By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
Iowa State vs. Texas Tech
Saturday, Oct. 2 @ 6 p.m. – Jack Trice Stadium
Television: FOX College Sports
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Remember to tune into the Cyclone Fanatic/Wilson Toyota of Ames pregame show tomorrow from 2-3 on Des Moines Sports Station, 1460 KXNO. Tron Smith will be my co-host. Former Cyclone wide receiver Jack Whitver and Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register will be our guests.
ISU DEFENSE VS. TEXAS TECH OFFENSE
When you think Texas Tech, you think offense. Props go out to big Mike Leach for that. If you’ve read any of my work in the past, you know how big of a fan I am of the guy. Not only is he a hilarious human being, the guy is a football genius.
New Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville is a good coach. But to think that this program won’t miss the slightest beat without Leach is outrageous.
Take Tech’s last time out for instance. In a 24-14 loss to the not-so-mighty 2010 Texas Longhorns, the Red Raiders mustered up only 144 yards of total offense.
Tech’s new offensive coordinator, 30-year old Neal Brown, might be a Mike Leach “disciple” as Wally Burnham puts it, but he’s light years behind Tech’s former play caller at this point in his career.
“It is a little bit different but basically it is the same offense,” Burnham told CycloneFanatic.com after practice on Tuesday. “He has some similarities. They are going to throw the football first, we think. Then they’ll run it. They go fast paced. That’s hard to get used to. It isn’t quite as fast as when Leach was there. We expect that because we don’t have much depth.”
“They still have some great receivers with a lot of speed. They play four just about every snap and sometimes five. They have two really good running backs and their quarterback is a pretty good football player.”
Tech’s quarterback is led by senior Taylor Potts, who has thrown for 4,919 yards and 35 touchdowns in his career. This season, the 6-foot-5 gunslinger is 77-for-122 for 810 yards, eight touchdowns and two picks through three games.
Potts is blessed with a great group of wide receivers that is left over from the Leach era. None are better than senior Lyle Leong, who has scored six touchdowns so far and averages 6.67 receptions per game.
How will the young Cyclones slow down Tech’s passing game? The key is playing physical football.
“Disrupting receivers and jamming them before they get into their route,” Burnham said. “Being disciplined in our coverage, our linebackers and nickels who do some underneath coverage. They run some deep routes that they need to be involved in behind them as well as in front of them. Our safeties and corners have to do a good job on the deep balls.”
The good news here for Iowa State is that Tech doesn’t really run the football. Iowa State’s 108th ranked rush defense will go nose-to-nose with Tech’s 116th ranked rush offense. It isn’t exactly a battle of titans that we’re talking about in this facet of the game.
Red zone defense is where the Cyclones thrive. Last season, only one defense in America was better than Iowa State’s inside the 20. That was Nebraska. The Cyclones were tied with Alabama in that category for second. It appears that a culture of salty red zone defense is being developed in Ames, as the Cyclones are currently ranked ninth in that category through four weeks of football.
“Our philosophy is in our coverage. That is where it starts,” Burnham said. “We’re going to keep all of the balls in front of us. You set your defense up for those kinds of things. We want to be more aggressive. We want to blitz more. We want to do more of those kinds of things. But you have to be so careful with these young kids because you don’t want them to spin out of there and go for 80-yards.”
“That has been Paul’s and my philosophy over the years. Our philosophies kind of meshed. I guess we have both had it forever.”
ISU OFFENSE VS. TEXAS TECH DEFENSE
Bend but don’t break. That’s the mindset for Iowa State’s defense every time out.
Just score points. That needs to be the motto for the Cyclone offense going forward. The Cyclones currently rank 99th in America at scoring offense. Quarterback play has been inconsistent. The running game hasn’t been as explosive as the 2009 unit and like we saw a year ago, Cyclone wide receivers are having a difficult time when it comes to separation. Everything starts with the offensive line.
“There is progress being made,” said Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman. “Some guys are playing maybe a little nicked up and maybe not playing to their full potential snap in and snap out. We are running the ball a lot better than we did against Northern Illinois, which is a good sign. I think that we are playing with better tempo, at least for the last couple of weeks. I finally feel like we are hitting that point in the season when we are in really good football shape.”
Iowa State’s situation at quarterback has been the hot topic regarding the program all week long. Austen or Jerome…Who is the guy going forward? Will both play? Does one give you a better chance to win?
According to Herman, it doesn’t really matter who is in the game. His job stays the same.
“In the throwing a game, really not much for changes simply because, we have this saying in our quarterback room that says ‘when the ball is snapped, you do what the defense tells you to do,’” Herman said.
As far as the run game?
“Maybe a little bit in the QB run game because Arnaud is kind of a power back and Jerome is a bit of a slasher and has a little more burst and acceleration,” Herman said.
Iowa State’s combination at quarterback is currently ranked 116th in America in passing efficiency. If you’re concerned about Jerome Tiller’s throwing performance against Northern Iowa, you aren’t alone. But Herman said that Tiller is a more accurate quarterback then what that one game showed.
“It was his first live action in a long time,” Herman said. “He maybe let the speed of the game get to him a little bit. Mentally, he wasn’t as sound as he has been in fall camp. That is certainly no excuse. When your number is called, you better be ready to execute. I think he let his fundamentals slip a little bit from time-to-time.”
If Iowa State’s passing game is going to get rolling, this might be the game where it happens. The Red Raiders rank 100th nationally against the pass, giving up over 260 yards per game. But their rush defense is outstanding, ranked 22nd giving up 99 yards per game. It all starts with Tech’s front four where they are a lot like Iowa. The big boys up front are so good, sending four can be very effective.
“They are sound in what they do, especially when they play zone defense,” Herman said. “They rely on that four-man pass rush, which is really good. In third down, they are going to try to get the ball out of your hands early and mix up some blitz packages and play man coverage.”
– I thought back in July that these next two games are the most appealing ones on Iowa State’s 2010 schedule. With Tech, you have a new coaching staff and let’s face it, this is just a big game for Iowa State. It is the first home conference game against a team from the Big 12 South that Iowa State can beat. Next week, Utah will invade Ames. The Utes have a bye this Saturday so we know that they’ll be undefeated and possibly a top 10 team in America.
– Who plays the majority of the game at quarterback for Iowa State? After the game, will one man stand out above the other? Who is the better option from here on out?
– Can the defense keep up the momentum that they’ve gained over the past two weeks? The Cyclones have scored three defensive touchdowns over the course of the last two games. They’ll be tested by a team that will throw it all over the field for the first time all season long.
– Tech’s pass defense should get a boost tomorrow night. Senior cornerback LaRon Moore will play for the first time this season against the Cyclones, after coming back from a broken right tibia.
– Tech will be missing offensive lineman Beau Carpenter once again this week. Carpenter had an appendectomy on Aug. 20 and will not travel to Ames.
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CHRIS’ FINAL PREDICTION
Texas Tech 31, Iowa State 17