Iowa State set to face high-powered Texas offense

Iowa State defensive back Kym-Mani King celebrates with teammates after an interception against Kansas on Oct. 2.

Sam Stuve

Coming into the 2021 season, Iowa State and Texas were projected to be among the elite teams in the Big 12 conference, with Iowa State finishing second in the Big 12 preseason poll and Texas third. 

Now three quarters of the way through the season, Iowa State and Texas are fighting to hold on to what may be dwindling hopes of making the Big 12 Championship Game come December.

Iowa State sits at 5-3 (3-2 Big 12) in fourth place, one game behind Baylor and Oklahoma State for second. Texas is 4-4 (2-3 Big 12) and is in a three-way tie for fifth place along with Kansas State and West Virginia.

The last two games between Iowa State and Texas have been thrillers, with Iowa State winning 23-20 in 2019 thanks to a game-winning field goal by Connor Assalley, and 23-21 in 2020 after a missed kick by Cameron Dicker of Texas. 

Both teams are coming off of losses. Iowa State lost 38-31 at West Virginia last week, while Texas fell to Baylor 31-24.

“I mean, they, they’re well coached that good scheme, showed some different coverages where they had different, brackets or whatever, but I think that, they just won the game, they did more than we did, we got to find ways to beat these things in these ways,” Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar said of Texas. 

For the Cyclones, the West Virginia game was the worst outing of the season that the defense has had all year. Despite the second loss in conference play, Iowa State does not appear to be panicking. 

What do the Cyclones need to be better at this week than they were last week?

Tackling is certainly a big one, says defensive back Kym-Mani King. 

“Well, tackling obviously, tackling in open space, defending the deep ball a lot better,” King said. “We gave up too many yards I guess you would say on first down on some of the runs so figuring out what gaps are what people need to do to get the reads quicker and all that.”

For Texas, the loss to Baylor marked the third loss in a row, all of which have been one possession games. 

Even in their three Big 12 losses, the Longhorns have been lethal on offense thanks to Bijan Robinson on the ground, but also Xavier Worthy out wide.

Robinson is second in the Big 12 behind Iowa State’s Breece Hall and is eighth in the nation (as of Thursday) in rushing yards with 967.

On top of that he has 11 rushing touchdowns and 211 receiving yards on 15 receptions, three of which were touchdowns.

“He’s a dynamic football player who plays really, really hard, he’s very consistent,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “I think one thing we’ve always said about true tailbacks is they have to do all three things at an elite level, they got to be able to run it, be able to catch it and they got to be able to block and he does that with exception.”

Let’s not forget about the aerial attack too.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson has a dangerous receiver on the outside in Worthy, a true freshman who leads the Big 12 in receiving yards with 657 and in receiving touchdowns with seven. 

“They’re a great, great offense. They got a lot of young guys that’s doing well with them. I mean, they’re a high-powered offense, so it’d be good to see what our defense can do against them,” King said. “I’m excited for it, I’m excited to play them.”

Saturday marks the first time King will have played against the Longhorns.

In total, the Texas offense is averaging 447.4 yards per game and 39.4 points per game, which are third and second in the Big 12 respectively.

The numbers offensively show that Texas has a balanced offense. Texas averages 233.5 yards per game passing and 213.5 yards per game rushing.

“They’ve got several lethal weapons, you know, they’ve got them all over the field,” Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “They space the ball out… and the thing that’s helped them an incredible amount is Bijan, I mean they’re running the football downhill so it takes more guys to get in the box to stop the run. When you do that obviously then your guys are out there one on one and you know our guys are just gonna have to do a great job.”

Texas is set to face an Iowa State offense that is giving up 19.6 points per game (third best in the Big 12) and 291.5 yards (189.6 passing and 101.9 rushing) yards per game. 

The downfall thus far for the Longhorns this season has been their defense.

The Longhorn defense is giving up an average of 29.8 points per game and 432.4 yards per game (227.4 passing and 213.9 rushing), both of which are in the bottom half of the Big 12. 

Meanwhile, the Cyclone offense is averaging 32.1 points per game, which is fifth in the Big 12 and 428.3 yards per game (249.6 passing and 178.6 rushing). 

A win on Saturday would not only keep Iowa State’s Big 12 Championship Game hopes alive, but it would extend Iowa State’s overall winning streak against Texas to three for the first time ever and also would be the second straight home win against Texas, something which it has never done before.