Speedy TCU team hops into Ames for key showdown

The TCU Horned Frogs were in the lead at halftime of Saturday’s football game. The Cyclones kept the score close with 21-24 at the half.

Jack Macdonald

The last time Iowa State was pitted in matchup against a top five team, it upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. This weekend, the Cyclones welcome No. 4 TCU to Ames as both teams battle for first place in the Big 12 standings.

TCU (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) is another high-powered offense in the Big 12 that the Cyclones will have to try and tame, just like they did against Texas Tech last weekend. However, there is one difference between the Red Raiders offense and the Horned Frogs offense: Kenny Hill.

The only Kenny Hill-like quarterback the Iowa State defense has faced was Baker Mayfield and they were able to shut him down with a suffocating defense. But it is hard to contain a quarterback that can create a play from nothing.

Hill has done just that as he has rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns. And it’s even tougher when there are potent running backs behind him.

“They are [balanced],” said defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. “That’s why they’re ranked where they are. Tremendous from front to back and inside to outside.”

But Hill also has the ability to stay in the pocket and rip a bullet downfield to his receivers. Passing, Hill has 15 touchdowns to three interceptions and averages 246.9 yards per game. The TCU receiving corps boasts four players over 200 yards, including one over 300 yards. John Diarse leads that group with 342 yards, but Jalen Reagor leads the group with four touchdowns.

However, for the Iowa State defense, it seems as if it gets better as the game goes on. Early against Texas Tech the defense sputtered at times, but once in the third quarter and once in the fourth quarter, they held their ground and forced two turnovers on downs.

“You hope it does [get better as the game goes on] just because of repetitions and all that stuff,” Heacock said. “The more you play, the more reps, you get some consistency in to what’s happening and what they’re doing.”

The Iowa State defense will have its hands full with the Horned Frogs, but it was just last week that Marcel Spears Jr. was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after recording seven tackles and a pick-six that went 61 yards and was ultimately the dagger to Texas Tech.

Flip to the Cyclones side of the ball and again, it is Kyle Kempt leading the charge for an offense that has scored a tremendous amount of points with their former third string quarterback. Against Texas Tech, Kempt threw for 192 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw his first interception.

“Their coaches will have a great scheme for our offense,” said senior wide receiver Allen Lazard. “It will be one heck of a game.”

The TCU defense has a tough task ahead with the Cyclones’ offense, but the Horned Frogs rank No. 11 in total defense per game and allow just 291.3 yards per game. That’s well below the 400.4 yards the Cyclones’ offense averages.

“They do an awesome job, they’re really fast, they’re quick, they move and I think they’re as well coached as any defense you’re going to see,” said offensive coordinator Tom Manning. “They know that they’re really quick and they also know that in some positions they’re not the biggest and they do a great job of rolling coverage’s at times.”

Lazard also recognized the Horned Frogs’ defensive speed and noted that they will need to get the ball to the perimeter and get good blocking, then that will be to their advantage.

Despite the size difference, the TCU defense has aided in the 7-0 start to their season and can stack up with any offense. And for the Cyclones’ offense to have a productive day, David Montgomery will most likely need another game changing performance.

Against Texas Tech, Montgomery rushed for 164 yards on 28 carries, both of which were season-highs for the sophomore running back.

And for Iowa State, this is the first ranked game in Ames since 2002, but for the Cyclones, it’s just another game in the 2017 season.

“We’re 5-2 and that’s what we are right now, we’re 5-2,” Manning said. “And we have to play the next game.”