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Initial thoughts from No. 22 Texas’ 24-21 win over Iowa State

Winning ugly is always better than losing.

Iowa State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Well, a win is a win.

That certainly wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve seen the Texas Longhorns play, but they came away win a win to mark their first three-game conference win streak under Steve Sarkisian.

Here are a few initial thoughts from the Horns’ 24-21 win over the Cyclones.

Texas found a way to win, and at least as far as the record book is concerned, that’s all that matters. A couple weeks ago, Steve Sarkisian said Texas will start believing they can gut out the close wins — something they’ve struggled mightily to do under Sark — when they can actually go out and do it. Seeing — or doing — is believing, as they say. Texas missed on more than its fair share of opportunities today — more on that in a second — while ISU chipped away at Texas’ double-digit lead and ultimately jumped out ahead in the fourth. But in crunch time, Bijan Robinson and the offense recaptured the lead, needing a 4th a Goal conversion to do so, and the defense helped finish the job, forcing a fumble on Iowa State’s potential game-tying or winning drive. In a lot of ways, this one was ugly, but Texas found a way to win by playing a C+ game at best. For this program at this point, that’s significant.

Texas left way too much on the field. This shouldn’t have been a one-score game that Texas needed a late, go-ahead score ad defensive stop to win. The Longhorns squandered some excellent field position, including their first drive starting from ISU’s 21-yard line, had some execution woes on both sides that added points for Iowa State and killed drives for Texas, and just generally couldn’t capitalize at points where the Horns could have turned their lead into a complete command of the game, only to let Iowa State respond. To be sure, Texas managed to overcome all of that to win, but the outcome could have very easily swung the other way, and leaving so many opportunities on the field isn’t a recipe for consistent success. Learn from it and look better the next time out.

Where would Texas be without Bijan Robinson? Today, specifically, they’d be 4-3 and fresh off of a loss to Iowa State. Not that saying Robinson is a special talent is news to anyone, but today only reaffirmed that, especially in some key moments. On Texas’ final drive of the first half, Robinson was his vintage self and tallied 68 total yards to set Texas up to take a 14-7 lead into the break. The next time out, he turned a few touches into 26 more yards to set lead a field goal drive, and later topped that with 35 more yards on Texas’ game-winning touchdown drive. On a day when Roschon Johnson was also exceptional, as usual, Robinson was the star for Texas, turning 28 carries in 135 yards and snagging four receptions for another 36 yards.

Jaylan Ford’s interception changed the game for Texas. Iowa State was in an ideal position to take a 14-0 edge early, but after that pick, momentum swung significantly in Texas’ favor. The Horns responded with a 14-0 run of their own to end the first half up 14-7, and then added another field goal after the break to cap a 17-0 run, and it all started with Ford’s pick. Not to mention, he was also in on what was essentially the game-sealing forced fumble on Hunter Dekkers, though credit for the actual fumble rightly goes to Anthony Cook. So, not too bad for a guy who’s been an incredibly pleasant surprise for the Longhorns this year.

Jordan Whittington finally got into the end zone! The senior has done everything right for the Longhorns this season, leading them with 26 receptions and being just six yards shy of tying Xavier Worthy for the lead in receiving yards. He’s made numerous clutch plays this year, and that includes his remarkable blocking on the outside. But until today, he was yet to see the end zone — that changed on a quick five-yard slant, and Whittington celebrated in style with Bevo. Then, of course, it was only fitting that his day ended with him making the second push on Roschon Johnson to move the chains and set Texas up in victory formation.

It’s only going to get more difficult from here. Next up, the Longhorns will be on the road against No. 8 Oklahoma State to spark a four-game stand against ranked opponents. Texas has already matched last season’s win total and they’ remain firmly in the thick of the Big 12 title race. The competition is going to get better, the atmospheres will get crazier, and the stakes each time out will continue to get higher. Let’s see what these Horns are made of.