AMES — Texas is the only Big 12 team Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell has never beaten.
Saturday in Ames, his Iowa State team will have a chance to change that.
“Well, number one, they’re pretty darn good, right?” Campbell said. “I think you turn the film on and you talk about a team that oozes excellence. They’ve got really good players everywhere. I know they’re young and it’s a team that had some injuries but has gotten some guys back. They’re, I think, pound for pound probably the most talented team and certainly tied or equal with Oklahoma in our conference.”
Most of Texas’ injuries have come on the defensive side of the ball, but like Campbell said, those players are starting to return.
“They’re very talented and they present a lot of problems for everybody they play, schematically,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “I’m happy they’re getting players back for them, but certainly it’s not something I’m excited about because they have really good players and they do a great job schematically on defense.”
On offense, the Longhorns are led by junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Ehlinger is similar in style to Baylor’s Charlie Brewer but Texas Coach Tom Herman likes to use running schemes with Ehlinger that are similar to how Oklahoma uses Jalen Hurts.
“The running game is very much like last week with what we saw against Oklahoma,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “It’s a tough running game and the quarterback runs are obviously a factor in the game. Ehlinger does a great job with the football — whether he’s running it or throwing it. You see him making throws now all across the field.”
Ehlinger has passed for 2,641 yards and has rushed for another 401. He has 29 total touchdowns — 24 passing and five rushing.
Iowa State Cyclones
To combat Texas’ raw athleticism and talent, Campbell knows his team has to have the details figured out.
“I think when you play teams that have elite players that means your execution and detail have to be on point,” Campbell said. “In terms of having elite culture, but maybe not the same players, your execution and details have to be really good.
“I think Texas forces you to execute at a really high level to be really successful, so that’s something we haven’t done in those previous games that we’ve played against Texas and that will be something we have to do for us to be successful come Saturday.”
One area where Iowa State can take advantage of Texas is with its tight ends.
The Cyclones have the No. 2 ranked tight end in college football, according to Pro Football Focus, in Charlie Kolar, another tight end that ranks near the top in the Big 12 in Chase Allen and a third tight end who doesn’t always put up stats but makes a big difference in the run game in Dylan Soehner.
Last week against Oklahoma, all three caught touchdown passes.
“We’re really happy with their progress. You’re the second person that told me three tight ends scored on Saturday — (tight ends) coach (Alex) Golesh told me as well,” Manning said with a laugh. “We ask them to do a lot of things and they have a sense of awareness of their own progress.
“Chase, his dad was a coach, so he’s hyper-aware of his performances, Charlie is a great competitor and he’s emotional and takes it to heart and Soehner, he’s a work horse. He comes to work every day.”
Defensively, Iowa State has to guard against the explosive play its defense is supposed to prevent. In back-to-back games the Cyclones have allowed long scoring plays that are uncharacteristic.
Texas has explosive athletes just like Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, so preventing that will be a key.
Iowa State 34, Texas 28
Iowa State has come so close in all four of its losses that, at some point, something has to break its way. That’s not much in the way of analysis, but it just feels like the game is going to break Iowa State’s way this week.
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