116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — The clock is ticking and time is running out.
Mistake-prone Iowa State has two regular-season games remaining and needs to win both to fully ensure a sixth straight season of bowl eligibility.
The mere fact the Cyclones (4-6, 1-6 Big 12) have lost six games by an average of 5.7 points makes that outlook appear bleak entering Saturday’s 6 p.m. home finale against Texas Tech (5-5, 3-4) at Jack Trice Stadium.
But appearances don’t matter when the pressure spikes. It’s all about performance — and finding a way to get past a solid Red Raiders team that has turned the ball over exactly as many times as ISU (19 turnovers for each team).
So here are five Texas Tech players to know entering what’s clearly a very important game for both teams.
Running back Tahj Brooks
The 5-foot-10, 230-pound junior partners with Texas Tech’s two-time leading rusher SaRodorick Thompson to pack a considerable one-two punch out of the backfield.
Brooks has carried the football 112 times this season. Thompson’s toted it 104 times.
Brooks has been the most prolific scorer, rushing for seven touchdowns to Thompson’s four. Both ran for a touchdown in last week’s 43-28 win over Kansas and it appears Red Raiders head coach Joey McGuire takes the “hot hand” approach with Brooks and Thompson, which makes sense, but both will see plenty of game reps.
Texas Tech averages 156.2 yards per game on the ground, which ranks eighth among Big 12 teams.
Linebacker Krishon Merriweather
The Red Raiders’ top tackler must be even more accomplished this week as star defensive end Tyree Wilson (14 tackles for loss, seven sacks) will sit after suffering what appeared to be a significant foot injury.
Merriweather stands alone at third in the conference in tackles with 88 — three stops behind Texas’ Jaylan Ford and Oklahoma’s Danny Stutsman, both of whom made big plays against ISU earlier this season.
Merriweather has been particularly good lately, racking up nine or more tackles in four of the past five games. The 6-0, 230-pound senior has forced two fumbles this season and boasts 1.5 sacks.
Quarterback Tyler Shough
Shough is finally healthy and it showed in last week’s two-score win over the Jayhawks.
The 6-5, 230-pound Oregon transfer totaled 322 yards passing and rushing against the Jayhawks. He threw for one touchdown and rushed for another.
Most importantly, Shough did not turn the ball over, which has been a problem for him and Texas Tech’s other quarterbacks, Donovan Smith and Behren Morton. Smith also rushed for a touchdown last week and Morton is mending from his own injury problems, so it’s unclear who will get the start against the Cyclones.
But as of Monday, all signs point to Shough getting his second career start against ISU. The first came in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl, but Shough was benched after an interception and the Cyclones won their first New Year’s Six bowl game, 31-17.
Wide receiver Xavier White
The Red Raiders always feature an array of talented receivers and with top touchdown scorer Jerand Bradley potentially being unavailable because of a nagging ankle injury, White rises to the forefront.
The 6-0, 190-pound senior is a Lubbock native and leads Texas Tech with 531 receiving yards. White has scored three touchdowns and he’s also averaged at least 17.4 yards per catch in three of the past four games.
Linebacker Jesiah Pierre
The 6-2, 245-pound junior from Mount Dora, Fla., has been especially disruptive lately, notching all of his 4.5 sacks this season in the past five games.
Pierre sacked Kansas quarterback Jason Bean twice last week and likely will be called upon to amp up pressure on ISU quarterback Hunter Dekkers, as well.
The Cyclones have allowed the second-most sacks in the Big 12 this season (23). Only the Red Raiders have given up more (35).