The Iowa State Cyclones had been on the wrong side of too many one-possession games entering Saturday’s game. Unfortunately for the Texas Longhorns, the Cyclones reversed their fortunes with a last-second field goal to come away with a 23-21 win in Ames. For the second week in a row, the Texas defense played well enough to win a conference game, while the offense managed to lag behind and struggle to capitalize on the advantage.
Texas: One turnover, zero points
Stops are hard to come by in the Big 12, so every time a defense manages to make one it’s incumbent on the offense to take advantage of it. Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy averages one interception per game during Big 12 play and in the second quarter cornerback D’Shawn Jamison made an athletic play to force the turnover and give Texas great field position in the process. Texas did not take advantage of Purdy’s charity and gave the ball back on downs in the red zone. In the last two weeks, the Texas offense has been unable to capitalize on the defensive stops, nearly costing them against Kansas State. Against Iowa State, the lack of points on that possession was arguably the difference in the game.
Texas has scored just five times off of turnovers in conference play, three of which came in the second conference game against the West Virginia Mountaineers. When the Longhorns have scored off of turnovers, they have scored nothing but touchdowns, which floats their 2.91 points per turnover number this season.
When looking at what the defense managed to do against the No. 6 passer in the nation, Todd Orlando’s group seemingly did enough to win. The Longhorns managed six possessions that could be considered “stops,” including the interception, three three-and-outs and two turnovers on downs. The offense rewarded that effort with five punts and a turnover on downs.
Texas offense: 1-of-2 fourth-down conversions
As a unit, the Texas offensive staff likes to play the percentages and try to press an advantage in positive field position. However in 2019, that mentality has not been rewarded and against Iowa State it likely could have been the difference in the game. Texas’ missed opportunity following the turnover was actually a fourth-down attempt from the 21-yard line instead of taking a chip-shot field goal. After Roschon Johnson rushed three times for 14 yards to set up 2nd and 6 from the 25, Keaontay Ingram picked up three to set up 3rd and 3. The Longhorns followed with back-to-back designed, off-tackle QB runs on which Sam Ehlinger earned a net zero yards.
That attempt was No. 15 on the year and the eighth unsuccessful fourth-down attempt, putting Texas at just 46.67 percent on the year and dropping them to No. 86 in the country. This marks the fifth time Texas attempted multiple 4th down conversions in a contest, including two 1-for-3 outings against the LSU Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks. The Longhorns have now matched last year’s total number of attempts, but are well below last year’s production after converting on 12 of 15 last season.
Sam Ehlinger: 22-52, 273 yards, 3 TDs
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger appeared to be back to form on Saturday, at least from a statistical standpoint. After throwing six interceptions in three games, Ehlinger made better decisions about when to throw into coverage, although it could be said that he held onto the ball too long in some situations. On the go-ahead touchdown, Ehlinger held the ball for nine seconds before ultimately connecting with Malcolm Epps.
In spite of the lack of turnovers, Ehlinger struggled with his accuracy against Iowa State, potentially due to the high volume of attempts and his completion percentage has been a key performance indicator for Texas this year. The Longhorns are 5-0 in games where Ehlinger has completed 70 percent of his passes and just 1-4 in games below that mark. It could also tie directly to the volume of passes in a single game, as Texas is 1-4 when Ehlinger throws 40 or more times in a game and 4-1 when he’s below that mark.
Following the loss, Texas’ shot at appearing in the Big 12 Championship game is gone for all intents and purposes, but the Longhorns still have a shot at a nine-win season. To do that they will have to take on the Baylor Bears on the road, who come into the game after surrendering a 25-point lead to the Oklahoma Sooners.