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Texas looking to avoid letdown against Iowa State

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"We just shouldn't lose to certain teams here at Texas," defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said in 2010 after the program's only loss to Iowa State. He's right, and Iowa State is one of those certain teams.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

For a nearly completely one-side series between the Texas Longhorns and Iowa State Cyclones, the men in cardinal and gold have inflicted some painful moments on the Horns in recent seasons.

In the 11 games between the two teams, Iowa State has only come out victorious once and only finished within 10 points of Texas on three other occasions (1979, 1999, and 2013), but the 28-21 win in Austin in 2010 was perhaps the low point of that disastrous season for the Longhorns.

The 11 a.m. kickoff featured a thin crowd and completely uninspired team a week after going into Lincoln and defeating No. 5-ranked Nebraska for the last time as a Big 12 opponent. The Texas running game stalled with less than 100 yards on the ground and quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw three interceptions and lost a fumble as Iowa State managed nearly 200 rushing yards.

Settling for multiple field goals killed the Horns, who came up short at the end when Gilbert was sacked once and threw three incompletions to set off a Cyclone celebration at DKR.

The contest came after Iowa State had given up a combined 120 points the previous two weeks and it was the first time that Texas had lost two straight games at home since 1997.

Last season's game ended in the win column, but it ranked as one of the most unsatisfying wins of the Mack Brown era, right along with the escape in Lawrence the previous season.

A connected Hail Mary from Case McCoy to John Harris at the end of the first half helped allow Texas to enter the break with a lead, but the 97-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from Sam Richardson to Quenton Bundrage was the longest in school history and gave Iowa State the lead.

The best plays on the day for Texas were McCoy lofting the ball down the field and hoping for pass-interference penalties. There were two on one touchdown drive that ended with Texas wide receiver Mike Davis diving at the legs of a defender away from and after the play, perhaps the single dirtiest play in the last 10 years of Texas football by a player in burnt orange and white.

Down by six points late in the fourth quarter after a Cyclones field goal, the Horns had to drive 75 yards in under three minutes to win the game and were able to do so with two more pass-interference calls.

The truly critical decisions by the officials came on the goal line, though, as Texas running back Johnathan Gray appeared to fumble the ball at the one yard-line on first down and Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George ended up with the football on the run. However, Gray was ruled down and Texas maintained possession before Gray fumbled again on the next carry. The second time, however, the Horns recovered and McCoy took a quarterback sneak in on the next play for the final margin.

The sting of the apparent bad call on the first fumble is probably still there for Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, who was irate after the game, and for good reason.

"To make a play on the 1-yard line with our backs against the wall...and (to) have it taken away from them, that's hard to express. You don't just put an arm around a guy and tell him it's OK when that happens to him," said Rhoads, his voice raising with each sentence. "I've got pretty good eyesight. The view I had of that gigantic screen in the north end zone showed a guy that was not down and our guy with the football."

This season, the approach of Texas head coach Charlie Strong is intended to avoid any type of letdown, though.

"It's a one-game season, so it's all about us playing," Strong said on Monday. "We have to just look at it like that. It's Iowa State, and for us to have an [improved] performance against Oklahoma, there is no reason for us to have a letdown now against Iowa State. We need to come out and play well, and we need to continue to play well."

With his typically candid approach, Strong emphasized that he doesn't think Texas is anywhere near good enough to fail to take an opponent seriously.

"I don't think a letdown [is concerning] just because of where we're sitting at right now," he said. "We're 2-4. I don't know why we would ever think we have reason to believe that we're going to go out here and just play our game and not give really good effort. That shouldn't happen. But you always guard against that, because usually after a disappointing loss when you play so well in a rival game, you tend to have a letdown, which as a coaching staff we have to coach this week and guard against."

The Cyclones definitely have the attention of senior cornerback Quandre Diggs.

"Those guys are going to come out and play their tails off," he said on Monday. "They have a phenomenal coach. I have a lot of respect for him because he gets the most out of those guys. He works his tail off, and he's always been a great coach. I met a couple of players at media day. They're all good guys. They love to complete and have fun. That's all you can ask for from a team. I know those guys are going to come in and work their tails off. They're going to try to upset us and try to beat us. It's going to be a fun game because those guys are always coming to play us, and it's always been like that since I've been here."

So the emphasis is on getting a fast start to get the crowd into the game and keep Iowa State from starting to believe that they can play with Texas for four quarters. It's a belief that has grown over recent seasons for the Cyclones, starting with the 2010 win.

"After we made a few stops early we realized, 'You know what gang? We can play,'" Rhoads said at the time.

Last season's effort on a Thursday night in Ames surely gave the team more belief in that regard.

The good news for Texas is that the game won't happen on a weeknight in Iowa. Nor will it happen early in the morning with a small crowd -- the 7:00 p.m. start should allow for a more full stadium than the one in 2010, though there are still almost 9,000 tickets left.

Diggs appreciated the fan support in the Cotton Bowl last weekend and is hoping for more of the same at home.

"Just seeing them there at the end of the game singing 'The Eyes of Texas' with us -- I've been there when we were down 30, 40 points in a game and the stands were empty," he said. "That just shows us now that our fans are here for us, they're staying patient with us and they know we're going to turn this thing around and get going. I hope those same people are here on Saturday and being as supportive with Iowa State, and there you go. Be ready to go on Saturday. Like I said, I appreciate those guys. We're going to continue to hold it down."