ISU defense tries to prepare for diverse Texas Tech offense


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Cyclones tackle a Red Raiders player during the game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Jack Trice Stadium. Cyclones lost 24-13. 

Dylan Montz

When Iowa State travels to Texas Tech on Saturday, it will face a team averaging 41.8 points per game this season and an offense with several different weapons.

In the Red Raiders’ 5-0 start, all of their wins have come by double digits, including a 54-16 blowout against Kansas on Saturday. ISU coach Paul Rhoads remembers seeing Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro being particularly vocal on the sidelines.

“The announcers recognized Saturday that he wasn’t getting the ball and he let the people on the sideline know. The next thing you know they’re throwing it to him about every snap and he was catching it and moving the team down the field,” Rhoads said of Amaro’s performance against Kansas. “That’s a guy that obviously wants the ball and wants to create and that’s what he’s doing for them. Defenders bounce off him.”

Through five games this season, Amaro tallied 38 receptions for 463 yards and one touchdown. Against Kansas alone, Amaro amassed nine receptions for 96 yards.

At 6 feet 5 inches and 260 pounds, he has been a constant target for true-freshman walk-on quarterback Baker Mayfield.

It is still undetermined, however, if Mayfield will take the field against Iowa State on Saturday after suffering a leg injury against Kansas near the end of the third quarter. Sophomore Michael Brewer could get the start, and run the Red Raiders’ offense without missing a beat in Rhoads’ mind, but the job Mayfield has been able to do in five games has caught his attention.

“He’s done it against good folks and he’s done it consistently. He reflects his head football coach in his poise and calmness,” Rhoads said of Mayfield’s success thus far. “[He] has not been tilted by the fact that he’s thrown into this limelight and the stories that are written that go along with a guy that’s paying for his education. He’s done a marvelous job.”

Already this season, Mayfield passed for 1,488 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions with more than 200 pass attempts. What ISU defensive tackle David Irving has noticed about the Texas Tech offense is how quickly the ball comes out of the quarterback’s hands.

“We might not have a lot of opportunities for sacks, but if anything, I’m going to get my hands up and hopefully deflect some balls or at least throw over me and disrupt the pass a little bit,” Irving said.

Against Kansas, Mayfield led the Texas Tech offense to 518 total yards with 369 of that coming through the air. The Red Raiders have three receivers this season with more than 300 receiving yards and a combined five touchdowns.

The ability Texas Tech has in being able to turn to Amaro, senior Eric Ward, or sophomore Jakeem Grant is something that has become apparent to the ISU defense with the new coaching staff for the Red Raiders.

“You see Amaro, he’s a tight end, but he’s really a slot receiver. He’s a really big, aggressive dude,” said ISU defensive back Deon Broomfield. “The other receiver, I think it’s Ward, he’s really good. They’re a great team offensively and defensively.”