The No. 7 Texas Longhorns went into Ames with a chance to check off one of the last remaining boxes in their quest to close out their time in the Big 12 and came away with a somewhat convincing win over the Iowa State Cyclones, 26-16.
It’s been bloody against Iowa State in recent history, with ISU players taking advantage of an opportunity to give the Longhorns a bit of extra motivation coming into the game. The Longhorns took that personally and when the game was on the line late, the defensive tackles once again came up big.
1. Texas is learning to put a game away
After letting leads slip away in the previous weeks, Texas flirted with disaster and let a late touchdown on the board, but responded with an 11-play, 56-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock and extended the lead to two scores.
Then, the Texas defense came back on the field with an opportunity to end the day for Iowa State and did just that, with a little help from Iowa State’s inability to line up properly. After a first down was wiped off the board due to an illegal formation, Byron Murphy showed just why he is getting NFL Draft buzz and put the Cyclones in a fourth and desperate situation.
Putting the game on the legs of CJ Baxter and Jaydon Blue, Texas got the first down it needed to run out the clock and end the game.
It started to feel like business as usual for Texas in a bad way, but they managed to recover and put the game on ice in a way that felt satisfying against a tough-nosed Iowa State team.
2. CJ Baxter can carry the water
Throughout the week, the discussion was “How will the Texas offense function without Jonathon Brooks?”
The former five-star running back answered the call in a big way, assuaging fears in a major way. He turned in a 117-yard performance on 20 carries, averaging nearly six yards per carry for his trouble. Perhaps most importantly, he was never brought down behind the line of scrimmage against a squad that excels at creating havoc in the backfield.
His skills seemed to develop as the game went along, showing great patience and ability to make players miss as the Longhorns tried to lean on Iowa State late in the game and get out of Ames alive.
3. The defense is deeper than we thought
While Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat made the headlines — and will make the money in a few months — the usual suspects weren’t the only ones making big plays for Texas. Anthony Hill, Jr., Michael Taaffe, and David Gbenda led the charge defensively, with Gbenda turning in one of his best performances during his time on the Forty Acres, with six tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
The defense continues to be an absolute nightmare against the run, giving up just nine total yards on the ground on 21 attempts for the night — shutting down a young but talented ISU running game.
As injuries continue to pile up for Texas, that depth will continue to pay dividends for Texas with just one game remaining on the regular season and build on their most successful season in 14 years.