IOWA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Can Iowa State's top-notch defense stop Texas Tech's elite offense?

Texas Tech travels to Ames, Iowa, this weekend to take on a very good defensive team in the Iowa State Cyclones. Even though the Cyclones are 3-3 overall and 2-2 in Big 12 play, they are coming off two big wins in a row against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Furthermore, Iowa State has won two straight against Texas Tech. Last year, the Cyclones won in Lubbock 31-13, and the year before, wrecked the Red Raiders 66-10 in Ames.

Here are a few players that are fueling Iowa State’s midseason run:

RB David Montgomery -- The junior out of Cincinnati is an underrated back in the Big 12, getting overshadowed by other running backs like Justice Hill out of Oklahoma State and Pooka Williams Jr. out of Kansas. However, Montgomery has played in fewer games than those other guys and still ranks fourth in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 523 on 111 attempts. He’s totaled four touchdowns on the year and averages 4.7 yards per carry. Montgomery has had three games with more than 100 rushing yards, which is 60 percent of the games he’s played in the season.

“I’ve said it since his freshman year, I think he’s one of the best backs in the country,” Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s a sturdy runner, and the first guy never brings him down. He’s sharp with his cuts, can catch and run it. He’s a dynamic, complete back and he probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.”

QB Brock Purdy

The game on Saturday will feature two true freshmen quarterbacks in Alan Bowman and Brock Purdy. Purdy took the reins of the Cyclone offense against Oklahoma State and pleased the coaches enough to keep playing him. He helped lead the Cyclones to a couple of impressive victories over Oklahoma State and Big 12 co-leader, West Virginia, who suffered its first loss of the season against Iowa State. In just two games, Purdy completed 75 percent of his passes (36-of-48) and accounted for 572 yards, seven passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and just two interceptions. On the ground, he totals 143 yards on 30 attempts.

“(Purdy is) a really dynamic player, can run, can throw, very poised,” Kingsbury said. “He’s a big-time talent, big-time player and I couldn’t be more impressed with what I’ve seen from him here so far.”

The defense

Iowa State ranks No. 20 in the nation in total defense only giving up 317 yards of total offense per game. The team also ranks No. 8 in the country in team sacks with 20.

Players that stand out on the defensive side of the ball for the Cyclones are DE JaQuan Bailey, who accounts for five sacks, 20 total tackles, a couple of passes defended and a forced fumble; DB Greg Eisworth, who has 49 total tackles, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one sack; LB Willie Harvey, who has tallied 35 total tackles, four quarterback hits, and two pass breakups; DB Braxton Lewis, who has 38 total tackles, three interceptions, one sack and a pass breakup; and LB Marcel Spears Jr. who accounts for 30 total tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

“It’s definitely a big challenge for us this week,” Texas Tech offensive lineman Paul Stawarz said. “We’ve watched a lot of film on (Iowa State’s defense). We know what they bring. Their effort stands out, and I think that’s why they’re up there as the best defense just by how hard they play. They have a really good D-line, they have some length at the d-end and also they have depth.”

BONUS: WR Hakeem Butler

The 6-6 redshirt junior out of Baltimore ranks in the top 15 of the Big 12 in receiving yards with 479 yards on 24 receptions and five touchdowns. Much like Texas Tech’s receivers Antoine Wesley and T.J. Vasher, Butler is just one receiver for Iowa State that brings both length and size to the offense.

“(Iowa State has) wideouts that are 6-6 and can go up on anybody and make plays,” Kingsbury said. “Those guys always either come down with the ball or they get a pass interference call. They’re a tough wideout group because they have other guys in the slot that can make plays. They’re a complete offense and those receivers are really impressive to watch.”

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