Turnovers set to assist or hinder Iowa State against TCU

Former Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland throws a pass during the game against University of Akron at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 22, 2018. The Cyclones won 26-13.

Trevor Holbrook

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and Iowa State needs its defense to play a big role again this weekend.

The Cyclones travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to play TCU (2-2 overall, 0-1 in Big 12 play) at 6 p.m.

“[TCU is] one of the best defensive football teams we’ve seen so far, and then certainly one of the most explosive offenses,” said coach Matt Campbell. “[TCU is a] really great challenge for us. This football team, like us, has played a lot of really good opponents early in the football season.”

The explosive offense Campbell referred to struggled last week against Texas, scoring only 16 points. The Longhorns snagged three turnovers from TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson on its way to a 31-16 win, breaking Texas’ four-year losing streak against the Horned Frogs.

Robinson showed off his skills at times in TCU’s first four games, passing for 841 yards with 60.7 percent completion rate and six touchdowns. On the ground, Robinson racked up 176 yards and three touchdowns.

The downfall of Robinson’s performances thus far lies in his loose protection of the football. In the loss to the Longhorns, Robinson tossed two interceptions and coughed up a fumble.

In TCU’s 40-28 loss to Ohio State two weeks ago, Robinson fumbled on a sack, leading to a Buckeye touchdown. The sophomore quarterback handed Ohio State another touchdown off an interception and the game essentially ended with a Robinson interception with 2:37 left.

If Iowa State plans to grind out another win like it did in its 14-7 win last year, the Cyclones need to produce takeaways.

“Just 11 guys running to the ball, doing their job,” said Braxton Lewis, redshirt junior defensive back, who snared an interception against Akron last week, on creating turnovers. “Making plays while doing their job.”

Prior to Lewis’ interception last week, Iowa State failed to force any turnovers against Iowa, and redshirt freshman defensive back Richard Bowens III jumped on a fumble forced by redshirt sophomore safety Greg Eisworth against Oklahoma.

Iowa State’s defense hasn’t feasted on turnovers in its first three games, but TCU should provide opportunities.

“We sure have batted the ball around a lot, tipped the ball,” said Jon Heacock, defensive coordinator . “It’s right there, but that’s how turnovers are. [We] got to keep running to the football and keep sprinting to it.”

On the flip side, Iowa State’s offense has leaked turnovers more often than it did last season.

Against Iowa, redshirt sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland fumbled on a sack late in the game, matching Iowa State’s total fumbles lost last season.

Noland threw an interception against Oklahoma for his second late game turnover of the year. Against Akron, redshirt freshman wide receiver Tarique Milton and redshirt junior running back Sheldon Croney Jr. each lost the ball on a fumble.

“The point of emphasis, in terms of ball security, is always the first thing we talk every single week, before the game, after the game, throughout the week,” said Bryan Gasser, wide receivers coach. “We spend a lot of time on taking care of the football and trying to create takeaways on the defensive side of the ball.”