Nov 11, 2023; Provo, Utah, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Rocco Becht (3) calls a play against the Brigham Young Cougars in the first half at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — They stunt, they swim and they power through opposing offensive lines.
Texas’s defensive line features speed and athleticism on the edge, and strength and versatility tucked between the tackles. So if there’s a weakness for the Longhorns up front, Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht hasn’t found it.
“It’s gonna be the best defensive line we’ve played all season,” said Becht, who hopes to lead the Cyclones (6-4, 5-2 Big 12) to an upset win over seventh-ranked Texas (9-1, 6-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium. “And they’re one of the best defensive lines in the country, so we’re really gonna have to be physical on them with the offensive line. They’re gonna have to come out ready to play and I know they will.”
Time will tell. Texas seeks to post double-digit wins in a season for the first time since 2018 and stands atop the conference standings while maintaining hope of earning a College Football Playoff berth if a few things break its way Saturday and beyond. The Longhorns have lost three of their past four meetings with ISU in Ames, but opened as eight-point favorites according to Las Vegas oddsmakers in a game that will be broadcast nationally on FOX.
“They’re clicking on all cylinders in every phase of the game,” said Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell, who is 3-4 against Texas since taking over the program. “They’re elite on special teams. Defensively, across the board at every level, they’ve got great football players. And then you flip it over on the offensive side and they’ve got elite playmakers on the outside, certainly a great quarterback, a veteran offensive line. What a great challenge. What a great challenge for this young team to step into an arena with this kind of football team and we’ll have to have a great team gameplan to be able to win the football game.”
That’s true in all phases, of course, but especially on the offensive side of the ball. In Becht’s 10 career starts this season, it’s been imperative that the Cyclones start fast. ISU is 4-0 this season when scoring first and 1-4 when it allows its opponent to do so. The Cyclones are also 5-0 when leading at halftime and winless when they’re tied or trailing at the break. Texas, meanwhile, fields the nation’s ninth-best rushing defense (90.1 yards allowed per game), so getting off to a good start offensively may depend primarily on Becht’s decision-making ability — and the redshirt freshman welcomes that challenge.
“A night game at Jack Trice against the No. 7-ranked team, you can’t get anything better than that,” said Becht, whose 15 touchdown passes are tied for the fourth-most among Big 12 quarterbacks. “It’s gonna be fun on Saturday and we’re gonna put some good football out there, hopefully.”
Achieving that goal hinges partly on the ISU offensive line’s ability to keep Becht upright. The Cyclones have allowed just nine sacks this season — a low number only West Virginia can match among league teams. Becht’s also thrown just seven interceptions, so if he can remain relatively efficient against the Longhorns, he’ll be able to connect with top downfield targets such as Jaylin Noel, Jayden Higgins and Ben Brahmer early and often. The Longhorns’ defense is most vulnerable on the back end, where they’re allowing 247 passing yards per game, which ranks 106th nationally and 12th in the Big 12.
“We’re gonna go out there and try to put the best football out there that we have all year, just for the seniors,” Becht said.
So buckle in and bundle up under the twinkling lights on senior night. ISU hasn’t notched a top-25 win since beating then-No. 8 Oklahoma State, 24-21, on Oct. 23, 2021, and this is likely the last meeting with Texas for at least the foreseeable future.
“We’ve just got to take care of business this weekend,” senior guard Jarrod Hufford said. “I know for myself, I want to send out the other seniors the best way I can and I know they want to do it for me, too — and all the other guys on the team. So it’ll be a fun one.”