24-36, 321 (8.9), 1-1: Tyrone Swoopes completions-attempts, passing yards (yards per attempt), passing TDs-INTs
14 - 95 (6.8) - 1: Tyrone Swoopes rushes - rushing yards (yards per carry) - rushing TDs
If you claim you saw this performance coming from Swoopes in 2014, I'm just going to call you a liar. Even as one of the more optimistic believers in Swoopes, a nearly 9 yards per attempt and almost 100 yard rushing performance seemed far down the road for the sophomore QB. But in his sixth start, Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline have structured an offense and developed the young signal caller into a weapon.
Despite another lull in the performance midway through the game, the only real blemish on the night was a youthful error throwing late over in the middle in the redzone, a turnover that cost the Horns points and immediately swung momentum back in Iowa State's favor. But Swoopes was sharp otherwise, decisive in finding open targets and displaying the most comfort he's had in pushing the ball downfield. And with 20 seconds left in a tie game, Swoopes dropped two dimes to Jaxon Shipley and John Harris to sneak out a win. The final line for Swoopes read 67% completion and 8.9 yards an attempt. We'll take that.
But what I was most impressed with was Swoopes as a runner. It was evident pretty early on in the season that he knew he wasn't as fast as he once was, mentally, but physically his body hadn't learned that lesson. His natural tendency was still to try and bounce things outside and take long, looping motions away from pressure. Not anymore. When pressured in the pocket against ISU, Swoopes stepped into open lanes and muscled through any reaching arms. On designed runs, he was decisive in hitting creases and a load to bring down. He's a different style of dual threat, and still not the fastest guy out there, but make no mistake: he's still a dual threat.
Some notes on the performance: 416 total yards of offense is 9th highest in school history. 800 total yards of offense the last two games is the 3rd highest total in back-to-back games in school history, trailing some dudes named Colt McCoy (904 against Texas A&M and Kansas in 2009) and Vince Young (804 against Kansas and Oklahoma State in 2004).
9 - 147: John Harris receptions - receiving yards
6 - 92: Jaxon Shipley receptions - receiving yards
I could spend all day gushing about Tyrone Swoopes' development, but who knows if he even gets this far without John Harris emerging as one of the most dangerous pass catchers at Texas in recent years. Week in and week out, John Harris manages to overshadow his WTF moment of the week (against ISU, a fumble returned for a TD) by busting his tail getting open, catching passes, or blocking downfield 60+ snaps a game. He's run away with this year's Gaskamp Award so much that he's the clearest winner of the award in recent memory. And it's been an absolute joy to watch him come around.
Jaxon Shipley was Jaxon Shipley: steady hands, sneaky quicks on a critical 3rd and 8 slip screen late in the game, and coming up big for his QB in getting open to key the game winning FG drive. Despite inconsistent QB play in his 4 years on campus, Shipley has moved ahead of Mike Davis to claim 4th on the all-time receptions list at Texas with 203. Next up is Quan Cosby, a mark he could pass in the next game or two.
19 - 72 (3.8) - 2: Malcolm Brown rushes - rushing yards (yards per carry) - rushing TDs
6 - 24 (4.0) - 1: Johnathan Gray rushes - rushing yards (yards per carry) - rushing TDs
Steadily improving offensive line play and the introduction of Swoopes as a running threat has kickstarted the Texas running game, posting team totals and season highs of 191 yards and 4.9 a carry. But the increased total production isn't leading to better numbers for the running backs yet, who are still picking up about 4 yards a carry. That could all change as defenses adjust to limit the damage Swoopes is dealing, and the veteran backs will continue to pound away until that point.
2 - 2 (45, 21): Nick Rose field goals - attempts (yards per attempt)
9 - 0: Nick Rose kickoffs - returns
6 - 50.7 (62): William Russ punts - yards per punt (long)
Consistently the whipping boys of the 2014 Longhorns, the special teams unit against Iowa State was at least a push, if not, and dare I say it, a win in favor of the Horns. Starting with Nick Rose, who's been frequently maligned throughout the year, banged (hair pun, I'm sorry) through a career-long 45 yarder and the game winning 21 yarder, all while kicking off 9 times without a single return (8 touchbacks and 1 knee taken at the end of the game).
Will Russ added a booming 6 punts at 50.7 yards per, including a big 62 yarder, even though one of those kicks probably exceeded his coverage a bit. While Russ has always had a strong leg, he consistently got a hold of his kicks and set the Texas defense up in favorable positions. Speaking of the Texas defense...
93 - 524 (5.6) - 38: Iowa State offensive plays - yards (yards per play) - offensive points
9 - 19: Iowa State third down conversions - attempts
This week, there was no "the offense couldn't stay on the field and the defense wore down," nor a, "lots of non-offensive touchdowns made the score look worse." Leveraging a dual-threat QB, NFL talents at WR and TE, and a lightning quick RB, Iowa State OC Mark Mangino picked at Texas's soft cover 2 with underneath throws, then punished light boxes with RB Aaron Wimberley (100 yards on 14 carries) and QB Sam Richardson (12 carries for 59 yards before sacks). The gameplan allowed the Cyclones to do with the Bears and Sooners of previous weeks were unable to do: convert third downs at a near 50% rate and stay on the field on the way to running 93 plays. And while the 5.6 yards per play number isn't massive on its own, it's enough to do damage when there are 93 plays.
Fortunately, the team gave something Strong and Co. can harp on during practice this week. But for now, we got to enjoy watching the offense carry the defense to a win, which is something none of us saw happening just a month ago.