September 23, 2017
Texas’ Big 12 slate has finally arrived.
The Longhorns will travel to Ames, Iowa, this week for a Thursday night matchup against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium, beginning Tom Herman’s first conference play.
The Cyclones enter the contest with a 2-1 record with lopsided wins against Northern Iowa and Akron while losing their own game in an overtime contest to Iowa. The Longhorns, on the other hand, sit at a 1-2 mark.
Every week this season, Horns247 will take a general look at the Longhorns upcoming opponent to open the week before getting in-depth up until game day. Here’s a few thing to know about Iowa State before we get into a deeper look the rest of the week.
Head coach: Matt Campbell (second year)
2017 record: 2-1
2016 record: 3-9
Returning Starters: 12 (6 on defense, 6 on offense)
As Herman returns to the place he got his first Power Five coordinating job, he’ll be facing an offense that has put up some big numbers through three games this season. The Cyclones have now tallied over 400 total yards in six straight games, a school record, and have put up over 40 points in their first three contests.
And the difference maker has been running back David Montgomery. Montgomery, a sophomore, has totaled 321 yards on the ground this season for an average of 107 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry.
On top of that, he’s one of the more, if not the most, elusive backs Texas has seen so far this season. Mongtomery, a shifty force who was a three-star recruit coming out of high school, leads the country in missed tackles — 36 on 66 total tackles according to Pro Football Focus, which is nine more than the next closest running back.
“He’s the catalyst for what we are offensively, there’s no doubt about it,” coach Matt Campbell said Monday. “If you saw what he looked like after our second week game, what he looked like in Tuesday’s practice, you would have said, ‘Man, this guy is really special,’ because he practices that way every day. What he looks like on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is what you get on Saturday.”
In turn, Montgomery, along with a drastically improved offensive line, has helped open the way for quarterback Jacob Park, who completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 935 total yards. With go-to targets Allen Lazard and Hakeem Butler, he’s averaged 312 passing yards per game.
One of the biggest defensive storylines this summer was the transition of quarterback Joel Lanning, a player Herman once recruited while at Iowa State, to linebacker. And so far he’s lived up to the hype.
Lanning is No. 2 on the team with 26 tackles while also adding 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception. As he begins to understand the position more look for him to get even better, but so far he’s added to a defense that ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing defense (giving up just 107 yards per game and one touchdown on the ground).
The Cyclones, however, have struggled in their secondary with missed coverages and giving up several big plays, including a few against Akron last weekend. That’s helped lead Iowa State to the worst third-down defense in the league, which has been their biggest issue so far n three games. Opponents have converted on 47.7 percent of their third-down attempts.
But the group hasn’t been totally healthy, which could be an issue for Iowa State as it enters the high-scoring play of the Big 12. Starting safety Kamari Cotton-Moya sat out last weekend after an elbow injury and it’s unclear yet if he’ll be ready for Thursday’s game.