Texas Football: 4 major concerns for Longhorns vs. Iowa State

Steve Sarkisian, Matt Campbell, Texas football
Steve Sarkisian, Matt Campbell, Texas football /
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A high-stakes matchup lies ahead in Ames this weekend at Jack Trice Stadium for No. 7 Texas football and the Iowa State Cyclones. Texas is looking to reverse its fortunes of late against Iowa State in Ames, having lost two straight games at Jack Trice Stadium going back to 2019.

Iowa State has also won four of the last five contests against the Longhorns. Texas did get the best of Iowa State last season, though, with a narrow three-point win over the Cyclones at DKR in Austin.

No. 7 Texas football heads into a hostile atmosphere in primetime in Ames vs. Iowa State on Nov. 18

Texas enters Week 12 against Iowa State with a record of 9-1 (6-1 Big 12) after a narrow 29-26 win on the road in Fort Worth on Nov. 11 over the TCU Horned Frogs. A win over Iowa State this weekend would give the Longhorns double-digit wins in the regular season for the first time since 2009, and it would put them one step closer to getting a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game.

And while Iowa State’s chances of getting to the Big 12 title game this year are essentially shot, the Cyclones can still round out the regular season on a high note. Head coach Matt Campbell and the Cyclones have completely turned the corner after a sluggish start to the season. Iowa State has won four of its last five games heading into Week 12.

Here are four major concerns for the Longhorns on the road against Iowa State in primetime on Nov. 18.

Red zone scoring margins

Texas has struggled all season to convert once the offense gets inside the red area. The Longhorns rank 10th in the Big 12 in red zone scoring percentage (80.5 percent) and 11th in red zone touchdown percentage (46.3 percent) this season.

And the struggles have only gotten worse for the Longhorns in the red zone in Big 12 play. Per Big 12 stats, Texas’ red zone scoring percentage has dipped to 76 percent in conference play, and their red zone touchdown percentage is down two percentage points.

Texas’ issues converting once they get into the red area on offense largely boils down to the inability to run the football in the tight areas of the field. The interior offensive line isn’t getting the push it needs to move opposing defensive linemen off the ball and open up lanes for the backs in the zone running game.

A good illustration of this issue of Texas not getting the push it needs up front in the red zone ground game is yards before contact inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Texas ranks 12th in the Big 12 in conference play in yards before contact on red zone rushing attempts (0.4).

This is a bit of a confounding issue for the Longhorns, who are blocking well otherwise. Texas ranks top five in the Big 12 in yards before contact outside of the red zone in conference play this season at a mark of 2.8.

Iowa State is an opponent that doesn’t mean around when it gets into the red area. The Cyclones are efficient in the red zone on both sides of the ball, ranking in the top five in Big 12 play this season in red zone offense and defense scoring percentage.

Texas will probably struggle to run the ball in the red area without the help of redshirt sophomore running back Jonathon Brooks, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Iowa State will likely load the box in the red area and let its secondary do its thing with a shortened field to cover.

With Texas not having an easy way to punch the ball in the red zone this weekend, Sark must get creative with his play calling inside of Iowa State’s 20-yard line.