ISU’s Rhoads leery of struggling Texas

AMES – The critics will talk until their faces are blue before they convince Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads that the Texas football team is not good.

Sure, Rhoads may be convinced the Longhorns have had their struggles early in 2014 as their 2-4 start, the worst start for Texas since 1956, indicates.

But Rhoads says the Longhorn team the Cyclones will face Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Darrell K. Royal Stadium will be as formidable as any ISU has faced this season.

“They have a roster full of dynamic players,” Rhoads said.

And like ISU, Texas’ early schedule has been far from easy. Three of its four losses have come to teams ranked in the Top 15 (when the teams met) – UCLA (12th), Baylor (7th) and Oklahoma (11th) and BYU was ranked 25th when the Longhorns and Cougars met.

Additionally, Texas has been somewhat hamstrung by roster depth partially brought on by first-year head coach Charlie Strong booting nine members, many of them who were expected to contribute this season, off the team, and a string of injuries, including the loss of quarterback David Ash (gave up football with concussion issues) and a broken leg of center Dominic Espinoza (39 career starts).

“There is transition, turnover and change in the first year of a program where ever it is at,” Rhoads said of Strong’s decision to kick nine players off his team. “It is a matter of building their culture, building their philosophy and you inherit the majority of what you (have).

“Obviously there have been some things that haven’t matched and Charlie has made changes. Charlie is a sensational coach and a great disciplinarian.”

Many of the hits, in addition to the losses of Ash and Espinoza, were taken on the offensive side of the ball for Texas.

After scoring 38 in their season opener against North Texas, the Longhorns have failed to score more than 26 points in a game. However, those 26 points came last week against Oklahoma where Texas pushed Oklahoma to the wire before falling 31-26.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes had his best game with 384 total yards last week against Oklahoma, and he has a pair of veteran receivers to count on – Jaxon Shipley and John Harris, who have combined for 69 catches, and Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray are veteran backs.

The loss of Espinoza hurt the line, which was already dealing with the graduation of three starters, and another starter Kennedy Estelle was booted off the team after the first two games. The Longhorns have used four different starting lineups along its offensive line in six games.

ISU’s defense is continuing to grow as safety Kamari Cotton-Moya had his best game a week ago with a team-high 12 tackles, and middle linebacker Jevohn Miller continues to emerge as one of the better linebackers in the Big 12.

Senior defensive end and captain Cory Morrissey likes how his unit has battled.

“We’re a resilient group and constantly getting better and learning,” Morrissey said.