In the dimly lit alley behind the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, the voices of Texas’ staff could be heard while loading the “This is Texas” truck. One staffer stood in the bus’ trailer calling out the names of Texas players.
“Boyce, K,” he said as one of the staffers passed him a bag. He placed it in the truck and waited for another. This truck and Texas’ football team will be traveling to the frigid Ames, Iowa, this weekend for Texas’ antepenultimate game of their regular season against the Iowa State Cyclones.
Coming off the win against Kansas State, the Longhorns are hoping to use some newfound confidence against Iowa State. This week,it will fall on Texas’ defense to stop ISU’s talented offense and execute at the level it did in the second half against Kansas State.
“It will be a great test for us,” junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “Obviously, all those games that Iowa State has lost have been by a small margin. They're an incredible team that’s going to be a great challenge for us, but I'm confident in our guys.”
Brock Purdy, Iowa State sophomore quarterback, is second in the Big 12 in total offense, behind only Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Against Oklahoma last week, Purdy had five touchdowns and helped outscore the Sooners 27-7 in the second half.
Purdy has an arsenal of skilled players at his disposal, but one of the greatest threats to Texas is redshirt sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar, who currently leads the Cyclones in receiving touchdowns. Iowa State also frequently runs formations with two tight ends. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando recognizes the challenges that come with covering a player like Kolar and the Cyclone tight ends.
“They’re such hard matchups,” Orlando said. “In those situations, that's NFL, that's like (Rob) Gronkowski. Those types of guys are so hard to match up with because they can run well enough that they beat you. It's a unique offense that creates a lot of tight-end matchup issues.”
The Longhorns have already faced a team that frequently utilizes two tight ends when they played Kansas State. Although successful against them, Malcolm Roach, senior team captain and defensive lineman, said they will have to take the Cyclones out of their comfort zone.
“I'm gonna have to be physical in defending the pass because tight ends like to be physical,” Roach said. “I feel like we just have to give them a situation that they're not comfortable with. At the end of the day, we got to go out there and just play hard.”
Texas’ defense will start the game without sophomore cornerback Jalen Green after he was ejected in last week’s game after a targeting call. Although this opens a hole in Texas’ secondary, the past two weeks marked the return of key defensive players such as sophomore nickel back B.J. Foster and safeties junior Chris Brown and sophomore DeMarvion Overshown.
Although Orlando’s defense has been banged up and blamed for some losses, the last three games can grant the group redemption. The clock is winding down on the season, but Orlando is proud of the way his injured players have succeeded on the field when they return and their commitment to the team.
“To see them go in there and have success, you don't have to worry about their confidence and all that stuff,” Orlando said. “They're back there for a reason, and you literally have to pull them off the field. It shows when your family’s in need, it's like, ‘I'm not going to turn my back away from you guys. I'm working even harder to get out there.’”