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Circle the Wagons: Texas Tech looks to bounce back against a tough Iowa State team

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The Natty Light-fueled Corn Tornadoes come to Lubbock for Homecoming.

Oklahoma State v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

If you’re headed west on 84, you’re in her driveway.

She’ll meet you with a welcome mat, a cotton field and a wind turbine bouquet;

The summers sun her porch light, and it’s so bright I look away;

Mac Davis playing on the stereo brings a smile to my face.

God, I missed this place.

Take me home where the air is dry

And the cotton and the tumbleweeds can grow knee high.

I tell ya friend, I aint never seen a prettier sunset sky

A little windy, but I don’t mind it,

A little breeze through my hair suits me just fine.

You oughta see them stars burn at night.

Get this show on the road time to head back home,

Nothin’ like a little bit of Lubbock to get me high.

(I had to type these lyrics while listening to the song on YouTube because I could not get the lyrics anywhere. So, if you’re reading this, I truly hope I got these right, Mr. Cordero.)

Flatland Cavalry is a Texas county and Americana band from beautiful Lubbock, Texas. When I lost my job back in 2017, the band’s album “Humble Folks” got me through some really tough times. Up until that time, I thought I had life all figured out and would be exactly where I always wanted to be, but life has a way of always hiding some cards from you. Regardless, their title track was a great reminder to me that the humble folks get on the scoreboard, too, it just may take some time.

Lead vocalist Cleto Cordero isn’t bashful about his love for Texas Tech or Lubbock, as evidence of the video above. This video was released prior to the Mens Basketball National Championship game, and I instantly fell in love with it (get this thing on Spotify, Cleto!). The song is a perfect fit for homecoming, as many Red Raider faithful will be making the trip back to Lubbock and may need a reminder of why the place is so special to us.

UTEP v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Last week sucked. It also sucked because Tech not only had to battle Baylor on the road (who, once again, cheated in plain sight and no one batted an eye), but the Big 12 officials, as well. I am not someone who generally will blame officials on the outcomes of games, but I am also someone who works at a job that, if I make major mistakes, I am held accountable in some sort of way. As a Big 12 official, or college official in general, you can make mistakes that dictate the security of other people’s jobs, but are never held accountable because “people make mistakes”.

Yes, people make mistakes. However, they should also be held accountable for those mistakes. We live in a world where coaches and student athletes are made available to answer scrutiny on their performances every week. Why are lead officials protected from egregious mistakes made by their crew or even themselves? In every other profession when mistakes are made, there is accountability and action…except for college athletic officiating. It makes zero sense.

You didn’t win that game, Baylor. The Big 12 officials, specifically Greg Burks, did. Congratulations. I cannot wait to return the favor when you travel to Lubbock next year.

First Down - The Enemy:

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State is coached by Matt Campbell, who is in his fourth year leading the Cyclones and finds himself on a lot of teams “short list” every offseason it seems. After starting the season a trendy dark horse in the conference race, Iowa State finds themselves smart enough to be 4-2 this season with conference record of 2-1 that includes wins over TCU and West Virginia. I love that I live in a world that I can say this following sentence: a win over TCU doesn’t hold any water in this conference because TCU is very bad.

(I can’t explain how happy it made me to type that).

At first glance, ISU definitely has the leg up on the overall defensive numbers, but Tech has the advantage in two “momentum swinging” categories that are certainly helped when playing in front of a home crowd – Tackles for Loss and Takeways per game.

With that said, one of things I will be watching is how David Yost schemes around an Iowa State defensive unit, coordinated by Jon Heacock that is primarily designed to stop the run. They not only coach it, they recruit to it and even preach it as an identity in Ames. The system is so unique, Clemson defensive coordinator and National Champion Brent Venables flew out to Ames last summer to study the system.

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

How is this system any different than any other? Iowa State will show three safeties, like everyone else in this conference that faces these offenses, however, ISU has linebackers who can be safeties or even lineman. ISU can show you four defensivelineman in the box, but in a matter of a few seconds they can make it seven before you even snap the ball. So, as a quarterback when you’re thinking run because of the numbers aspect, they change it before the snap and make you run into a seven or even eight man front. Iowa State does a tremendous job of gap assignment and causing confusion up front that it renders the quarterback vulnerable.

Another thing this defense does really well is protect its best open field tackler from blockers. They will scheme to eat up gaps in order to free up their best open field tackler to make plays on the ball carrier. It sounds so simple, but that requires a lot of discipline and things to work out perfectly every play. This is a big key at keeping an offense with a dual threat quarterback at bay because it allows their best tackler to keep the QB contained.

Second Down - Key Players:

Another Big 12 opponent, another pretty good quarterback. This time it’s sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy. Purdy is completing 70% of his passes for 1,807 yards and an average of 300 yards per game and 9 yards per attempt. He has 11 touchdowns on the season to just 3 interceptions. Purdy busted on the scene last season as a freshman, and while he hasn’t had as good of a start to his season so far, he is likely the best quarterback Tech has faced this far in the season outside of Jalen Hurts.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Deshaunte Jones seems to be Purdy’s favorite target thus far this season with 37 catches for 444 yards and 1 touchdown. Jones is an extremely talented wide receiver with some game-breaking moves when he gets to the open field. The receiving target that probably scares me the most is the redshirt sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar. At 6-foot-6, 252 pounds and super athletic, he presents a unique challenge to both the Tech linebackers and safeties, especially in the redzone.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

As I stated above, the defensive scheme allows its best “open field tackler” free to make plays. This year that tackler is LB Greg Eisworth, who has 20 solo tackles in 5 games played. While Eisworth might not be the most talented defender, he is the best tackler in space and I’d be ready to hear his name a lot Saturday. Marcel Spears Jr. might be the best athlete on the defense. The senior has been a two-time All-Big12 Honorable Mention the last two seasons, and he was an absolute force on the Tech offense when they played in Ames last season.

Third Down - By the Numbers:

• Texas Tech leads overall in the win column against Iowa State with 11 wins in 17 meetings. Iowa State does, however, own a three-game win streak over the Red Raiders.

• Iowa State also owns the largest margin of victory with a 66-10 win in 2016. I don’t remember this game because I have specifically blacked it out from my memory.

• Iowa State has given up an average of 20.8 points on defense, and giving up just an average of 19.0 points a game on the road.

Fourth Down - Prediction:

I had this game close and didn’t think Tech could do enough offensively to win. This was before the Big 12 Conference publicly fined Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt for releasing a public statement of the conference admitting the officials got the illegal snap call wrong. Basically, fining him for airing out that they made a mistake, which is a no-no in the Big 12 conference and North Korea.

There have been so many times in the last decade Texas Tech would come back home after an emotional road win or loss, only to let us down. You think Matt Wells is going to let that happen?

If you want to see a team, coaching staff and athletic department pissed off, I suggest you tune in Saturday at 11am. TTU vs Everybody.

The Corn Tornados, 21

Texas Tech, 35