Ugly wins are still wins in the standings. Texas’ narrow victory over Iowa State had a little bit of everything. Records shattered, Hail Marys answered, controversial calls and a press conference meltdown. But the Longhorns accomplished one thing on Thursday night. They moved to 2-0 in the Big-12 for the first time since 2009, and to hear Mack Brown spin it, he’s not worried about anything.
AMES — Down six, with less than a minute remaining on the road, in a hostile environment, Texas quarterback Case McCoy did something we’ve seen a few times before. He figured out a way to win.
He scored on a one-yard keeper with 51 seconds left, followed by a Jackson Jeffcoat game-sealing interception, giving Texas a 31-30 come-from-behind victory over the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on Thursday night.
“One of the trademarks of our football teams have been comeback wins,” said Texas coach Mack Brown. “A lot of things we messed up, but even better for us that we could not play our best, but that we could play so hard. We believed and never gave up, and came back. Excited to be 2-0 in the Big-12 with Oklahoma coming up.” The McCoy touchdown proceeded a controversial fumble by UT running back, Johnathan Gray. The ball appeared to squirt out before his knees touched the ground or his forward progress was marked, and it seemed as though the Cyclones had made a game-winning goal-line stand and fumble recovery. But after further review, the officials determined he was down, much to the chagrin of ISU coach Paul Rhoads. His post game press conference may warrant a fine from the conference officials and is sure to be a YouTube sensation.
Nevertheless, it sent the Texas faithful home happy and brought out a molten hot level of fury for Iowa State fans. “I was proud of how the kids fought,” said Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. “Even after mistake, after mistake, after mistake, they still found a way to win. I’m happy for the way they fought on the road. I didn’t like some of the things I did. I didn’t like some of the things we did on the field. It’s one of those things where you’re fortunate enough to learn from a win.” When Netten nailed a 29-yard field goal with 3:40 remaining, it marked a small, yet underrated victory for the Texas defense. Limiting ISU to three kept it a one-possesion game, and with all three timeouts, Brown said at that point he thought they’d win the game. “I think we had a confident feeling when we held them (ISU) to a field goal right there at the end, and we were only down by six,” said McCoy, who notched his third career comeback win on the road as a starter. “I think that was a big-time boost for us and the offense.” Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson noticed the spark.
“That was huge,” said Robinson. “I really like this group of guys. They really want to be good and work towards that. Everyday. I thought at times we did a lot of good things. I felt that their quarterback (Sam Richardson) did a very nice job of taking advantage of when we tried to play coverage, and just rushing four, that he showed scramble ability that I don’t feel like in games past that we’ve seen. It changes the complexion of what you’re doing, and it affects you in certain ways. That little guy could run. He was a scooter.” When Cedric Reed tipped Richardson’s last pass attempt, his senior all-conference sidekick was ready. “I was excited,” said Jeffcoat. “I thought it was my chance. I let one slip away earlier in the season, so I wasn’t letting this one go. I just saw the ball up in the air and thought,’ that’s mine.’ Honestly, I wanted to take this one to the house but I kept hearing Chris (Whaley) say, ‘get down get down.
The fact that Iowa State was 1-2, lost to FCS school, Northern Iowa, and weren’t considered a quality opponent in many analysts eyes didn’t make the win meaningless from Brown’s point of view.
“It’s about winning,” said Brown. “It’s not about who called plays good, or who scored the points. 30 years as a head coach, you don’t care how many points you get or they get. You just want the win.” Gray kickstarted the night with a 45-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the contest, giving Texas the early lead, 7-0. However, after that impressive scamper, in which he made a cut-back move that would make Barry Sanders blush, he only received five more carries in the half. He finished with 94 yards, and averaged 5.6 per touch.
“We had to pass to setup the run,” said Applewhite, trying to define why Texas threw the ball almost twice as much as they ran.
After an Anthony Fera 29-yard FG gave Texas the 10-0 advantage, ISU would reel off 13 unanswered points. Running back Aaron Wimberly’s 11-yard touchdown off a screen pass capped an 11-play, 92-yard drive, sandwiched between a pair of Cole Netten field goals, staking the Cyclones to a 13-10 margin.
The Cyclones looked to go into halftime with the lead, but a McCoy to John Harris 44-yard Hail Mary in quad coverage changed that. It gave Texas the, 17-13 lead, and a ton of momentum heading into the break.
“I don’t even know how high I jumped on that play,” said Harris, who caught his second crucial TD of the year, with the other being a 40-yard score to help jumpstart the scoring against New Mexico State in Week 1. “I just remember reaching up for it and it was in my hands.”
Joe Bergeron got into that act midway through the third quarter with a 6-yard plunge. It was the third consecutive carry of the drive for Bergeron, in a quarter that saw Texas throw the ball on 15 of 18 plays. No wonder McCoy attempted a career-high 45 passes. He finished with 244 yards, on 26-for-45 passing, and one TD. After comeback victories in College Station and Lawrence, you can now add Ames to that short, but distinguished list. “Adversity has already struck this team many times,” said McCoy. “But we find a way to keep battling, sticking together. We made plenty of mistakes, but at the end of the night, we came through and got a score at the end.”
ISU’s sophomore gun-slinger, Richardson, finished with 366 total yards, and two touchdown tosses. One of the record-breaking manner. He hit wideout Quenton Bundrage on a 3rd-and-9 from their own 3-yard line for a 97-yard scoring play. It was the longest touchdown pass in ISU history and the longest scoring play in Jack Trice Stadium history. It compounded a problem Texas had with holding ISU on third downs. The Cyclones were 7-for-11 on third down coversions in the first half. Either by Richardson runs, hollow attempts of tackling, or both, Iowa State kept UT on it’s heels for a good portion of the night.
Despite being without thier signature signal-caller David Ash, Brown summoned up the win in optimistic fashion.
“You play with who you got,” Brown remarked. “I thought the guys hung in there and fought. This gives us some confidence. They’re happy in there. They’ll feel better now going into next week’s game. You can coach them hard when you win and still mess a lot of things up. I think I love comeback wins on the road more than anything in football. It says something about your team. We couldn’t have won this game the last couple of years.” Sophomore wide receiver Kendall Sanders led UT with seven grabs, while Mike Davis returned from injury to notch 64 yards on six catches. Davis was also on the wrong end of a personal foul late in the third quarter. While he said he was playing through the whistle, it appeared Davis try to cut block and dive directly into the side of the Iowa State cornerback’s knee. Brown said he was only competing and playing through the whistle, but Davis may merit a reprimand from the Big-12 after further review.
What’s it going to take to go into the Red River Rivalry next Saturday and end the 3-game losing streak to the No. 11 Sooners? “Protect the ball better than we have the last couple of years,” says Brown. “Play the run better, play better than tonight. We gave up 200 yards rushing tonight, really disappointed in our rush defense. We had to run the ball well on the road. We had to stop the run on the road. We didn’t do either one. That’s why I’m so damn happy. We lost the turnover battle and still won the game. We messed it up every way you could and we still won. That’s pretty cool.”
It’ll only be cool if it’s real confidence and not false bravado. NOTES: The Texas team dedicated the game ball to the family of James Street, the former Texas QB who passed away this week of a heart attack. Brown mentioned that Ryan Street, one of James’ sons, and his family watched the game and said, “Now James is 21-0 instead of 20-0.” The team will present it to the family at the memorial service on Friday in Austin.