No. 20 Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0) hosts the Iowa State Cyclones (1-3, 0-1) this Saturday in Lubbock for homecoming weekend and a chance for the Red Raiders to earn bowl eligibility.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday he expects the Cyclones, fresh off a heartbreaking home lose to Texas, to come to Lubbock mad and ready to play. After getting robbed of a conference win over the Longhorns, I image they will indeed be mad, but whether or not they’ll be ready to play remains to be seen.
Iowa State managed only 20 and 21 points, respectively, in home losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa to start the season. A week later, the Cyclones earned redemption at Tulsa with a 38-21 win over the Golden Hurricanes, scoring 24 second-half points and putting up 434 yards of offense, including 179 rushing.
Junior running back Aaron Wimberly is no doubt the reason for Iowa State’s strong showing these last couple weeks. In losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa, he only had 10 carries for 48 yards and no touchdowns. In the Tulsa win and near win against Texas, Wimberly totaled 254 yards on 48 carries and one touchdown. His hands were pretty good in those games as well, catching three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
All in all, Wimberly accounts for 361 yards of Iowa State’s offense this season, and gains an average of 7.5 yards every time he touches the ball. Most of his runs go to the outside, where he relies heavily on his offensive line and receivers to make running lanes. He doesn’t like to cut or change direction, but prefers to use his speed to make plays.
That being said, both Tulsa and Texas are two of the worst defenses in the country statistically, particularly against the run.
Iowa State’s calling card is defense, has been for several years. It’s Paul Rhoads‘ specialty, and his squads make a habit of leveling the playing field with gobs of effort and “want t0.” Despite losing some talent to the NFL last season and having one of the youngest teams in the Big 12, the Cyclone defense played well enough to keep their offense in every game this season. Only recently did the offense reciprocate. Indeed, the defense held their four opponents to just 107 points (26.8 points per game), but the offense only managed 109 (27.2)
This isn’t a defense that gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback, which is good news for Tech’s offensive line, but their secondary is very talented and physical. Senior safeties Deon Broomfield and Jacques Washington, and senior cornerback Jansen Watson and sophomore cornerback Sam E. Richardson make up an experienced and aggressive defensive backfield that likes to come up in run support and take away the short perimeter passing game. All combined, this secondary is responsible for 66 solo tackles, three tackles for loss, 15 pass breakups and three forced fumbles. They have yet to face a true passing team, or indeed a group of receivers like Tech’s, but don’t count out Iowa State’s defensive backs.
There’s a lot to worry about with the Cyclones coming to town this Saturday. It was Iowa State two years ago that embarrassed then-No. 20 Texas Tech 41-7 in Lubbock, just a week after the Red Raiders upset Oklahoma in Norman. In fact, at least once in each of the last three seasons the Cyclones went on the road and knocked off a ranked team. There’s that, but don’t forget how Iowa State lost last week’s game against Texas. Underdog, at home, back-and-forth game, take a six point lead late only to lose after the officials deny them a takeaway and a game winning goal-line stand.
Paul Rhoads set the tone for the rest of the week with his passionate post-game speech to the media about the very situation I just described. If he thinks they were robbed, the players definitely feel that way. It’s the big story from last Thursday night still talked about nearly a week later. If Rhoads and his staff can turn that heartbreaking loss into motivation for a team that already plays hard, watch out; the ‘Clones mean business. But if they come to Lubbock still hungover and feeling sorry for themselves, it’ll be all Red Raiders on Saturday.