Road win could be monumental for Iowa State football

Iowa State football players celebrate a touchdown during their 45-0 win over Kansas on Oct. 14, 2017.

Jack Macdonald

Simply put, a win at Texas Tech would keep the Iowa State football team in a position that they haven’t been in since 2010 and before that, 2005. That position, you ask? Being over .500 in Big 12 play through more than one game.

“We all gelled and got to work this offseason and that’s what really helped us out a lot,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Marchie Murdock.

Of course there was 2015 when the Cyclones drew Kansas in their Big 12 opener, but that’s Kansas. Even the 2015 team that went 2-7 in Big 12 play put a beat down on the Jayhawks, who have only won three conference games since 2012.

After an abysmal offensive performance against Texas, the Cyclones have rattled off two straight Big 12 wins, one of which was against then-No. 3 Oklahoma. And then this week, an old-fashioned 45-0 beat down to Kansas. In numbers, that’s 2-1 in the Big 12 in football, not basketball.

They have done this in a non-traditional way. Most times when a starting quarterback takes a leave from his team, the team often struggles to find a groove. Not Kyle Kempt and the Cyclones.

Once again, Kempt, a walk-on senior, filled in nicely for Jacob Park. It’s also helped that David Montgomery found his stride again, although it hasn’t been up to offensive coordinator Tom Manning’s standards.

“I’d like to have 400 yards rushing a game, but we have to continue to do the things that we feel best try to get us the opportunity to find those yards however it may be,” Manning said.

Park’s absence marked the second straight week where the Cyclones’ former starting quarterback was not in uniform and this week will mark three in a row without their gunslinger.

However, playing in Lubbock is no easy task. The Red Raiders have a high-powered offense that has averaged nearly 45 points per game, but they lack something that Iowa State doesn’t. That’s a defense that can consistently make stops and take the ball out of the opposing team’s hands.

“Some people have equated it to the toss-sweep was of just a way to get the ball out there,” Manning said of screen passes. “I think you also see it now invoked the run-pass option and I think some people consider that, I can’t really tell you much for what our people think about it.

“But, its been something that’s been pretty good for us in the past and I’m sure we’ll probably see a little bit of it as well this week from the Texas Tech offense.”

The Cyclones defense sits 11th nationally in three-and-outs per game, averaging 5.7. Of the eight fumbles forced, the defense has recovered four. While on the offensive side, the Cyclones have fumbled the ball only four times and have yet to allow one to get into the hands of their opponent.

Against Texas, the defense allowed just 17 points. Against Oklahoma, they allowed 31, but the Sooners had Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield. And against Kansas, they held the Jayhawks to 106 yards of total offense and zero points. The defense has done so with a varying three-man front or adding a man to make a four-man front.

“It allows us a little more rotation up front,” said defensive coordinator Jon Heacock of the three-man front. “You’re not using quite as many guys all at once. It keeps our guys a little bit fresher and it keeps our three linebackers on the field all the time.”

But, perhaps to Iowa State’s advantage, Texas Tech’s defense has allowed an average of 30 points per game, including 19 to the Jayhawks. That bodes well for a Cyclone offense that has averaged nearly 35 points per game and just once, the offense has been held to fewer than 38 points.

Whether or not there is an advantage there, Iowa State only needs to score more points that Texas Tech to win.

“If it’s a shootout, then we’ve got to score more points hopefully,” Manning said. “But if it’s not, we still got to find a way to score more points than they do.”