Cyclones welcome struggling Texas Tech
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — On paper, a trip to Iowa State would seem to be exactly what Texas Tech needs to get its wobbly season on track.
In reality, playing the Cyclones on the road might not be that easy.
Texas Tech (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) has lost five of its last six games, including a heartbreaker to Oklahoma State last week, and needs to win out to earn a bowl bid.
But while Iowa State (2-8, 1-6) has also struggled in the Big 12, the matchups and the weather could give the Cyclones an edge.
Iowa State rediscovered its running game in last week’s 31-24 win over the Jayhawks, rushing for a season-high 234 yards, and the Red Raiders have the worst rush defense in the league.
Texas Tech also leans as much on its passing game as any team in the country, leading the Big 12 with 580 yards a game despite ranking last with just 105 of those on the ground.
The reasons that might be such a big deal?
The forecast for Saturday doesn’t look promising, with temperatures in the low 40s and winds gusting up to 30 mph.
“You’ve got to be ready to play wherever they place the ball down at whatever time. You’ve got to be kind of trained for whatever. And whatever we end up, whatever the weather ends up doing, be ready to compete,” Texas Tech’s Luke Stice said.
Here are some of the main keys to follow as Tech looks to stay in the postseason picture:
MAHOMES VS. THE CLONES
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 4,247 yards, far and away tops in the nation. But Iowa State ranks second in the Big 12 in passing defense, although to be fair part of that is because it’s also allowing 5.1 yards per carry. Still, only Baylor and Oklahoma have fewer yards per completion than the Cyclones in the league. “When you look at their record it’s not indicative of how good a team they are. I think you look at the scores, they’ve had teams beat and lost some close, tough games,” Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
IOWA STATE’S IMPROVEMENT
Changing Iowa State’s culture has always been more of an emphasis in 2016 than winning and losing for first-year coach Matt Campbell. But after dropping four Big 12 games by 10 points or fewer, the Cyclones were finally able to see their hard work pay off with a win last week. “I still don’t think we’ve played 60 minutes of our best football,” Campbell said. “I know it’s never going to be perfect. But there are things we can continue to control and continue to get better at, and we need too.”
Fifth-year senior Mitchell Harger, a walk-on, unexpectedly spent a series as Iowa State’s lead back and rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. It’ll likely be the highlight of Harger’s career after five years spent largely in the background. “Just to have that moment, the touchdown…I’d do it a million times over again,” Harger said.
Iowa State and Texas Tech became new rivals when the Big 12 formed two decades ago. It’s been a relatively lopsided series, with the Red Raiders coming out on top in 11 of 14 meetings. But the Cyclones beat Tech and Kingsbury, then the Red Raiders quarterback, 31-17 in 2002.
HE SAID IT
“You want to get to a bowl game. You don’t want these two weeks to be your last two weeks of the season. I mean, we went through a lot together on this team,” Mahomes said.