David Ash broke out of his recent slump in a big way against Texas Tech last Saturday, throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a 31-22 win. Despite battling some midseason inconsistency, Ash has been one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the Big 12, as he has completed 67.8 percent of his passes and recorded an average rating of 156.5. Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett have shared snaps for the Cyclones, but neither has been overly impressive through nine games. As a team, Iowa State has completed 58.6 percent of passes and thrown 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, good for an efficiency rating of 119.8.
Perhaps the biggest reason Iowa State is just 89th in the nation in scoring average is its inability to gain yards on the ground. Cyclones backs have averaged just 3.9 yards on 318 attempts, and they have only scored eight touchdowns on the ground. Three players have registered at least 62 carries for the Cyclones and the leading rusher is Shontrelle Johnson with 371 yards. On the other hand, the running game has been a strength for Texas. Freshman Johnathan Gray has emerged as a big-play threat for the Longhorns and he leads the team with 533 yards on 101 carries. As a whole, Texas averages 4.8 yards per attempt and it has scored 27 times on the ground.
Mike Davis turned in his strongest performance Saturday in what has been a breakout season for the junior. Davis leads the team with 38 receptions, 724 yards and six touchdowns, and he has become a go-to deep threat for Ash. Jaxon Shipley also hauled in a touchdown last week, his fifth of the year, and he has settled in as a dependable target in his sophomore season. The Cyclones cannot match the big play-ability of the Texas receivers, as nobody in the Iowa State receiving corps has earned more than 326 yards or scored more than four touchdowns. Iowa State receivers have averaged just 10.2 yards per completion, which is nearly three yards less than the Longhorns have averaged.
The Texas offense seemed to shift back into its early season form against Texas Tech and the offensive line played a big part in this. The Longhorns are at their best when the line provides protection for Ash and opens up lanes for their bevy of running backs. Ash has only been sacked seven times in nine games this season and the Longhorns have averaged 4.8 yards per rush and 13 yards per reception thus far. Iowa State has not been nearly as efficient on offense this year, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and 10.2 yards per completion. The Cyclones have allowed a respectable 12 sacks this year, but overall the Iowa State offensive line has not been as consistent as the Texas front five.
The Longhorns’ defensive line had another strong game against Tech, as it was able to get pressure on the quarterback and stop the running game on runs up the middle. Alex Okafor recorded another sack and now has eight on the season, and as a whole the Longhorns have brought down the opposing quarterback 20 times this season. Iowa State has not been able to generate as much pressure rushing the passer, as the Cyclones have recorded just 14 sacks as a team. The Cyclones are far better at stopping the run than are the Longhorns, but they have been vulnerable to big plays through the air, and this is thanks in large to the defensive line’s inability to get to the quarterback.
Iowa State has been one of the stingiest run defenses in the Big 12 because of the ability of the linebackers to stop runs that get past the defensive line. Opposing runners average just 3.8 yards per carry against the Cyclones’ defense, and as a whole Iowa State has limited teams to 141 yards per game on the ground. The Texas linebackers played one of their best games of the season, holding Texas Tech to 112 yards on the ground and just 4.0 yards per carry. Steve Edmond had a nice game, leading the team with eight tackles and providing a critical pass breakup late in the game. There is still plenty of room for this unit to improve, however, as teams have averaged 206.2 yards rushing per game.
Advantage: Iowa State
The Cyclones have not been as strong in stopping the pass as they have been at stopping the run, as they have allowed 282.7 yards per game through the air. This is the result of teams averaging more than 40 pass attempts per game against them. The Cyclones have also intercepted 12 passes and gained 264 yards on returns. Texas has allowed less pass yardage per game in nearly 100 fewer attempts against, but they have given up 13.3 yards per completion and intercepted three fewer passes than has Iowa State.
Advantage: Iowa State
Kick to the Longhorns at your own risk. They average 24.3 yards on kickoff returns this season. Iowa State been stronger in returning punts, however, as the Cyclones have earned an average of 16.1 yards on punt returns compared to the 11.1 yards averaged by Texas. The Cyclones have also been more consistent on field goal tries, converting 7-of-10 attempts compared to Texas’ total of five (out of 10).
Advantage: Iowa State