2021 Game IX: Iowa State (5-3, 3-2) vs. Texas (4-4, 2-3)
Date: Saturday, November 6th, 2021
Time: 6:30PM CST
Location: Jack Trice Stadium
Line: ISU (-7)
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website - The Smoking Musket
When we last left off...
Our Cyclones laid an egg last week in a 38-31 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown. Big plays were the name of the name, as West Virginia continually tested Iowa State’s secondary down the field, and was able to be successful on a number of those attempts.
Jarrett Doege finished 30-of-46 passing for 370 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Two of his receivers eclipsed 100 receiving yards, and both registered a catch over 30 yards. Leddie Brown finished with 22 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cyclone offense was decent, though largely unspectacular. That said, Breece Hall finished with 167 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, extending his touchdown streak to 20 games. Brock Purdy was 16-of-27 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown, and also added 64 yards and a touchdown on the ground with nine carries. The only turnover on the day came on a Breece Hall fumble late in the fourth on the goal line.
Interestingly, that play was nearly identical to David Montgomery’s fumble in the 2017 Liberty Bowl, which is to say it probably should have been a touchdown, but that’s neither here nor there.
The Longhorns are 4-4 on the season so far in Steve Sarkisian’s first year at the helm. What’s truly bananas about this team is they’ve lost three games in a row now, all after blowing double-digit leads in the second half. Texas will certainly be looking to get that monkey off their back this weekend in Ames.
Texas leads the all-time series 14-4, but Iowa State has won the last two matchups.
Iowa State Offense
The Cyclones have been finding more of a rhythm as the season has gone on, but I think it’s fair to say they are not quite there yet. Obviously, having two 65+ yard touchdowns in the first quarter last week is a sign of good things, but at times the offense still has some issues putting a drive together.
Iowa State took a hit in the rankings in yards per play last week, ranking just inside the top 50 in each passing and rushing yards per attempt. Tarique Milton has had some huge catches after being quiet for most of the season, so having a receiver that can catch and run this week will be huge.
Although Brock Purdy has been on a tear as of late, the rush offense needs to be the point of attack this week. Last week, Breece Hall showed out and had 167 yards on 24 carries and what coulda’/shoulda’/woulda’ been two touchdowns and the offensive line really didn’t even play to their best abilities.
First Key to Victory - K.I.S.S.
Keep it simple, stupid. An argument could be made that Iowa State’s playcalling has been a bit bland at times to this point in the season, but this weekend there is no need to do anything flashy. This is a chance for the offensive line to get back on track against a defense that has not been good against the run. Last year, Breece was only able to tally 93 yards, but as I’ve alluded to, the Longhorns have struggled against the run this year. Win in the trenches straight up and be some dogs. “Be a dog. Don’t need no meowww don’t need no cats. Be a dog.”
The Longhorns were able to force a few turnovers against one of the more efficient players in the country, Gerry Bohannon, but their rush defense plagued them once again. 231 yards given up on the ground is barely over their average of 213.5 yards per game, but clearly that is not a recipe for success as they sit 4-4 and have given up over 30 points in every Big 12 game thus far.
Texas’ defense has been very poor against the run this year. Giving up 5.7 yards per carry is amongst the worst in the country and is not far from being the worst in the Power 5. They also give up 7.4 yards/attempt through the air, both those stats leading to giving up over 460 yards of offense each week.
Despite all of that, Texas has a knack for forcing turnovers. They rank in the top 25 in turnover margin, forcing 13 to this point. Their defensive backs are more than capable of making plays, but their defensive line doesn’t really get pressure to the quarterback and very well could be an issue for the Longhorns if Purdy gets time on passes.
The Verdict - Iowa State
Stats say that Texas’ defense is very not good (dare I say bad even), but anything could happen in this game. I think Breece Hall could have a field day if things go well for the ISU offensive line. We’ve seen some explosive plays out of the Cyclone offense, and I think we’ll see more Saturday.
Iowa State Defense
Last week was not a good week for the Cyclone defense. First, Mike Rose missed the game with the injury(ies) we saw him visibly playing with against Oklahoma State a couple weeks ago. His absence was clearly felt, as the defense wasn’t able to stop the run as effectively, which forced the defense to commit and extra safety and leave the cornerbacks in one-on-one deep coverage.
