Iowa State hits the road for showdown with Texas Tech

Iowa State sophomore running back Breece Hall navigates through Texas Tech defenders Saturday.

Sam Stuve

With three games to go, Iowa State (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) is one game out of second place in the Big 12 race, with a battle against Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) on the docket.

Iowa State has rattled off three straight home victories. But on the road is where things have been dicey.

With losses to Baylor and West Virginia on the road, Iowa State is 2-2 on the road this season. Its victories have come against UNLV and Kansas State. 

The last time Iowa State hit the road, it fell to West Virginia 38-31. 

But now it travels to Lubbock to face a Texas Tech team that may be playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. 

“I think even just from afar watching this Texas Tech team early in the season, there’s a sense of purpose, there was from game one,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “I mean, they have a great win against what we now see is a really good Houston team. You know, I think they’re a team that where there is youth and experience mixed together.”

With a win Saturday, Texas Tech would become bowl eligible.

Currently, Texas Tech is in a state of transition, as head coach Matt Wells was let go Oct. 25, and Sonny Cumbie had been the interim head coach for the past couple of weeks before Baylor associate head coach Joey McGuire was announced as the new head coach following the completion of this season.

“Adversity has fell upon them,” Campbell said. “You know, whether they could control it or not control it, obviously, you know, for the kids, they couldn’t control that, but I think what you will watch them be able to control is really impressive, and you know, it’s going to be a great challenge. We know we’ll get their best shot.”

Texas Tech has lost three out of the last four games, with the lone win being a one-point victory over Kansas State.

In the two times that Iowa State has played in Lubbock during the Matt Campbell era, they picked up a 31-13 win in 2017 and a 34-24 win in 2019.

Saturday’s contest will feature two of the better offenses in the Big 12. Texas Tech is fourth in the Big 12 in points per game, averaging 32.8, while Iowa State is fifth and is averaging 31.9 points per game. 

While Iowa State’s offense really gets going with the running game led by Breece Hall, Texas Tech’s offense is led by the passing game.

The Red Raiders are averaging the second-highest passing yards per game at 269.5. 

Heading into Saturday’s tilt is a question of who will be the Red Raiders starting quarterback.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, it’ll either be Donovan Smith or Tyler Shough.

Smith is a redshirt freshman who hasn’t started a game in his career but played in the final two and a half quarters in Texas Tech’s last game, a 52-21 loss to Oklahoma on Oct. 30. He finished with 17 completions on 22 attempts for 2,622 yards, one interception and one interception in that contest.

If the name Tyler Shough sounds familiar to Cyclone fans, that’s because he was the starting quarterback for Oregon in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl before transferring to Texas Tech in the offseason.

He’s started in four games for the Red Raiders but has been sidelined since the Texas game Sept. 25, with a broken left collarbone. He’s thrown for 872 yards, completed 69 percent of his passes while throwing six touchdowns and four interceptions.

Outside of Smith and Shough, it’s been Henry Colombi whose taken the snaps at QB for Texas Tech in recent games. He’s thrown for 1,291 yards, has completed 64 percent of his passes while throwing five touchdowns and five interceptions. 

Regardless of who is at quarterback, Iowa State knows Texas Tech can put up some points.

“I know their offense is explosive, so we’re gonna have to come out and be ready to score some points,” Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy said. “It’s no secret. That’s who they are, they’re good with it.”

While the passing game averages nearly 270 yards a game, the Red Raiders rushing attack averages 161.3 yards per game, which is sixth in the Big 12, while Iowa State is fourth in the Big 12 at 178.2.

The last time Iowa State was on the road, it was the worst performance it has had to date this season, as it gave up 38 points to West Virginia.

But it did so without one of its better defensive pieces, senior linebacker Mike Rose, who was and is dealing with a rotator cuff injury.

That was the first game that Rose missed in his collegiate career. 

“I mean, honestly, it’s, it’s a really, really weird feeling, it’s definitely more stressful watching the game than being able to go out there and make a difference yourself, so that definitely hurt me,” Rose said.

But he was back for the Texas game and helped hold the Texas offense to just seven points. 

Rose is a part of the reason why Iowa State’s scoring defense numbers and total yards numbers are some of the best in the Big 12 and some of the best in the nation.

Rose and company allow an average of 18.2 points per game, second in the Big 12 and 14th in FBS, and 281.6 yards per game (101.7 on the ground and 179.9 through the air), which is second in the Big 12 and fourth in the FBS ranks.

The Texas Tech defense has not been on that kind of level this season, which Purdy and All-American running back Breece Hall may be able to take advantage of. 

It is giving up an average of 402.6 yards per game (141.7 on the ground and 260.9 through the air), which is seventh out of the 10 Big 12 teams, as well as giving up an average of 33 points a game, which is the second-worst in the Big 12.

Texas Tech has the 11-8 advantage in the series, but Iowa State has won the last five between the two clubs.  

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.