Things almost got interesting there at the end…again, but then Joseph Ossai won to the QB on a stunt and knocked the ball out for his senior teammate Charles Omenihu to recover and that was that. No more late game shenanigans and hiccups this week as the Longhorns finally put their opponent down and held them there until the clock ran 00:00.
Obviously Oklahoma State beat West Virginia earlier today, making this game truly a semifinal for the Big 12 title…assuming No. 13 Texas gets by Kansas next week whom Oklahoma made to look somewhat dangerous tonight. All that remains is for the remaining chips to fall into place for the Big 12 Championship, with the Oklahoma-West Virginia serving as the other de-facto semifinal. Exciting day for the Longhorns but with a few final steps remaining.
Quick thought no. 1: Huge win for the program
A good indicator that “Texas is back” is when an opposing team that has showed well in the Big 12 comes to Austin for a big game with league title implications and the Longhorns just gore them to the delight of the home crowd. That game was everything you wanted for the program. The atmosphere was excellent, the Longhorns looked much bigger and faster than their opponent (unless Hakeem Butler was involved) with skill players breaking tackles and Texas owning the trenches, and the Cyclones looked overwhelmed early and often.
Texas out-gained the Cyclones 405 yards to 210 despite spending most of the second half running clock and avoiding mistakes. They out rushed Iowa State 179-62 and withstood the “surge” of David Montgomery’s arrival to the field, holding the RB to 33 yards on 10 carries. The dangerous runner was last seen buried under burnt orange jerseys when Matt Campbell called a shovel pass they’d already shown on a third and long and Charles Omenihu hit him immediately after the catch.
Amongst numerous other issues, it was obvious that the atmosphere got to Brock “pump fake” Purdy who unraveled under the pressures much like J.T. Daniels and Shawn Robinson did in big Longhorn home victories from earlier in the season. Iowa State’s “we’re going to run the ball to set up the run” strategy played right into Todd Orlando’s comfort zone and he had his charges ready to dominate with a great gameplan.
The offensive gameplan was also terrific. Texas had a few good QB runs called for Sam Ehlinger that torched Iowa State on the initial drive, including the QB GT counter play I predicted would yield returns in this game earlier in the week. They also had a strategy for clearing up the Iowa State defensive looks, regularly flexing Andrew Beck out wide before the snap and then adjusting as needed if the Cyclones showed a pass-stopping look that Texas didn’t like. Between that and a day when the OL obviously brought their lunch pails and were driving Iowa State off the ball, Texas was working up and down the field in the first half.
They knew the Cyclones were going to make them work their way down the field and the first half drives went:
9 plays, 45 yards, touchdown
5 plays, 8 yards, punt
10 plays, 94 yards, touchdown
7 plays, 26 yards, missed FG
11 plays, 75 yards, touchdown
The game felt so in hand to Herman that he was seen on camera denying Ehlinger a chance to get back into the game in the third quarter. Statement victory.
Quick thought no. 2: Big showing by the freshmen on senior night
Brandon Jones wasn’t able to go and so Texas rolled with true freshmen Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster at the safety spots. They slid Foster in at free safety and bumped Sterns over to strong safety, where they used him regularly in the “combover” defenses that drop the strong safety down near the box to help in the run game. They also brought Foster some on the boundary blitzes that regularly sent DeShon Elliott firing off the edge back in 2017.
The two combined for 10 tackles, two sacks, and three TFL on the day while wreaking havoc on Iowa State’s intention to own the middle of the field with size and physicality. That was a huge performance and win from a tandem that had the tall order of controlling the middle of the chessboard against a really hot offense as true freshmen.
We mentioned earlier that Joe Ossai sealed the game with a good rush and strip of Kyle Kempt after Brock Purdy was pulled. Keaontay Ingram also had a strong game, regularly getting targeted on check downs against Iowa State’s drop eight coverages and producing five catches for 40 yards and a score when the Cyclones lost him on the flat.
The future is bright for these guys, Texas really landed some impact players in that class.
Quick thought no. 3: Hat tip to the seniors
Texas’ plan for covering Hakeem Butler was to often attack Brock Purdy with pressures. They shaded help his way at times but they also trusted the senior tandem of Kris Boyd and Davante Davis to play a lot of man coverage on Butler and the other Cyclone wideouts. Each had a pass break-up and each also nearly had a pick, including a near pick-6 for Davis that I bet he wishes he had back, and Butler managed a relatively quiet 99 yards on six catches for the day. It was plain that Butler was a problem but most of the time Iowa State couldn’t make anything of it because Purdy was running for his life.
