Texas Tops Iowa State
All hail Texas’ two-game winning-streak, but let’s not get carried away. The Longhorns put up 31 points in a nerve-wracking 31-30 victory at Iowa State Thursday night, scoring absolutely zero points on style.
The oft-overlooked Cyclones and their fans were acutely aware of the no-lose situation at hand: A win over a vaunted program and they’d be the toast of college football for a week. If they lost, it was because the team who fell to Northern Iowa at home in week one was supposed to all along.
A spotty, unranked Texas squad, playing once again without injured starting quarterback David Ash, employed senior backup Case McCoy under center – albeit with reinforcements from the return of impactful, previously injured, receivers Mike Davis and Daje Johnson.
Tailback Jonathan Gray’s barreling 45-yard touchdown run gave Texas an immediate lead on the offense’s first drive. That quick, big-play surge was an anomaly for the characteristically erratic McCoy-led offense.
As halftime beckoned, Iowa State actually held a 13-10 advantage before McCoy reached back with four seconds left and aired a fateful, 54-yard Hail Mary into the end zone that split two Cyclone defenders and landed in the hands of John Harris. When the bodies dispersed, the Longhorns were on top 17-13.
Coming off their best performance of the season against Kansas State, the Texas defense had their fair share of lapses but never crumbled, as they had in successive weeks against BYU and Ole Miss. All told, the Horns allowed 463 yards of total offense: 201 yards rushing and – most worrying on this night – 262 yards receiving on just 16 completed passes, one of which became the longest passing play in Iowa State history: receiver Quenton Bundrage’s 97-yard reception on a slant-route midway through third quarter that reinstated Iowa State’s lead, 20-17.
The Longhorn defense had also previously withered against an exacting 15-play, 92-yard Cyclone drive that resulted in a touchdown late in the second half. It was Iowa State’s longest drive of the season. The opposition is still setting records against this Texas defense, which much give head coach Mack Brown chills heading into a stretch that includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor.
Nonetheless, Texas, now 3-2, is over .500 for the first time since routing hapless New Mexico State in week one, thanks to some late heroics by the offense, and some pass interference blunders by the Cyclone defense that sustained UT’s final, game-winning drive.
The officials did their part too: The Cyclones were hanging by a thread to their 30-24 lead when they recovered a Gray fumble at the goal-line and scampered up field untouched for what would have been the game’s decisive play. But the fumble, which wasn’t called on the field, and was reviewed but still not awarded to Iowa State, ultimately led to McCoy’s goal line sneak two plays later.
That’s the recipe for how to beat Iowa State on the road with your backup quarterback: Hail Mary, multiple defensive pass-interference calls to prolong drives, and referee incompetence on the game’s most important play. Still, the Longhorns have cause for optimism assuming David Ash is declared healthy to play against Oklahoma next week.
Conversely, Greg Robinson’s defense, though upgraded from “hopeless” to “weak” since he took over after the BYU debacle, still doesn’t inspire a modicum of faith.