Though its Big 12 title hopes are over, Iowa State still has something to play for.
The Cyclones will host No. 22 Texas on Saturday and try to solidify a bowl game by beating the ranked Longhorn squad.
Iowa State is on a two-game losing streak thanks to a home loss against Oklahoma State and a one-point road loss to Oklahoma. The latter of the two saw the Cyclones miss a controversial two-point conversion attempt to take the lead with less than a minute left in the final quarter.
“I’ll measure our success or failure at the end of the football season,” said coach Matt Campbell. “Does this team reach its full potential? Well, we’ll evaluate that at the end.”
Iowa State has had four close losses, with all of them combining for 11 points. Only Oklahoma State beat the Cyclones by more than two points. Texas had somewhat similar luck on Saturday.
Texas has had a somewhat disappointing season despite being ranked going into week 11. The disappointment stems from the expectations set for the Longhorns coming into the season.
The AP Preseason Poll had the Longhorns ranked No. 10, but after a first-week win over Louisiana Tech, they jumped up to No. 9. Later, they faced then-No. 6 LSU on their home turf in Austin. LSU won by a touchdown, but Texas followed that up with three straight convincing wins against Rice, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
Texas’ next big test was Oklahoma, who also beat the Longhorns by a touchdown. It’s hard to fault the Longhorns for losing to two top 10 teams, but Texas was home in both of these games and the team still had another loss coming.
Texas followed up its loss by barely escaping against a bad Kansas team, followed by a loss to an unranked TCU. A win at Kansas State brought them back in the top 25, but the Longhorns need help if they want to capture a Big 12 title.
“They’re pound-for-pound probably the most talented team and certainly tied or equal with Oklahoma in our conference,” Campbell said. “When you play teams that have elite players […] your execution and details gotta be really good.”
Iowa State has one more loss than Texas, but all of its losses have come to teams currently ranked in the top 25.
Against Texas, Iowa State will need to rely on being the better defensive team. Texas ranks as one of the worst pass defenses in the conference (ninth), while Iowa State is middle of the pack in that category (fifth) in terms of passing yards allowed per game.
Against the rush, Iowa State ranks third in the conference in yards allowed per game, while Texas is fifth.
Iowa State has the better defense, but offensively it’s a toss-up. The Longhorns rank second in the conference in scoring on offense with Iowa State at fourth, but Iowa State has accumulated more yards of total offense (third) than Texas (fifth).
At the center of this is quarterback Brock Purdy, who has built onto a strong freshman season with a better sophomore one.
After a bit of a shaky start against Oklahoma, Purdy helped his team get back in the game and almost gave them the win in the last minute.
“It was pretty sweet being in that kind of environment,” Purdy said. “While that was all happening I was just taking it in and having fun with the guys and appreciating everything that they’re doing with me.”
The sophomore finished with 282 yards and five touchdowns through the air as well as 55 rushing yards with one touchdown.
Purdy relied heavily on his tight ends in the comeback effort, with all three of them catching touchdowns, including Dylan Soehner’s first career touchdown.
Chase Allen and Charlie Kolar both had touchdowns in the fourth quarter — a quarter in which the Cyclones put up 20 unanswered points.
“It’s really frustrating as a player and I’m sure for a coaching staff the amount of time that they invest — it’s just insane,” Allen said. “We really care and that part is frustrating. I think we showed in the fourth quarter we don’t have any quit in us.”
The tight ends had high expectations going into the season, and they will figure to make a difference against the Longhorns in Iowa State’s first home game of the month.