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Inside the Numbers: Texas played ugly, but managed to win

Unlike years past, the Longhorns managed to come away with a win despite a disappointing performance.

Iowa State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty for the Texas Longhorns, but a win is a win, especially against an Iowa State Cyclones team that’s beaten you on the last three outings.

There is a lot to clean up for the Longhorns, especially defensively, as they head into the toughest stretch of the season — one that will likely define the narrative of the season. So what is there to clean up following the home win to notch their fifth win of the season?

Texas defense: (329 passing yards, 74 rushing yards)

In the win over the Cyclones, Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense did exactly what you want to when you’re playing a young quarterback — shut down the run and force him to beat you.

Texas held Iowa State to just 74 yards on the ground, the second-best performance of the year for PK’s group, just 13 yards behind the WVU game two weeks ago. A common thread from the Cyclones’ last three wins was the dominant ground performance from Breece Hall. In fact, this was the first time since 2018 that Texas held the Cyclones to less than 100 yards; coincidentally that was also the last time Texas beat Iowa State. This is the third time this year that Texas held its opponent to less than 100 rushing yards and just the fourth time under Kwiatkowski, joining ULM and West Virginia from this year and Louisiana from a year ago.

Unfortunately for Texas, due to a combination of alignment, injuries, and poor execution, Dekkers answered the call and paced the ISU defense in the upset bid. His 329 passing yards is the second-worst passing performance of the year from the Texas defense and the third-worst under PK, both of which came against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in overtime games. This marks the sixth time in the last two years that Texas has allowed more than 300 yards, going 2-4 in those contests.

Third downs: Iowa State 9-15 (60%) Texas 6-13 (46.2%)

It was another frustrating performance from the defense in a few key moments when they were attempting to get off the field, especially given the positions they put themselves in on first and second downs. In spite of facing an average distance to go of 8.2 yards, the Cyclones converted nine of their 15 third-down attempts, including going 4-6 on attempts of nine yards or longer. The Cyclones faced just two third-down attempts of four yards or shorter in the contest and still managed to put up a 60-percent performance, including going 4-5 in the fourth quarter.

Part of their success came on the right arm of Dekkers, who was 11-12 for 118 yards (9.8 yards per attempt) on third downs, for six of their nine conversions. That includes a massive 20-yard completion on what could have been a tying or winning drive if not for the heroics of Anthony Cook and Jaylan Ford one play later.

That being said, third-down defense may not be the leading indicator for the Longhorns’ success as one may think. This year, Texas currently sits 3-0 in contests in which they’ve allowed opponents to convert 50 percent or more of their third downs.

Conversely, the Longhorns turned in one of their best offensive performances on third downs, providing a stark improvement over the start of the year. Through the first four games, Texas was 15/45 on the money down for an abysmal 33% conversion rate. Through the last three games, including the 6-13 outing against Iowa State, Texas is converting 56% of its third downs. The glaring opportunity seems to be in situations in which Texas has a chance to put opponents in a deep hole and put the game away, which happened yet again on Saturday.

On the first two drives of the second half with an opportunity to go up three scores on Iowa State, Texas failed to convert on 3rd and 9 and 3rd and 10, respectively, and kept the door open for Iowa State. The Cyclones responded with a 54-yard touchdown pass to make it a three-point game.

Bijan Robinson: 28 carries, 135 yards, 4 rec, 36 yards

The third-year running back continues to prove why he is one of the most vital pieces of the offense, as he extended his 100-yard game streak to five games. In fact, if Bijan Robinson was a team unto himself, he would have had the best overall team performance against Iowa State this year. Perhaps most importantly was his ability to get the necessary yards in the second half, when Texas needed to grind it out against Iowa State.

Nine of his carries and 54 of his 135 yards, six yards per carry, came in the fourth quarter, helping the Texas offense stay on track and close the doors on the Cyclones when it was winning time.

For his efforts, Robinson now sits No. 13 all-time rushing with 2,610 yards, passing Jonathan Gray on the all-time list. If Robinson hits just 100 yards for the next five regular-season games, he will finish his junior year No. 6 all-time, ahead of Vince Young, Roosevelt Leaks, Jam Jones, D’Onta Foreman, and Malcolm Brown on the list.