Colossal Win: To the casual college football fan, the notion that Texas Tech's conference-opening road triumph over an undefeated but unranked Iowa State team was a must win, would seem a bit silly. But people closer to the Red Raider football camp know better.
The reality is that Tech badly needed a dose of confidence. The Red Raiders concluded last year's conference slate with a five-game losing streak. During that span Tech's defense allowed an average of 51 points per game and Tech's average margin of defeat was 31 points. What's more, it was Iowa State that started the Red Raiders down that miserable byway with a 41-7 triumph in Lubbock.
Tech entered the most recent tilt with the Cyclones riding a three-game win streak. And while the Red Raiders appeared impressive, the low level of competition cast some doubt upon whether this team was actually much better than the one that dogged it down the stretch in 2011.
Boiled down, Tech badly needed to prove to itself that it could compete in the Big 12. And a win in Ames, where the Red Raiders were only two-and-two in Big 12 play, would have been just the thing.
Adding to the gravity of the game was the ferocity of the upcoming schedule. Following Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas confronted the Red Raiders. It was highly likely that Tech would be an underdog in each of those games. A loss to the Cyclones, therefore, would have placed the specter of a six-game losing skid directly before the team.
Tech fully understood what was at stake in Ames. The season, quite literally, was in the balance. And under this immense pressure the Red Raiders got the job done. Disaster averted. Mission accomplished.
Resilience: And how much the pressure must have intensified after Tech fell behind 0-7 and 7-14! The Red Raiders were playing a tough opponent in a hostile environment, and they played most of the game from behind yet still emerged with an 11-point victory. That performance was a real display of mental toughness, and it should go a long way toward convincing this team that it is for real.
Self-Inflicted Wounds: The Red Raiders entered the Iowa State game ranked No. 81 nationally in penalties per game with seven. They will drop in that dubious category after committing 10 infractions against the Cyclones.
Is this a source of worry? Maybe. Maybe not. On the one hand, Alabama, the nation's No. 1 team is ranked an impressive 16th in this category. On the other, Oregon, the No. 2 team in the country, is ranked No. 118 in penalties per game.
The Guy: Neal Brown has stated that he would like to see a single running back separate himself from the pack and become "the guy." If the Iowa State game is any indication, Kenny Williams has done just that. He got 65 percent of all running back carries and accounted for 80 percent of running back rushing yardage. Eric Stephens was reduced to a Wildcat role in this game, while SaDale Foster got only three carries, all of them in the second half.
The Key Play: This contest was filled with them, but the single play that blunted Iowa State and handed the momentum permanently to the Red Raiders came with seven minutes to play and the Cyclones driving.
Iowa State, trailing by a single possession, 13-21, had marched smartly from their own 25 to the Red Raider 43. The drive looked like a mirror image of ISU's only other touchdown drive, which happened in the third quarter. For all the world, it looked like the Red Raiders would soon be sweating a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game.
But on first-and-10, with Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz rolling to his right and Red Raider tackle Kerry Hyder in hot pursuit, Jantz banged the football off of his thigh and to the turf where Hyder pounced upon it. Four and a half minutes later Ryan Bustin banged home a 39-yard field goal, and slammed the door on Iowa State's comeback hopes.
Tunnel o' Love: Tech ran my most beloved play, the tunnel screen, four times against the Cyclones. Jakeem Grant, Eric Ward, Javon Bell, and Bradley Marquez were on the receiving end and netted a total of 78 yards on the play for an average of 20 yards per catch.
Incidentally, Bell was devastating on this play in fall practice and I was wondering when he would get the chance to run the tunnel in an actual game. After his jet-like burst for 47 yards against the Cyclones, I suspect we'll see it again soon.