Anthony Johnson is a solid, smart corner with a ton of experience, but is just an average or above-average athlete at his position and can be vulnerable on deep passes. Meanwhile, the second corner spot also had its fair share of difficulties. Datrone Young has a lot of snaps under his belt, but is undersized and has a tendency to get outrun by more athletic receivers. TJ Tampa has the opposite problem. He’s plenty athletic enough to do anything he’s asked, but is still young and needs time to develop and learn.
Texas has the ability to throw the ball deep, so the entire secondary, corners and safeties included, need to be on their A-game to avoid a repeat of last week. Texas most certainly has seen film of Cyclone corners getting beat deep each of the last couple games, and would be wise to attack that weak spot.
Another problem for Iowa State last week was a lack of pass rush, as the defense didn’t record a single sack, and only registered a handful of QB pressures. Will McDonald, Zack Petersen, and Enyi Uwazurike need to be better this week and create some negative plays to force Texas into long down and distance scenarios.
As of right now, Mike Rose seems to be on track to play this week. If he does play and can go full speed, Cyclone fans should expect a return to the typically-stout defense we’re used to seeing. If he can’t play, this game could make people nervous.
Second Key to Victory - Don’t Give Up Deep Shots
If you’re going to play a “bend-don’t-break” defense, that requires you to, in fact, not break. That means not giving up deep shots in the passing game. West Virginia and Oklahoma State have had success with big pass plays the last two weeks, and Texas is just as capable of doing the same thing. If you force Texas to be patient, they can get themselves in trouble.
Eighty-seven-year veteran Sam Ehlinger has departed Austin, and Casey Thompson has taken the reigns of the offense. He’s completing 64% of his passes on the season for seventeen touchdowns and six interceptions. He does have some ability to scramble, but he’s nowhere near the running threat Ehlinger was.
However, Texas has their own monster running threat in the form of Bijan Robinson. The former five-star recruit is averaging 5.9 yards per carry on the season at roughly twenty carries per game with eleven rushing touchdowns. Bijan is a balanced back with plenty of strength to shrug off arm tackles, but the quickness and speed required to make a defender miss in the open field and take it to the house. Simply put, he can do a lot of damage and do it quickly.
On the outside, Texas boasts an outstanding freshmen receiver in Xavier Worthy. He’s been the best Longhorn pass-catcher on the season, averaging 4.25 catches per game at 19.8 yards per reception and seven touchdowns. He’s absolutely capable of taking the top off the defense, and will need to be a focal point for the secondary.
The next two leading receivers for Texas are Jordan Whittington and Joshua Moore. However, Jordan Whittington will miss the game due to injury, and Moore’s status is up in the air at the moment after he reportedly was in an intense verbal altercation with Steve Sarkisian this week. After those three, receptions and targets drop off quite a bit before you hit Bijan Robinson and Marcus Washington, which is then followed by guys with just a couple catches on the season.
The Verdict - Iowa State
Texas’ offense in year one of the Sarkisian era has been a successful proof of concept going forward for the program, but it hasn’t been without its hiccups. Late game playcalling has been an issue, especially of late, and if you slow down Bijan Robinson, the offense can get bogged down.
I’m assuming what we saw last week from the defense was more of a one-off hiccup than a sign of a future trend, and getting Mike Rose back would be a huge boost to the defense. Assuming Rose is back, this should be another game where some second-half tweaks can really put the clamps down on the Longhorns and give the offense a great chance to win the game for the Cyclones.
Despite some struggles on punt/kick returns, the special teams has looked very good on field goal attempts this season (knock on wood). As a team, Iowa State is 16 for 18 on the season, the 9th most makes in the country. Andrew Mevis has been killing it as of late, getting his touchback total up to 31 touchbacks on the year, and the switch to him on punts has made a huge difference in terms of coverage. Mevis was also named a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award.
Dicker the Kicker enters his 9th season as the Longhorns kicker, as he handles all three duties of punting, kickoffs, and place-kicking as well as his counterpart. Their return game hasn’t been bad, as D’Shawn Jamison averaging over 24 yards per kick return on 10 returns. Other than that, neither team really sticks out on special teams.
The Verdict - Texas’ Special Teams Coach’s Stripper Wife’s Monkey
No other words.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Aiden reporting, and because I’m a child I give us a 6.9 on a scale of 1-10 chance to win. Granted, Texas has had almost zero distractions this week, so who knows what could happen.
Texas is never an easy win. Iowa State has won the last two meetings by a combined 5 points, one more win and that’s called a winning streak. Both teams are looking to get back on track after losses and could both get a big victory as we enter the last month of the season.
Iowa State - 34
Texas - 17
Let us know your predictions in the comments below!