For everyone who hates Burnt Orange Nation and its superiority complex, Thursday night’s prime-time game at Iowa State presented a perfect opportunity for the once-mighty program to be taken down another notch.
The Cyclones under second-year coach Matt Campbell appeared primed for an upset. Jack Trice Stadium on a weeknight can be an ambush waiting to happen (see: No. 2 Oklahoma State and its double-overtime loss in 2011). Iowa State had equaled a school record with 40 or more points in three consecutive games and its only loss was in overtime to Iowa – a team that lost on the last play of the game to No. 4 Penn State last Saturday.
But to shock you have to surprise. And to the Longhorns’ delight and ultimate relief, Iowa State was passive instead of aggressive and Texas (2-2) overcame a puny offensive effort to post a 17-7 victory. The main takeaway is that the Longhorns’ formula going forward is to win with defense.
They allowed less than 100 yards rushing for the third consecutive game – the last time that happened was in 2010. Plus, the last three foes have been held below the offensive numbers they were averaging coming into the game. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s unit pressured (four sacks) Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park into three interceptions. Park finished 24-of-48 for 246 hard-earned yards.
Texas coach Tom Herman gave credit to Iowa State’s defensive game plan and acknowledged his team’s mistakes and shortcomings. Nonetheless …
“We’re going to celebrate this win,” he said of winning the Big 12 opener.
Texas sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele returned to the starting lineup and he helped the Longhorns build a 14-0 halftime lead. That lead nearly disappeared during a disastrous third quarter and in the second half UT totaled 126 yards – with 50 of those coming on a close-it-out drive against a dispirited defense. Longhorns’ punter Michael Dickson had 328 yards on seven punts; the Texas offense finished with 312.
Iowa State made field-position decisions like a Big Ten team. The Cyclones ran 24 plays from Texas territory but was timid when its underdog role called for boldness. Iowa State punted from the Longhorns’ 33, 36, 36 and 38. It also failed on two fourth down tries inside the Texas 50. The play calling also was odd. David Montgomery, the Big 12’s third-leading rusher, had nine carries as the Cyclones gained 10 yards rushing.
Texas was fortunate the ESPN cameramen were on their game. After Iowa State scored its only touchdown late in the third quarter – aided greatly by Dickson’s 17-yard shank – instant replay bailed out the Longhorns. A review overruled a fumble on the kickoff by Armanti Foreman and two plays later Buechele’s incomplete swing pass was returned for a TD but the review correctly showed it was a forward pass, not a lateral.
When the Longhorns are lucky and win, haters are gonna hate even more.
And in Lubbock Saturday night …
If you thought it was a raucous scene in Ames…the West Texas plains should provide opportunity for more craziness. Night games in Lubbock have a history of wacky outcomes. Oklahoma State, you have been warned.
The Cowboys are on the road the week after their surprising loss to TCU. In the space of an afternoon in Stillwater, Oklahoma State went from contender to pretender. The Frogs controlled the action with their running game and a defense that forced four turnovers.
‘We didn’t play very smart and really, we got outcoached,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. ”I thought that they had better plans, and their players executed their plans better than we did.”
Now the challenge for Oklahoma State is to close the season with an eight-game winning streak, earn a spot in the Big 12 championship game and then hope for the best.
First, though, is dealing with Texas Tech. The Red Raiders closed out non-conference play with a 27-24 not-as-close-as-the-score-indicates victory at Houston. Coach Kliff Kingsbury agreed that it was one of the most complete games his team has played since his first season with the program.
The usual suspects have been rounded up. Texas Tech, with senior quarterback Nic Shimoneck leading the way, tops the Big 12 in passing offense, is third in total offense and is averaging 45 points a game. What might be different is that it appears the Red Raiders finally have a defense. They’re third in rushing defense in the Big 12 and No. 2 in FBS in turnover margin.
And perhaps most importantly, Texas Tech has limited big plays, allowing just one play of over 30 yards (tied for first in FBS). Each of the last two seasons, the sieve that the Red Raiders called a defense had the top blown off for 44 plays of 30 or more yards.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the defense is taking the ball away,” Kingsbury said. “That’s the key to our conference. You look at the teams that have won the league the last few years and they’re way up there in the turnover margin, and that’s where we’re trying to get to give [ourselves] a chance in every game in the Big 12.”
Time for some crystal ball speculating. By the end of September, Texas could be 1-3, Oklahoma State could be 0-2 in the Big 12 and Texas Tech could be 4-0. If nothing else, the Big 12 has the potential for high entertainment value.