Is Relief in Sight With Trip To Ames?

At 12-step groups for recovering Longhorns, we admit that we are powerless over our addiction that is Texas football. That’s why so many of us are still willing to fork over the $29.95 Pay-Per-View premium to indulge our obsession when No. 20 Texas takes on Iowa State at Ames Saturday. This, even though there have now been five "morning afters" since The Debacle. Is relief in sight?

Fast, temporary relief comes in the form of one Vince Young, but I don’t think Texas has lost its last game this season. The RS-freshman makes his first collegiate start, 11:30 a.m. (Central) and his dazzling displays are worth the price of admission. Coaches have been quick to point out that Young’s promotion has more to do with his playmaking ability than any deficiency shown in former starter Chance Mock.

"(Mock’s) really not being demoted," head coach Mack Brown said. "We’re still going to play him. We still need both of the guys. We’ve just got to figure out how."

While Brown practically gushes over what he says is a much improved offensive line and ground game, the mid-season numbers show that Young is basically Texas’ rushing offense. RB Cedric Benson won’t get 1,000 yards this season; and SE Roy Williams may not either (485 receiving yards through six games).

But the Iowa States of the world are great for stat-padding. And though Young will trot out with the first time for the first time, the Vince Young era began when he orchestrated the game-winning drive against Kansas State. He seems also to have the intangible quality of elevating the play of his offense (the defense is another story).

"We’re not making the plays that we made on defense last year and I don’t know why," Brown said. "We did against Kansas State but we didn’t against the other two we lost to. That’s what I’ve got to figure out."

RECENT TRENDS

Texas is 4-0 against the Cyclones and have won by an average margin of 34-24. The only time last season when Texas trailed at halftime was when Iowa State led 10-7 in Austin. Benson’s 59-yard TD run in the third quarter put Texas ahead to stay as the Horns pulled off a 21-10 victory. The last time Texas visited Ames, it took Kris Stockton’s 18-yard FG as time expired for Texas to escape with a 44-41 nail-biter.

The Cyclones, in the midst of college football’s toughest five-week schedule, are 2-4 on the season and 0-2 in the Big 12. Iowa State opened with wins over Northern Iowa and Ohio, before dropping four straight to nationally ranked Iowa, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. They follow the Texas game with a trip to Nebraska.

THE IOWA STATE OFFENSE

TB Hiawatha Rutland, last year’s leading rusher, is out for the season after suffering a knee injury Sept. 27 against Northern Illinois. The ‘Clones have tried to counter with an all-freshman backfield in their season-opener, but it’s been a season of growing pains for the kiddie corps. RS-freshman FB Ryan Koch has started every game this season while junior TB Michael Wagner is his team’s leading rusher (377 yards on 81 carries).

A pair of Texas QBs (RS-freshman Austin Flynn of Deer Park and junior Chris Love from Round Rock) should both see action Saturday. The freshman has started every game and has averaged 203.8 yards of offense. He is 70-of-140 passing for 927 yards, and has 4 passing TDs against 6 INT.

"We think he’s an excellent player and he can throw the ball," Brown said.

Flynn was just 1-of-4 for 8 yards in ISU’s 52-21 loss at Texas Tech last week. Love played the final 40 minutes of the game and finished with a career high on 15-of-29 passing for 262 yards and two TD.

With the departure of Seneca Wallace, the Cyclone offense is geared more toward a passing attack that still tries to get the quarterback moving by sprinkling in a mixture of option and QB draws out of the shotgun formation.

Iowa State’s best offensive weapon is senior WR Lane Danielsen, Iowa State’s all-time career leader in receiving yards (2,392). In fact, his personal best 192 yards on eight grabs last weekend moved him past former Longhorn Kwame Cavil for No. 7 all-time in Big 12 history. He is the team’s leading receiver this season with 474 yards and three TDs on 24 receptions.

The ‘Clones are averaging 221.2 yards through the air (NCAA No. 53) and 143 yards on the ground (NCAA No. 68).

THE IOWA STATE DEFENSE

The Cyclones field a poor defense infused with guys who have had career days against Texas.

Last year, senior LB Chris Whitaker posted a career high 12 stops (8 solo, and one TFL) against the Horns while sophomore LB Nick Moser blocked a punt. NG Nick Leaders equaled a career best with nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery when playing as a true freshman in Austin last season. LB Brandon Brown, considered the biggest playmaker on the ISU defense, tallied 10 tackles and recovered a fumble against Texas.

"I’m sure they’ll be excited about what they saw against us in the Oklahoma game and I’m sure they’ll be ready to play their best game," Brown said.

Senior DT Jordan Carstens, a 2002 second-team All-Big 12 selection, is on the mend after spraining his left knee against OU. He played sparingly against Texas Tech but contributed seven tackles, including two TFL and a QB sack, against the Red Raiders.

But it says something about how porous your defense is when the strong safety (JaMaine Billups) leads the team with 58 tackles. Indeed, the Cyclone defense is ranked No. 101 in total defense (438.3 ypg), No. 100 in pass defense 221.2 ypg) and No. 90 against the run (177.1 ypg). ISU defenders (and we use that term loosely) are surrendering an average of 33.2 ppg (NCAA No. 104).

The Cyclone secondary may be the most undersized Roy Williams will face all year: the tallest starter is a towering 5-9.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Bad teams usually have good kickers. Junior P Tony Yelk is the second best punter in ISU history with an average of 43 yards per boot. Senior PK Adam Benike is a first-team All-Big 12 honoree and owns the ISA single-season record for PATs (42). His 97 points last season ranks fourth in ISU history and first among kickers. He is 17-of-23 FG this season with along of 48.


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