Let’s limit those penalties…
Look for plenty of points to be put up on the board, as ISU’s defense will see the field longer than they expect. Texas Tech may get a few late scores to keep it close, but I think Campbell and company will take care of business from the opening kickoff.
Iowa State 41
Texas Tech 27
Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!