ISU football readies for second straight high-powered offense


Iowa State linebacker Jordan Harris brings down Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart Oct. 3. The Cyclones would go on to beat the Jayhawks 38-13. 

Luke Manderfeld

The ISU defense will be in for one of its hardest tests of the season come Saturday when the No. 3 Texas Christian Horned Frogs bring their high-powered offense to Ames.

And if last weekend is any indicator of what the future brings, it appears it won’t go well for the Cyclones.

Conceding 776 yards against Texas Tech — a record-tying amount — the ISU defense just flat out didn’t play hard enough. It wasn’t a matter of the 3-4 defensive scheme that the team enacted for those types of offense specifically but a matter of effort.

“It’s very simple why we got so much yardage and so much points scored on,” said defense coordinator Wally Burnham. “We didn’t play hard enough or good enough. We didn’t tackle well enough. We didn’t defend the deep pass well enough.”

If the task against the TTU offense led some defenders to the brink of not putting it all on the field, then TCU may prove to be much tougher.

The Horned Frogs enter Saturday’s contest ranking second in the NCAA in total offense, putting up 3,693 yards this season.

And just like Texas Tech, which is the only other team above TCU in total offense, the Horned Frogs focus their offense primarily through the air, slotting fourth in the NCAA in passing yards while averaging 380.5 passing yards per game.

Coming off a similar offense withTexas Tech, Iowa State may have one advantage this week — the advantage of preparedness. And even though TCU has a higher tempo offense, the ISU defense still feels like its training this week can help it slow down the Horned Frogs.

“[TCU’s tempo] is way higher than last week,” said linebacker Jordan Harris. “I think the guys know what kind of team we are playing this week … I think they were surprised by Texas Tech’s speed, and I don’t think they will be surprised for TCU because we are training for it.”

That doesn’t mean TCU won’t throw more than a few wrinkles Iowa State’s way this weekend.

The Horned Frogs also rank 13th in the NCAA in total rushing yards, thanks to a slightly different running attack that includes a speed option. The Horned Frogs’ running back, Aaron Green, is 19th nationally in rushing yards, averaging 9.4 yards per carry.  

The speed option will keep Iowa State’s defense on its toes, especially with TCU’s quarterback Trevone Boykin, a Heisman Trophy watch candidate, keeping the ball and taking off with his exceptional acceleration and speed.

It will be tough to stop Boykin, let alone one of the top running backs in the nation. 

“They’re running the speed option a little more this year, which is big, really big,” Burnham said. “They have a lot of people with [Boykin’s] speed, and the speed of the tailbacks when [Boykin] pitches it out there to them. You get to spread out, and they run that play, and that’s tough to defend.”

But the game plan can only get the Cyclones so far. When Saturday rolls around, and Iowa State takes the field against the No. 3 team in the nation, it’s going to come down to pure effort and execution to defend effectively.

“Very evident that we have to play a lot better,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads. “[The defensive players have] seen with crystal clear vision their mistakes. And the things we didn’t do right … we are capable of doing by playing disciplined Cyclone defense.”

Linebacker Luke Knott echoed that sentiment, adding that it comes down to whether or not a defense can rise to preform when it’s called on the field.

“[Last week], a good idea of what we’re going to be playing day in and day out in the Big 12,” Knott said. “The Big 12, it’s an offensive powerhouse, that’s what the conference is known for. As a defense, you can shy away from that or you can rise up to the occasion.”