Despite pulling out a much-needed win, there are some bad grades mixed in with the good. For every Deandre Washington and Pat Mahomes, there was a Baylen Brown and a Bradley Marquez.
Quarterback: In his last two games Pat Mahomes has played better than Davis Webb has through his entire Tech career with the exception of the Holiday Bowl. And despite a bad play that produced a pick in the red zone, and a fumble, which was more Le’Ravin Clark’s fault than his, Mahomes’ effort against Iowa State was his best. He threw with accuracy, showed good judgment, and made a few plays with his legs. At this point, Mahomes has taken ownership of the position.
Running Backs: DeAndre Washington had a career day with 186 yards on only 20 carries. That’s 9.3 yards per carry, folks. His signature tote was a 72-yard burst for a touchdown, and one suspects that had Washington gotten another 15 carries he would have broken another run for 50-plus yards. He’s the best back in the Big 12 not named Perine. And lest we forget, forgotten man Kenny Williams had possibly the two biggest plays of the game with a fake punt carry for 44 yards and a touchdown reception the same distance.
Receivers: Ugh. Without Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler this group would be absolutely dead in the water. D.J. Polite-Bray has moved to defense, Reggie Davis might as well have, and preseason honors candidates Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez have disintegrated. Back in August, who would have predicted all that? Against the Cyclones specifically, Lauderdale had two nice touchdown grabs, while Sadler was a steadying presence over the middle. Brad Pearson and Dylan Cantrell each chipped in a nice catch.
Offensive Line: Despite paving the way for DeAndre Washington’s personal best day, it was a bad day for the offensive line. Penalties, somewhat of a bugaboo for this unit all season, reared their ugly head even worse than usual against the Cyclones, and Baylen Brown was their primary source. A poor effort by Le’Ravin Clark almost got Pat Mahomes killed, and resulted in a sack and fumble. Jared Kaster was the only lineman who had anything like a clean day.
Defensive Line: Branden Jackson had a good day with four tackles, two pass breakups and a sack, but that’s about the only good thing to report about the defensive line. Even though Tech sacked Sam Richardson three times, he still had too much time to throw the football, and Iowa State’s poor ground game managed to shove Tech’s front line around all too much. Jackson Richards makes an occasional play, but gets wiped out all too often. But truthfully, Mike Smith doesn’t have any better options.
Linebackers: Plenty of hard hits, and a few big plays, but also multiple missed tackles. Sam Eguavoen was the epitome of the paradox with a sack, a force fumble and a fumble recovery, but with at least two or three failed butt-downs. Pete Robertson had one of his better games with a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and nine tackles. He continues to make his case for All Big 12 honors. Austin Stewart had a colossal hit on a Cyclone ball-carrier, yet not a single teammate congratulated him. What’s up with that?
Secondary: Seeing as how injuries have almost totally wiped out this unit, one must grade on a curve here. When Keenon Ward went down early with a shoulder injury, Tech was left with Derrick Dixon, Dorian Crawford, John White and Jalen Barnes at safety, and Tevin Madison, Nigel Bethel, and D.J. Polite-Bray at cornerback. That is what you call youthfulness and inexperience to the max. Predictably, Iowa State hit some plays on this group, including two touchdowns and 304 passing yards. But frankly, it’s amazing the damage wasn’t worse. The DBs got no interceptions, but battled all day, and covered reasonably well as often as not. Madison led the team with 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and he had a pass breakup. But tackling in the open field was this group’s main weakness.
Special Teams: Ryan Bustin’s missed extra point could have proved disastrous, but did not. Tech’s kickoff return unit was abysmal, while the Cyclones averaged 32 yards on two returns. Taylor Symmank, however, averaged almost 46 yards per punt in bad conditions. Is there a better punter in the Big 12? But all of the above is secondary to the fake punt Kenny Williams took for 44 yards when the game was in danger of slipping away from the Red Raiders. That play alone is worth one letter grade.
Iowa State Report Card
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