With their win over the Iowa State Cyclones, the Texas Longhorns are back in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 Championship game. After catching most of the heat for the struggles in the last three weeks, the Texas defense was the primary reason for the team’s success on Saturday — not only did it play better than is has in a month, but it also managed to limit Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy’s production, which no team has done this year.
Pass defense: 148 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt, 0 TD
After getting torched for three straight weeks, the Texas Longhorns pass defense played one of its best games of the season. ISU’s 148 yards and 5.1 yards per attempt is the second-lowest total of the year, second only to the game against Kansas State Wildcats, while it was just the third time Texas held its opponent without a passing touchdown.
It also brought freshman phenom Brock Purdy down to earth, after the freshman became the talk of the conference. Purdy lit the conference on fire in his first five starts, but Texas managed to hold him to his lowest totals in basically every offensive category. His completion percentage, total yardage, and yards per completion are the lowest of his five starts and it was the first time he was held without a touchdown pass since being named the starter.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey: 7 rec., 86 yards, TD
The junior receiver wants to remind the country that he should have been a Biletnikoff Award finalist and seemingly imposed his will on smaller, and seemingly slower, defensive backs. He once again flashed his ability to run through arm tackles and keep his momentum going, as most evidenced by his 27-yard, highlight-reel touchdown in the third quarter to give Texas a 24-3 lead.
His seven receptions for 86 yards bring him to 70 catches and 1,033 yards on the season, the ninth-highest and fifth-highest single-season totals in school history, respectively. He and teammate Collin Johnson now have amassed 1,763 yards on 123 receptions, good enough for No. 5 and No. 6 in the school’s single-season record book, respectively.
Third-down defense: 5-15 (33 percent)
Third downs have been the Achilles heel for the Texas defense for much of this season, but the Horns managed to hold the Cyclones in check en route to Saturday’s win. It was only the fourth time this season that Texas managed to hold the opponent under 40 percent —just a year after holding all 13 opponents under 37 percent.
After winning the toss and deferring, Texas managed to force a punt on the opponent’s opening drive for just the third time this season, thanks in part to a sack Anthony Wheeler. A big piece of the success came from forcing Iowa State to attempt from long distances and turning them into punts and turnovers. On 12 occasions the Cyclones were forced to make their third-down attempt from five yards or longer, punting eight times and turning the ball over twice for a 2-12 rate in those situations.
Now, with a win over the Kansas Jayhawks the Longhorns will make their first trip to the Big 12 Championship since 2009. If they manage to take care of business Friday, the question simply becomes whether they’re going for two straight against the Oklahoma Sooners or trying to avenge the last-second loss against West Virginia.