Iowa State football has many “firsts” after Texas Tech road win

Iowa State wide receiver Marchie Murdock (16) celebrates his third quarter touchdown with David Montgomery (32) during the Cyclones’ 45-0 win over Kansas on Oct. 14, 2017.

Brian Mozey

It’s been awhile since Iowa State has found itself in the position it’s in after winning on Saturday.

The Cyclones defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas, with a 31-13 final score. It was the first time since 2011 and the second time in Iowa State football history that the Cyclones won in Lubbock.

It’s the first time since 2002 that Iowa State has started the season 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 play.

It’s the first time this season that Texas Tech was limited to fewer than 25 points.

It’s the first time that Iowa State has had a four-game road winning streak since 1960-61.

“Our fan base is outstanding,” said coach Matt Campbell. “I’m so grateful for them that they get the reward of their loyalty over the last couple years to this football program, but our reward to them is doing a great job finishing the entire football season.”

It was a tale of two halves for Iowa State in Saturday’s game.

The first half was a combination of offense and defense to gain and hold onto the lead before halftime.

Offensively, Iowa State relied on redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Kempt to start the game strong. And he didn’t disappoint.

Kempt threw for a 13-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Allen Lazard to get the first points on the board for the Cyclones. After that, it became the defense getting turnovers leading to offensive scores.

“How about Kyle [Kempt]’s poise today?” Campbell said. “I thought he played a good football game and he’s really giving the opportunity to steady the ship offensively.”

A fumble by Texas Tech, recovered by D’Andre Payne, at the start of the second quarter allowed the Cyclones offense to start at Texas Tech’s 34-yard line. It took six plays before kicker Garrett Owens hit a 22-yard field goal to extend the lead.

Then, the following possession, on the first play of the drive, Texas Tech’s running back Desmond Nisby fumbled the ball and Willie Harvey recovered the ball. The Iowa State offense started at the Red Raiders’ 25-yard line.

That great field position allowed Kempt to throw a four-yard touchdown to wide receiver Matthew Eaton to make it a 17-6 lead for the Cyclones. Another Eaton touchdown by Kempt would make it 24-6 going into the half. That would be 24 straight points for Iowa State off two key turnovers.

“I firmly believe we have one of the best wide receiver corps in the country,” Lazard said. “Just from our size and our ability to spread out the defense. That’s our biggest strength.”

The second half was a different side of Iowa State. It wasn’t explosive and wasn’t effective, like a 180-degree turn, from the first half of the game.

Iowa State started with a missed field goal in its first drive. Right after the miss, Texas Tech marched down 77 yards for a touchdown, trimming the lead to 11 points in favor of the Cyclones.

Then, Iowa State had two straight punts to end its drives. It needed a big play to get its momentum and confidence back to finish off the game.

That play couldn’t have come at a bigger time.

Near the beginning of the fourth quarter, Texas Tech’s quarterback Nic Shimonek threw a soft screen pass and linebacker Marcel Spears saw it coming. He stepped in front of the receiver and grabbed it with one hand, while continuing to move toward the end zone.

He caught it with one hand, but controlled the ball and saw nothing but the end zone on his way to a 61-yard interception return touchdown. It was the first interception of his career and the third pick-six for the Iowa State defense this season.

That score made it a 31-13 lead for the Cyclones and the defense made sure to keep it that way until the final horn.

“If you look at the film, [the defense] doesn’t do anything crazy,” said linebacker Joel Lanning. “Right now, we’re just clicking as a defense.”

This could potentially be the first time since 2005 that Iowa State would be ranked in the AP top-25 poll.

It could also be the first time in Iowa State football program history that ESPN’s College Gameday would make a trip to Ames, for the homecoming game next weekend against current No. 4 TCU.

With this win against Texas Tech, the Cyclones are one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the bowl games in December and January. Lazard understands the importance of this sixth win.

“It’s awesome. This is obviously the most wins I’ve had in a season,” Lazard said. “Like I said we just need to go out there and play the next game. We can’t look at the bigger picture too much.”

“We need to focus on our goal now and we know that if we focus on the task at hand, it’ll take care of the rest.”