The Texas Longhorns went into rowdy Ames, Iowa and picked up their first Big 12 win of the 2017 season. Todd Orlando and the Texas defense played at a very high level for the second straight week. A Thursday night game on the road spells trouble, no matter who you’re playing. Texas was able to silence the crowd and play a reasonably quality four quarter football game leading to a 17-7 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones. Although it wasn’t the prettiest of victories, a win is a win.
Starting off Big 12 play 1-0:
After starting off Big 12 play 0-1 the past two seasons under Charlie Strong, Tom Herman was able to start on the right note. Being 1-0 with a victory away from home heading into a very tough three-game stretch is monumentally huge. As of right now, the ‘Horns are officially tied atop of the Big 12 standings; that has to feel pretty good. On to Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State we go.
Shane Buechele’s grit and determination:
While it wasn’t the best statistical performance, Shane Buechele got the job done and that’s what matters. He was 19-for-26 with 171 yards and one touchdown through the air. He also had 42 yards on 13 carries on the ground. Playing behind a banged up offensive line, Buechele took some hard hits throughout the game and continued to keep fighting. On designed quarterback runs, he ran impressively hard knowing he was going to take big hits. This was probably Buechele’s most impressive performance on the ground as a Longhorn. On the biggest play of the night made by Buechele, he stood in the pocket, took a shot, and made a beautiful 22-yard touch pass to freshman running back, Toneil Carter for a touchdown.
Carter absolutely torched former QB Joel Lanning on this play. He's been heavily involved tonight. pic.twitter.com/6dZZcX2mm6— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) September 29, 2017
The Predator and The Joker:
Malik Jefferson and DeShon Elliott. The two defensive studs were at it again on Thursday night.
DeShon Elliott is playing the best football of his life and he’s only going to get better from here. Elliott followed up a two-interception game against USC with another two-interception game. This gives him four on the season which puts him tied atop of the FBS for interception leaders. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, shows tremendous instinct and reaction. He also added a sack and six total tackles on top of the two interceptions. The most underrated play of the game was when he broke up a touchdown pass on a perfectly timed hit.
Malik Jefferson continues to do Malik Jefferson things. It seemed like Jefferson was chasing after Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park on every third down play that he blitzed on. It was very effective as Park was forced to throw the ball away most of the time. On a crucial fourth down play, Jefferson finally got to him.
Jefferson showed patience and then bolted in on a blitz, with no fear, and rocked Park. This is every Longhorn fans favorite Malik Jefferson to watch. Must-see TV.
Todd Orlando’s defensive scheme, execution:
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has made his money’s worth ever since the embarrassment against Maryland. He has this Texas defense playing like the best defense in the Big 12 right now.
Iowa State came into this game in the Top-20 in the FBS in scoring offense and passing yards per game. ESPN commentator Brian Griese was even giving Iowa State’s running back David Montgomery some Saquon Barkley comparisons before the game. He finished with 34 yards on nine carries after averaging 107 yards per game heading into Thursday. As a team, Texas held Iowa State to a whopping 10 rush yards on 15 carries.
The defensive line won the battle up front, linebackers tackled well and got pressure on multiple blitzes, and defensive backs locked up against some very talented Iowa State receivers. It was an all-around dominating effort. Orlando mixed up different blitz and coverage packages that were executed to perfection against the Cyclones.
Kicker Josh Rowland and Punter Michael Dickson (for the most part):
After starting the season 1-of-4 on field goals, kicker Josh Rowland stepped in and nailed a 49-yard field goal that gave Texas a 10-point lead. This was crucial as it gave the ‘Horns some breathing room.
Despite shanking a 17-yard punt that led to Iowa State’s only points, punter Michael Dickson had one heck of a day. Dickson had four punts over 50 yards, including a 61-yard bomb. He flipped the field when it was needed the most. Dickson should be a consensus All-American when it’s all set and done.
As Texas knows best, special teams is very important to win close football games. It showed today.
This seems to be an every week obvious struggle now. But, to win a lot of games in the Big 12, you simply have to have a balanced offense. Inability to develop a run game leads to less success in the pass game. That was the story of the night for the Texas offense.
Texas ran for 141 yards on 52 carries, averaging an ugly 2.7 yards per carry.
Iowa State was very conservative with their pass coverage, as they would only rush three on most third downs. This caused receivers to be blanketed with nowhere to go with the football. If Texas was able to develop a run game and gain solid yardage on first and second down, they could of had much more success with manageable third down plays.
The ability to run the ball 13 straight times, for the last 7:35 of the game was a positive. It was encouraging to see Texas put away a football game that fashion considering their struggles on the ground.
Offensive Line play:
Given all the injuries this team has on the offensive line, it’s not much of a surprise to see them struggle. After a strong showing in the first half, the group had five total holding penalties in the second half. These were killer penalties as the offense was unable to get into a rhythm in the second half.
Making his first career start, true freshman Derek Kerstetter had a tale of two halves of football. Kerstetter made a quality block leading to Warren’s touchdown run in the first quarter. But, in the second half, the freshman had trouble blocking in the pass game as he got beat by a defensive end three times on one drive. He can definitely learn a lot from this game.
One positive from this group? Offensive guard Patrick Vahe had an exceptional game, especially in the trenches on that final drive where Texas chewed the clock up.
Expect the big fellas up front to get better each and every game barring no other major injuries. Depth is the major concern, but the talent is somewhat there.
Inability to get Collin Johnson more touches:
It just doesn’t seem right that the 6’6” receiver only had two catches. Johnson showed he’s one of the best receivers in the Big 12 and possibly one of the best in the nation with a dominating performance against USC. He received only three targets the whole game.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has to do a much better job of getting Johnson more touches every week.
Tim Beck still has Texas fans scratching their heads after another abysmal offensive showing. More questionable play-calls along with leaving points on the field, led to this kind of showing.
With Texas being up 7-0 and the offense starting to roll, Beck decided to call a double-reverse on a first down play. This, of course, ended up being a fumble. While it’s always nice to throw in a trick-play every once in awhile, the timing of this call was just mind-boggling.
Beck ran Buechele several times on quarterback designed run play throughout the game. This seemed risky considering he was coming back from a shoulder injury. Although those plays worked pretty well, Buechele took some hard hits from Iowa State defenders when he ran the ball. In those types of situations when facing third and short, Ehlinger should come in, sort of in a wildcat package with the passing ability too.
Beck got bailed out by fellow coordinator Todd Orlando and the defense tonight, otherwise this team could easily be 1-3. If Texas is going to have a shot at a Big 12 Championship this season, Beck and his offense must show up and play some good football. That hasn’t happened yet.
Overall, this was a nice win for a group of guys that haven’t had much success playing on the road in the past. It’s all as part of the learning process for this team when it comes to winning. Another step made in the right direction will leave the team and the staff feeling good heading into a nice weekend off.
2-1 Kansas State and Bill Snyder are up next.