It’s obvious that the Texas coaches drilled carefully into the players the importance of not falling for the pump fakes from Purdy and they took away his favorite improv weapon throughout the night while landing big hit after big hit. Anthony Wheeler clearly knew where the ball was going early in the game and was playing without hesitation while Gary Johnson was all over the field and hounding Purdy.
One of the biggest themes to the game was that Iowa State’s young OL and QB were not ready to handle the Texas DL or pressure packages and the senior trio of Charles Omenihu, Breckyn Hager, and Chris Nelson (as well as their substitutes) feasted all night long. That was pretty much it for the game, Iowa State couldn’t get much going and regularly played double TE sets with a WR motioning in to serve as an extra blocker while trying to cover up the Texas DL well enough to find running room.
Grad transfer senior Tre Watson had a nice showing as well in his final home game as a Longhorn. He turned 14 carries into 93 yards and had one of the longer runs of the year with a 39 yard scamper down main street. They should have rewarded him with the end of game carries instead of turning to Danny Young, as it turned out, he might have had a 100 yard day as a result.
Collin Johnson had a great start to the day but ultimately Lil’Jordan Humphrey continued his run as the most dominant player on the team, seven catches for 86 yards and a score with a considerable amount of those 86 yards accumulated after the catch when he was running through Iowa State’s defenders.
Finally a hat tip to Shane Buechele, who might be graduating and may have just played his last game at DKR. Buechele managed a good drive early in the third quarter that culminated in the Humphrey score. Texas had a double TE set out there for the third and two play and ran play-action with Cade Brewer releasing up the seam as Buechele’s first read and then Humphrey running a comeback outside as the second read. Buechele regularly got the ball out on time, ran the ball a few times to great effect, and protected the precious lead.
10 for 10 passing from Shane with a TD pass, a few game efforts helping to push the pile, and also falling on a fumble that could have changed the game. Slow clap for Shane.
Quick thought no. 4: Texas has the “most physical team in the B12” title belt
There’s only so many teams in this league that even try to define themselves by running the ball, playing great and physical defense, and just pounding their opponents over the course of the game. Of those teams, Texas is the undisputed champ now that they have just dispatched the Cyclones with ease.
It’s not just that Texas looks to build off the tight zone run game and play defense either. They were beating up Iowa State with their perimeter blocking, their destruction of perimeter blocks, their yards after contact, and in every other phase of the game. Iowa State couldn’t match up.
Brock Purdy was really worked up on the sideline after he limped out of the game and Matt Campbell took a moment to talk to him and calm him down. When the pump fake wasn’t yielding grass for him to exploit and the angles he’s used to finding were being erased by the speed of Gary Johnson or B.J. Foster, he started to panic. You could see him looking down at the pass rush and then missing throws down the field. His final line of 10-23 passing for 130 yards and an INT barely speaks to the extent that Texas flustered him and the Iowa State offense in the trenches.
From here, any remaining league games will take place against teams that are not in good shape to try and tackle Lil’Jordan Humphrey short of the marker, to withstand Texas’ forward push from Sam Cosmi and Andrew Beck on the edge, or to pick up blitzes in big moments.
Quick thought no. 5: Ehlinger and final steps to a B12 title
First of all, Texas is in the B12 title if…
A) they win next week against Kansas or
B) They lose but Oklahoma and Iowa State both win, which would create a three-way tie for second place in which Texas would emerge victorious.
Obviously all that matters is beating Kansas, Texas shouldn’t worry about anything else.
I think the best outcome for Texas would be a rematch with West Virginia. Oklahoma’s defense is on the verge of complete and total collapse but their offense is more potent than the West Virginia unit and Texas already took a big, targeted shot from the Mountaineers and I’m not sure how many more bullets Dana Holgorsen will have in the gun.
None of this particularly matters if Texas doesn’t have pre-helmet to the right side Sam Ehlinger ready to go. Sam was maintaining his earlier, torrid pace at 12-15 passing for 137 yards at 9.1 ypa with a passing TD and then also six carries for 50 yards and a TD rushing. It’s not unlikely that he might have had another 200-100 day had he been able to finish the game.
The latest word is that Ehlinger bruised the previously injured shoulder, that doesn’t sound too bad and he might get as many as two weeks off to heal but that’ll be the main story from here on out. If they have the Ehlinger that was playing before that hit, you have to like the chances of Breckyn Hager getting a haircut in 2018.