Iowa State football preview: Sarkisian preps for Cyclones’ defense

Jordan Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor

While Texas’ 49-0 win against Oklahoma at the Red River Showdown was cause for celebration on Saturday, head coach Steve Sarkisian was back in the film room the next day. 

Sarkisian doesn’t let past results have any impact on his routine. When Texas lost to Alabama, the team was back on the field Monday, focused on UTSA. That next week, following a dominant win, the focus shifted to Texas Tech. Sarkisian said he refuses to let his staff or players take their eyes off the prize while celebrating or sulking.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t let our staff, our players, our fans enjoy it,” Sarkisian said on Monday. “As a staff, we came in Sunday morning, watched the tape, graded the tape, put it to bed and got onto Iowa State.”

Like any other week, Sarkisian began Monday with the first wave of meetings reviewing film from Saturday. Then he closed the book on the Red River Showdown, moving on to Iowa State’s tape.

Sarkisian said that he was impressed with the attitude the players exhibited Monday morning. While wearing the Golden Hat was a dream come true for many of them, the Longhorns came into film study and practice with the intent of soaking up every bit of intel on the Cyclones.

Following last season’s devastating 30-7 loss in Ames, Iowa, Sarkisian isn’t overlooking the Cyclones, despite being favored by 16.5 points. He said the veteran players are hungry for a win and dedicated to playing the Longhorns’ physical brand of football in front of a home crowd.

“We know what it’s like when our students (and) our fans are packed in here, rocking and rolling … We definitely feed off of that,” Sarkisian said. “This is going to be a big week for us from a preparation standpoint to get ourselves in position to play well on Saturday.”

However, playing a better brand of football might be easier said than done. Despite Iowa State sitting at the bottom of Big 12 standings, the Cyclones’ previous two losses to conference schools came by four points total. 

Last week, Iowa State lost by one point to No. 20 Kansas State. Despite the Wildcats having arguably the best rushing attacks in the conference, All-American defensive end Will McDonald IV and the defense limited Kansas State to 131 rushing yards.

For Texas, the Cyclones’ conference-best run defense, allowing 91 rushing yards a game, isn’t a favorable matchup. However, Sarkisian praised his offensive line for how it has developed over the past couple of weeks.

“These guys are kind of getting trial by fire,” Sarkisian said. “We didn’t know what defense Oklahoma was gonna play last week, so we had to prepare for almost two different defenses. They’re playing as a cohesive group.

While Iowa State’s defense will likely be the storyline of the game, the Cyclones’ passing game will require focus from Texas’ secondary. Wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson has been named to the All-Big 12 First Team for two consecutive seasons, accumulating 2,362 receiving yards since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

“Hutchinson is a dynamic wide receiver,” Sarkisian said. “(Iowa State does) a good job possessing the football offensively, and then they find their playmakers.”