Texas is back... on the road next week after a surprisingly defensive-led 27-6 victory over a recently-explosive Iowa State Cyclones team. As for Saturday night’s performance, there was much to proudly reflect upon if you’re the Texas coaching staff, along with some areas of emphasis for the upcoming week of practice.
Another game, another trio of lessons from the ‘Horns latest outing.
Texas’ defense might just be okay under Charlie Strong
Where has this Longhorns defense been for the past season-and-a-half? Charlie Strong’s calling card has always been defense and during his first effort as the defensive play-caller against Oklahoma, Texas was historically-torched for 672 yards.
What a difference a week can make!
No, Iowa State isn’t Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or California, who averaged 578 yards and 48 points per game against the Longhorns, but the Cyclones’ offense was certainly on the up-and-up. Despite the recent losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor, Iowa State’s offense has put up 472 yards and 39 points per game dating back to its win over San Jose State.
Saturday night in Austin, the ‘Horns held Joel Lanning and friends to only 280 yards—73 of which came on the final drive of the game against Texas’ reserves—and six points. One of the Cyclones’ field goals would have likely been a punt if a Texas turnover and unsportsmanlike penalty didn’t gift them with red zone field position to start the drive.
In total, Texas sacked Iowa State’s two quarterbacks eight times, with one coming on the final Cyclones’ offense effort to give ISU it’s first red zone blemish—the Cyclones were 20-of-20 in the red zone prior to the third down sack and fumble. Additionally, Texas forced two three-and-outs and allowed only one first down seven other times en route to getting off the field on 12-of-18 third downs. That’s a substantial improvement from Texas’ 22-of-44 performance throughout its three losses.
When it was all said and done, the Longhorns defense forced seven punts, created a turnover and kept the Cyclones out of the end zone.
The Texas offense forgot it was a home game until halftime
After spending the last month away from Austin, it looked as if the often-potent ‘Horns offense was set on continuing its road voyage. Texas quickly earned a reputation as an offensive power this season under offensive coordinator, Sterlin Gilbert, but against an average-at-best Iowa State defense, the ‘Horns slogged through the first half, scoring only three points behind 161 total yards of offense.
Texas’ only score of the half came just 15 seconds before intermission.
Fortunately for the Longhorns, Gilbert’s group started clicking on all cylinders to begin the second half, scoring three third quarter touchdowns and racking up 243 total yards.
Shane Buechele finished with a career-high 296 yards, along with two touchdown pitches, while his 75-yard connection to Devin Duvernay was Texas’ longest play from scrimmage this season.
The ‘Horns once again concluded the evening with a 500-yard offensive showing—505, to be exact—but there’s plenty of room for improvement. The ‘Horns have to quit creating their own burden and killing drives, which prevented what may have been a 700-yard night offensively.
Texas still is suffering through self-inflicted mistakes
If only the Longhorns didn’t love being their own worst enemy so often. On a night in which many expected yet another shootout, the Texas defense imposed its will from start to finish, but an offense stuck in neutral for the majority of the first half still presented the feeling that the ‘Horns may be headed for a fourth straight loss.
The reason? You guessed it—penalties (and a turnover).
Texas’ first five drives of the game all featured what essentially became drive-stalling penalties:
- 1st drive: Jake Oliver offensive pass interference turned what would have been a 3rd and 2 into a 2nd and 24. Texas would be forced to punt.
- 2nd drive: D’Onta Foreman fumbled on a 3rd and 1 deep in Texas’ territory, and a Caleb Bluiett unsportsmanlike penalty after the play placed Iowa State at the ‘Horns 18-yard-line. The Cyclones would knock in a field goal a few plays later.
- 3rd drive: After gaining a first down, Dorian Leonard’s false start resulted in a 1st and 15. Texas would punt four plays later on 4th and 2.
- 4th drive: Following a Kyle Porter first down run, Jacorey Warrick was flagged for offensive pass interference, placing Texas at 1st and 20. This led to a Longhorns punt.
- 5th drive: A Leonard 17-yard first down reception was negated by an ineligible receiver downfield penalty on offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson. Texas would punt three plays later.
The only offense drive Texas wasn’t flagged during the first half was the final drive, which led to the ‘Horns only score.
To open the second half, a pair of pass interference calls on Texas’ Armanti Foreman and Iowa State’s Mike Johnson negated a 37-yard score. This didn’t cost Texas’ though, as the ‘Horns bounced back the next play with a 37-yard touchdown strike to a wide open Jerrod Heard down the sideline.
But for the second half, it was the defense that began racking up penalties, though, they didn’t really hurt the ‘Horns, either. Following a sack on third and long, which would have forced Iowa State into a 4th and 13, a Kris Boyd taunting penalty extended the Cyclones drive. Later in the same drive, Texas stopped the Cyclones on 4th and 1, but Breckyn Hager, too, was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty for celebrating. This flag was assessed on the Texas offense, though.
Lastly, on Iowa State’s final drive, in which Texas was giving its reserves some valuable reps, a would-be three-and-out was tossed out after a roughing the passer penalty on true freshman Erick Fowler gave Iowa State a fresh set of downs. The very next play, the Cyclones picked up 20 yards through the air.
Even amid a much-needed convincing victory, Texas still has room for improvement, but it’s hard not to marvel at the defensive showcase Strong’s unit displayed, allowing the offense time to get things together.
Next up, Texas is back on the road in Manhattan to meet a Kansas State team that dropped 38-17 to Oklahoma on Saturday.