In beating Iowa State 24-13 Saturday night, Texas Tech did more than just come away with a No. 24 ranking in this week's USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll.
It cleared a big mental hurdle as well.
"It was a great win for us on the road," Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said, "we've had a tough time against (Iowa State coach) Paul Rhodes and his Cyclones the last two years and it was good to see us come back
For the first time in the Tuberville era, the Red Raiders (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12 Conference play) took down the Cyclones, earning their first win in Ames, Iowa, since a 42-26 win Oct. 21, 2006.
The win, period, is Tech's first against Iowa State since 2007, which snaps a two-game losing streak.
Most importantly, however, may be the fact that Tech's defense continued living up to its No. 1 national ranking in total defense — a ranking the unit remains in possession of through Saturday.
Iowa State was limited to 63 total yards in the first half, which is the lowest first half total allowed by the Red Raiders this season. The 63-yard total is the lowest allowed by a Tech defense since Kansas totaled
just 55 yards against the Red Raiders in 2009.
The defense stepped up accordingly, considering Tech's offense did not necessarily get off to as an efficient a start as it intended to.
Tech quarterback Seth Doege threw two first-half interceptions — one that was returned 87 yards for a touchdown by linebacker A.J. Klein — put the Red Raiders in a hole early.
"It's just something I have to work on," Doege said. "I'm a little bit stronger than I was last year and after something bad happens my teammates work to make good decisions to make good plays, and if things didn't
go our way, we kept fighting."
Luckily for Tech, Saturday's scenario was not as bad as the deficits it faced during back-to-back losses to the Cyclones in 2010 and 2011.
And unlike last season's 41-7 beating, Doege bounced back to throw for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Tech receiver Eric Ward was Doege's favorite target, catching nine balls for 122 yards and one score.
Doege, though, made sure to speed the wealth, connecting with receivers Jakeem Grant and Darrin Moore on 11- and 4-yard scores, respectively. By night's end, Doege had connected with nine different receivers.
Tech kicker Ryan Bustin capped Tech's scoring summary, kicking a 39-yard field goal with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
However, it is unlikely the Red Raiders would have been able to put the Cyclones away comfortably without key turnovers generated by Tech's new-look defense.
Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz amassed one of the worst games of his career, throwing three interceptions to go with a lost fumble. Jantz finishing the game having completed 10 of 20 passes and was sacked
None of the turnovers may have been as timely as Cornelius Douglas' fourth-quarter interception.
The play, which was unraveling as a large gain on a Jantz pass to tight end Ernst Brun, encountered a rapid turn of events thanks to a jarring hit from Tech safety D.J. Johnson.
"I saw the ball coming at me," Douglas, a former receiver, said. "I went down and I saw D.J. (Johnson) coming at me and he smacked him. The ball popped up and I caught it.
"I tried to house it."
Douglas' pick-six attempt came up short, and after a holding penalty, led to Doege's 19-yard touchdown pass to Ward. Tech went up 21-13, giving the Red Raiders the kind of cushion it never came close to attaining
in the 2010 and 2011 losses to the Cyclones.
Entering a week leading up a much-anticipated home game against No. 17 Oklahoma, the Red Raiders are certainly relieved to have put their Iowa State demons to rest.
No better example of that may have been the Tech locker room's post-game atmosphere.
"The locker room was like a party," Doege said. "The last two years they've kind of hung with us pretty well, so to come down here and get this win is great for our football team."
By Jose Rodriguez — Special to the Star-Telegram