AMES, Ia. — The No. 7 Longhorns invaded Jack Trice Stadium on a mission Saturday night, and made a statement in front of the 61,500 fans in attendance.
After all, Texas defeated Iowa State 26-16, which ended a two-game losing streak at the venue, and kept its’ Big 12 Title and Playoff hopes alive. Not to mention it was the Longhorns’ 10th victory of the season, which is the most of the Steve Sarkisian era in Austin.
He was very proud that his team pulled out a win in a hostile environment. It wasn’t easy by any means. Texas trailed, and failed to score any points in the first quarter for the first time this season. The first half didn’t contain much offensive fireworks, because both defenses played lights out. Still, Texas was able to exchange field goals with Iowa State, including two by kicker Bert Auburn, and led 6-3 at the halftime.
Sarkisian made the necessary adjustments though, and Texas came out inspired in the second half. The Longhorns scored the first touchdown of the game after wideout Jordan Whittington caught a 23-yard strike from quarterback Quinn Ewers. Sarkisian thought Whittington gave his team the spark they needed, and shifted the momentum of the game.
“Well, Jordan’s been playing really good football for us,” Sarkisian said. “Sometimes you’re not the primary target, or the quarterback gets flushed (pressured) and he’s been doing a great job of winning versus man coverage.”
Special teams even got in on the scoring action, after defensive back Austin Jordan blocked an extra point attempt, and returned the pigskin 82 yards to the house. The Longhorns later scored in the fourth quarter after Ewers threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gunnar Helm. Auburn put the finishing touches on the night with a 42-yard field goal. It was his third of the game, and gave Texas (10-1) a double-digit lead.
The Longhorns led the Cyclones in plays, total offense, first downs, and time of possession. Ewers completed 23 of his 33 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Running back CJ Baxter did a brilliant job filling in for Jonathon Brooks. He carried the ball 20 times for 117 yards. Wideout Xavier Worthy led the team in receptions and receiving yards.
There’s no denying that the Longhorns dominated on defense, especially up front. It was obvious Texas had tremendous size on the defensive line, and that made a difference in the trenches. The Longhorns limited the Cyclones’ offense to a season-low, nine yards on the ground. Sarkisian was in awe of the defense’s tenacity.
“They went into the game focused on what they needed to do, and that was to dominate the line of scrimmage,” he said. “The interior of the line of scrimmage, and that allowed everybody else to play.”
Defensive tackles Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat clogged up the holes, and that resulted in linebackers going unblocked. Texas’ defense dictated the flow of the game, and remained physical throughout the night. Anthony Hill, Jaylan Ford, David Gbenda and Michael Taaffe each tallied six tackles. Murphy and Alfred Collins made the Iowa State quarterback eat grass.
Once the smoke cleared, Sarkisian thought his players proved why they’re the No. 7 team in the country.
“I’m really proud of our team,” the 49-year old coach said. “This was not a win in one phase or one aspect you know, this was a lot of different players making plays tonight at some pretty critical moments.”
Texas sits atop the Big 12 standings. However, Sarkisian must get his team ready for a short week with Texas Tech looming. It’s going to be Senior Day in Austin, and Sarkisian plans on sending them off on a high note. The third-year coach is going to celebrate the road victory over Iowa State, and now Texas’ 2021 loss in Ames is in the rearview mirror.
“To come back, kind of on our farewell tour, and get redemption here is a big one.”