Post-season implications on line as Iowa State visits Texas Tech

Sports

A strange season for Texas Tech took another unexpected veer on Monday when the school announced that it has hired its new coach. From a Big 12 Conference rival who will move to Lubbock immediately and take over — but not on the field until the season is over.

Meanwhile, the Red Raiders have some difficult business to tend to on the field for three more weeks, starting Saturday afternoon when they entertain Iowa State in a game dripping with importance for both teams.

Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) is still seeking to nail down a sixth victory to attain bowl eligibility under interim coach Sonny Cumbie, who will give way to newly hired Joey McGuire — formerly the Baylor associate head coach — once the 2021 season concludes.

The goals for the Cyclones (6-3, 4-2) are loftier: They need to keep winning to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game after notching a fourth win in the last five games last week.

Finding the right focus shouldn’t be a problem for Iowa State, which is coming off perhaps its best half of the season in a 30-7 rout of Texas. The Cyclones trailed 7-3 at halftime but churned out 14 first downs and 296 yards over the final 30 minutes to win going away.

Running back Breece Hall pounded away at the Longhorns for 135 yards rushing (118 in the second half), while veteran quarterback Brock Purdy passed for 252 yards. A trick play — Xavier Hutchinson’s 49-yard double pass to Tarique Milton — triggered the second-half onslaught.

“I don’t think we were too far off from the first half,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “We just had more precision and detail in the second.

“I think Breece had one of the best games of his career. … For our team to play great football, he needed to be an A-player.”

The Cyclones head to Lubbock seeking a sixth straight win against the Red Raiders as well as a victory that would secure a winning conference record for the sixth season in a row after recording only one such season from 1990-2016.

They will encounter a Texas Tech team in the middle of a strange transition and sorely in need of an infusion of better defensive play.

In a 52-21 loss at Oklahoma on Oct. 30, the Sooners gashed the Red Raiders for 541 yards — 469 through the air. Both were season worsts for Texas Tech, which has allowed 52 points or more in three of its league setbacks.

Matt Wells was fired on Oct. 25 after the Red Raiders coughed up an early 14-0 lead in a 25-24 loss to Kansas State. Cumbie, a former Texas Tech quarterback who was hired in the offseason as the offensive coordinator, stepped in and seemed to bring a new energy. But the lopsided loss at Oklahoma was not the step in the right direction the Red Raiders were looking for.

Starting with the Cyclones, Texas Tech closes the season against ranked opponents including Oklahoma State on Nov. 20 and at Baylor on Nov. 27. A bye week after the trip to Oklahoma was a welcome respite from a season that is dangerously close to swirling down the drain.

“I think it was important for everybody in this building to really take a step back, take a deep breath and get your feet back under you,” Cumbie said. “I think mentally and physically our guys are in a better place than they were Saturday (after the loss to Oklahoma).

“What we’re trying to do this week is establish a deep belief in yourself, a deep sense of belief in this team, and do everything with great effort and get back to our fundamentals.”

–Field Level Media

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