On October 23, 2010, the series between the Texas Longhorns and Iowa State Cyclones took a serious turn when Cyclones offensive coordinator Tom Herman helped orchestrate a shocking 28-21 upset of the ‘Horns.
At the time, Texas was ranked in both polls and coming off an equally shocking upset of top-10 ranked Nebraska in Lincoln. After the home loss to an opponent that had never before defeated the Longhorns, Mack Brown’s team lost four out of the five games to close the season and miss bowl eligibility for the first time since 1997. The lone win came against Florida Atlantic.
The Mack Brown era never really recovered, while the Cyclones became a pesky opponent, particularly in Ames.
The 2013 win at Jack Trice Stadium felt like a loss, as Texas needed a first-half Hail Mary and some late help from favorable officiating to squeak out a narrow 31-30 win that ultimately loomed as a key precursor to the failings that resulted in Brown’s ouster.
Charlie Strong didn’t fare much better the following season, needing a field goal with three seconds left to defeat an Iowa State team that went 2-10 and winless in the Big 12.
The following season once again featured one of the most embarrassing performances in recent Longhorns history in a 24-0 shutout that rival fans crowed about until Texas lost to Kansas last season. That team went 3-9 and got head coach Paul Rhoads fired.
Before his own termination, Strong got a measure of revenge last season at home against new Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell with a 27-6 win boosted by three third-quarter touchdowns after a disappointing first half.
So if the ‘Horns underestimated the Cyclones back in 2010 (or at any time since), that 2015 loss still lingers and serves as a lesson.
“I know there’s a lot of guys here that were there for 24-0, even the time before that in Ames was 31-30 with a squeaker of a win,” Herman said on Monday. “By my math, their point differential in Ames is 55-30. There will be zero taking of this football team lightly. I don’t know why there would be with the history that they have against us and against any big opponent that comes into Ames. “
Senior linebacker Naashon Hughes certainly remembers the frustration of having so little success on offense or defense in a quest for any momentum at all and offered an explanation for the difficulties of playing in Ames.
“I remember the game was a tough game just because it's so different out there,” Hughes said on Monday. “The grass is different, the crowd, the people out there are different. I think it was Halloween when we actually went and played there, and there was people dressed up in the stands. It was crazy.”
Credit the fans as well — Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell understandably talks up the Cyclone fan base, while junior linebacker Malik Jefferson received a first-hand education in the Ames experience when a young kid showered profanities down on him leaving the stadium in 2015.
With many of the key contributors on this Texas team now juniors like Jefferson, the environment should be less disconcerting for a group that has been there once before and just went down to the wire on the road against a good USC team.
“So for the most part, most of these guys understand that we have to go out there and create our own energy, our own things, and not try to feed off the crowd too much, because all we've got is each other and that's all we need,” Hughes said.