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Texas Longhorns trying to avoid another 11 am letdown against Iowa St.

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Two years, the Cyclones came into DKR with the Longhorns coming off a big win against Nebraska and embarrassed Texas.

Erich Schlegel

"I’m trying, I’m fighting my guts out to get them turned. It’s what I did in ‘07. I fought my guts out every day. Just gotta stay after them every day.

"Can’t trust your team, can’t trust your coaches when they’re not getting things ready to go so you gotta go back every day and try to look at every little thing and figure out where you can help them."

-- Texas head coach Mack Brown after the Iowa St. loss in 2010

Brown throwing his coaches and players under the bus following that disappointing 28-21 loss in 2010 was one of the early signs of the coming purge, as the effort on that morning was clearly unacceptable.

Texas wasn't ready to play, plain and simple.

Iowa St. had given up 120 points the previous two weeks, so the Longhorns likely weren't prepared for the dog fight that ensued that morning. Perhaps they didn't realize that teams coached by Paul Rhoads will always fight.

Four turnovers by the Longhorns, all by quarterback Garrett Gilbert, helped to sink the team. A missed fourth-down conversion didn't help either.

Overall, it was a comedy of errors for the offense -- Gilbert had a touchdown called back by penalty, then an illegal motion penalty moved the Longhorns from the 1 yardline back to the 5 yardline on fourth down, forcing Texas to attempt a field goal. Gilbert also threw an interception in the end zone and another drive stalled out on the five.

The defense, playing undersized Alex Okafor at defensive tackle, had to run blitz at times in attempts to help out the defensive line and ended up giving up 120 rushing yards to Alexander Robinson. Quarterback Austen Arnaud ran for another 40 yards on 10 carries.

It was the program's first win over Texas ever and the first over a ranked opponent since 1990. But then, the 2010 season had a lot of all-time lows.

Iowa St. head coach Paul Rhoads called the win "historic," running back Jeff Woody termed it "unbelievable," Arnaud weighed in by saying he would remember it "forever," and even the Iowa governor chimed in:

For the first time in school history, Iowa State beat powerhouse Texas, demonstrating once again that Iowa State is a program to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile, Brown wasn't the only Longhorn upset about the loss. Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said it was "bad for the program" and offensive guard Trey Hopkins, asked about it Monday, remembered that he was "heartbroken."

As Brown laid it out on Monday, the resume for the Cyclones is pretty impressive, more so than the 4-4 overall record:

They beat Iowa on the road. They had a close loss with Texas Tech. They beat TCU in Fort Worth. Kansas State, they played Kansas State to 27-21. They've played them better than anybody else. They beat Baylor 35-21, and obviously played Oklahoma a whole lot better than we did last weekend.

Suffice it to say that the head coach takes the Cyclones seriously. So does quarterback David Ash:

As I've watched them over the years they've come a long way. The secret to success is not complicated. It's through hard work, through dedication to what you're doing, and through playing tough, physical football. Believing in each other and coming together as a team with one purpose. I think Coach [Paul] Rhoads has done a great job of instilling those values in his team, and they've played some tough, tough close ballgames this year. They're a great football team, so we have to understand that and be ready to play this week, just like we need to do that every week. As this team grows and matures, we're going to be more consistent.

The wins and other close games have mostly come despite some shaky quarterback play for the Cyclones, who have alternated sophomore Jared Barnett and senior Steele Jantz this season. Jantz has assumed the starting role the last two weeks.

Brown believes that he is improved this season:

Steele Jantz has improved so much from last year. He can beat you with his feet and his arm. Those are the ones that scare you to death. He can beat you with offschedule plays. [Texas Tech senior QB] Seth [Doege] can do that. But Seth's not going to run much. Steele will pull the ball down and take it and run with it without question. We've got to try to do a good job stopping the run, because Iowa State is a big, physical, offensive line and they like to run the ball. But he can give you fits with the option, the quarterback draw, with sprints, nakeds, and the ability to run off schedule.

Thing is, that improvement hasn't really shown up on the stat sheet -- Jantz has nine interceptions against 12 touchdown passes and has only one strong rushing performance on the season, which was against Baylor. As Brown indicated, though, Texas will need to be ready for the zone read game, which they were not against the Bears.

Jantz will receive some help from two diminutive running backs, 5-9 sophomore Shontrelle Johnson, a Florida native who earned an offer from the Gators, and 5-8 Skyline product James White. Both are shifty and have solid but not great speed.

Johnson has had something of a breakout season after he suffered a neck injury that limited his 2011 campaign, leading Iowa St. in rushing yards this season, while White represents the big-play threat, having broken off a run of 56 yards this season. He also caught a 42-yard pass against Iowa.

The good news for Texas is that S&P+ doesn't care much for the Cyclones as a rushing team, placing them 103rd in the country, perhaps due in part to games against Iowa and Kansas St. in which they averaged less than three yards per carry. Against Texas Tech, the mark was only slightly better (3.05).

The main culprit may be an offensive line that lost two starters, including high draft pick Kelechi Osemele, taken in the second round by the Ravens last spring.

The receiving corps probably hasn't benefited from all the changes at quarterback, as no one in the group is ranked higher than 25th in the conference in receiving yards, though seniors Chris Young, Aaron Horne, and Josh Lenz all have more than 300 yards on the season.

The big-play threat is Lenz, who averages 16 yards per catch and leads the group with four touchdowns.

Defensively, the Cyclones are once again a formidable opponent. Brown was concerned that Texas didn't win the line of scrimmage last year, saying that trick plays and forced turnovers helped achieve the blowout victory in Ames.

This season, Iowa St. ranks 15th in the country in S&P+, with a mark against the run that ranks 12th in the country. However, the FEI metric doesn't like the Cyclones quite as much, ranking them 31st overall and noting that they tend to give up methodical drives, suggesting that the defense tends to bend a bit. The long plays from scrimmage given up supports that, as Iowa St. is tied for 100th in that category, as opponents have broken off 42 plays for 20 or more yards on the season.

The loss of senior linebacker Jake Knott for the year is significant, but longtime running mate AJ Klein, another senior, is still healthy and active, and Brown was impressed with Knott's replacement against Oklahoma:

But [junior LB] Jeremiah George is a young guy, No. 52, that you all should watch this weekend. Watched in film yesterday and last night and he's unbelievable. He can fly. He's all over the field. He's from Florida. We had not noticed him very much because of the two great linebackers they've had. But give them credit. He jumped right in the middle of that Oklahoma team last week and played great. So circle No. 52 this weekend and watch him. He's fast, he's tough, and he's really good.

The defensive line is loaded with experience, led by senior defensive end Roosevelt Maggitt, who is the team leader in tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (2.5). If his name doesn't sound familiar, that may be because he missed nearly all of the 2011 season after a season-ending injury in the opener.

Even though the numbers are strong against the run, the Cyclones don't get it done by creating a great deal of tackles for loss. In fact, the Rhoads defense is tied for 98th in the country in that regard. The group is opportunistic though, with 21 turnovers gained on the season, tied for 20th nationally.

They are rather average in the redzone, giving up touchdowns on about 56% of opponent possessions, just ahead of the Longhorns.

As with the 2010 game, the contest on Saturday will start at 11 am, and the Longhorns have had trouble this season at that time, getting blown out by Oklahoma and playing poorly against Kansas.

The players and coaches said the right things going into the Kansas game, but didn't get it done on the field.

Play that way against Iowa St. and Texas could well lose for the second time to the Cyclones -- teams coached by Paul Rhoads don't have those problems.