This week, we thank SB Nation’s Kevin Fitzpatrick of Wide Right & Natty Lite” for the answers on this week’s match-up in Austin between the Texas Longhorns (2-3) and the Iowa State Cyclones (1-5).
Burnt Orange Nation: In a few sentences, how would you describe the Iowa State offense?
Wide Right and Natty Lite: Based on the last two games... Incredible for the first three quarters, non-existent in the 4th.
But really, Matt Campbell and offensive coordinator Tom Manning have done a superb job calling plays recently that take advantage of the defense when they're playing one way, then switch it up after the D adjusts.
Campbell's always been a run-first guy, so when Mike Warren and David Montgomery get going on the ground, it opens up the passing game.
The 4th quarter woes from the past two weeks have been mainly due to players not executing. As long as our players do what they're supposed to do, it appears that we might have the best Cyclone offense on our hands in a long time.
ISU has some nice skill players this year, but most of the credit for improvement goes to the staff in my opinion.
BON: With Matt Campbell now the head coach, what changes have you noticed about this ISU team compared to last season?
WRNL: Relating back to the offense, it actually seems like play calling is being made in a logical manner as opposed to our OC playing “eenie-meenie-meinie-moe” with the playbook. So that's refreshing, to say the least.
The offense this year has also used motion more effectively to help give Joel Lanning/Jacob Park an idea of what opposing defenses are running prior to the snap.
Another switch from last season is our defense is running primarily out of the 4-2-5 as opposed to the 3-4 which was implemented in Paul Rhoads' last season.
This came as a welcome switch because the 4-2-5 is generally better at slowing down passing offenses (which the Big 12 has plenty of) and it gets more players in our deep secondary on the field.
The linebackers on our roster are a pain point for sure, which is a big reason for why ISU has generally struggled defending against the run.
BON: Given ISU has had some tough losses the past couple of weeks in B12 play, what's the moral (morale*) of this team right now? (This was a trick question by me and Kevin caught it... No, I just forgot the “e” in “morale” and he caught me red-handed.)
WRNL: The “moral” is to execute under pressure. When the pressure has ramped up and the Cyclones need to close out the game, players have folded and succumbed to the "losing culture" that permeated our program during the last few years of the Rhoads era.
Campbell is doing his best to change that culture, but Iowa State is going to have to win a game or two like the ones they lost to Baylor and Oklahoma State before they can take that next step.
The “morale” of the team is surprisingly good right now; in one word, I'd call it "determined."
In his presser this week, Campbell said he was "ticked" about how ISU lost the last two games. Mike Warren also dropped this bomb on Twitter following the OSU game.
Some might see that as a bad thing, but we Cyclones see it as a player who isn't satisfied with "moral victories." We've had enough moral victories lately -- it's time for more real victories.
BON: What type of answers, if any, will the Cyclones have for this Texas spread offense and its strong running game led by D'Onta Foreman?
WRNL: Like I mentioned earlier, Iowa State's strength on defense is its secondary. The problem with that, however, is star safety Kamari Cotton-Moya didn't play last week against Oklahoma State after getting banged up the prior week against Baylor. If he's back, then I'm confident we can at least slow down the Texas passing game.
Defending the run is a different story. The Cyclones have given up a ton of yards on the ground this year (235.5/game to be exact).
The silver lining is last week defensive coordinator Jon Heacock elected to move defensive end Jhaustin Thomas inside, and ISU only allowed Oklahoma State to rack up 108 yards on the ground.
That extra help up the middle seemed to take some pressure off of the linebackers. It's yet to be seen whether that will turn into a trend, or be more of a fluke.
Foreman is probably the best back ISU has faced this season. If we can limit him to under 150 yards rushing, it'll be a small miracle.
BON: How do you see this game playing out and will Iowa State cover the spread, which currently favors Texas at -13.5?
WRNL: I'll give you three good reasons why Iowa State should cover the spread and could even cover it by 14 points or more.
1) Iowa State won this game 24-0 last year (you may have erased it from your memories, but it still happened!).
2) Iowa State is 4-2 overall against the spread this year.
3) Iowa State arguably outplayed Baylor and Oklahoma State the last two weeks — two teams I consider to be better than Texas.
Of course, the real Iowa State thing to do would be to lay an egg at some point. That very well could be this weekend in Austin. I sure hope not though, because if we continue to remain competitive every week, it'll be a real sign of progress for our program.
Prediction: I’ll be bold and predict the Cyclones win on a last-second field goal to finally get over the hump of not closing games. Iowa State 37, Texas 35