After a disappointing end to a furious comeback in Norman, Iowa State returned home to face the Texas Longhorns led by quarterback Sam Ehlinger. After suffering their 4th loss of 7 points or fewer (3rd by 2 or fewer) Iowa State would have another tough task at home facing the Longhorns. Iowa State controlled much of the game, but the Longhorns wouldn’t go home quietly. After forcing a 3 and out down 21-20, Iowa State got the ball back. Brock Purdy led a terrific drive, and with the help of a Texas defender jumping offsides on a field goal attempt, Conner Assalley came in to attempt a game-winning 36 yarder.
What Went Right
Obviously have to start this out with the special teams units from Saturday. From the kickoff teams, to the punting unit, to the field goal unit; everybody showed up. Brayden Narveson nailed his only kick of the day (a 48 yarder to make it 20-7) and Conner Assalley drilled both of his, including the 36 yard game-winning kick. It was the first “walk-off” winner since 1983.
Basically... it’s about damn time.
The run defense on Saturday was incredible. The Longhorns couldn’t run the ball at all against the Cyclones’ front 7. Sam Ehlinger led the Texas rushing attack with 27 yards on 12 carries (2.3 yard average), while Roschon Johnson and Keaontay Ingram combined to equal Sam’s yards at 27 on 14 total carries. In total, Heacock’s defense held the Longhorns to just 54 yards(!!!!!!!!!) on 26 carries. The defense forced Ehlinger and Co. into being a completely one-dimensional offense throughout the game, which meant when it came time for the Longhorns to try and run out the clock, they very quickly found themselves punting the ball back to Purdy and the Cyclones offense.
Senior Receivers Deshaunte Jones and La’Michael Pettway
We all know how explosive the Cyclones’ passing attack has been this season. Tarique Milton deep, Jones as a reliable, catch-happy threat, etc. What Pettway and Jones did on Saturday has only been done by Cyclones just two other times since 2004. Jones and Pettway both hit the 100 yard receiving mark. The previous 2 times were Jones/Milton this year against Louisiana-Monroe and Hakeem Butler/Allen Lazard in 2017 in the Liberty Bowl against Memphis. Pettway has turned out to be quite the star this season, consistently making catches in critical moments. Including this spectacular grab on the final drive of the game down the sideline.
And of course, who would leave out this bomb from Purdy to Jones? *Chef’s kiss*
What Went Wrong
Not finishing drives
Now let’s not pretend that everything went as planned on Saturday. Sure the defense was great, but outside of the first drive touchdown, the offense struggled early (again.) The Cyclones failed to score on their next 4 drives, including a Brock Purdy interception and a turnover on downs at the Texas 33. It was a one score game all the way until the final minute of the 1st half, while Texas had just 54 yards of total offense. The Cyclones then started the 2nd half with the score to Jones, and a field goal on their next 2 drives, but then failed to score on their next 4 drives again. This span included a fake field goal that failed at the Texas 31, and a punt from the Texas 38.
Punt the final drive of the first half defense into the sun. I don’t know what else to say. The defense’s aggressiveness held the Longhorns to just 54 yards on their first 6 drives, and then gave up a 5 play 75 yard drive in just 30 (YES. 30) seconds. Texas used 1 timeout on this drive. The sidelines were open, the first down markers were open, and the receivers were, you guessed it: Wide. Open. It looked as if the defense just thought Texas wasn’t going to try and score. That they would just burn the last 47 seconds out and go into half down 10. Felt eerily similar to the defense at the end of the Baylor game. Can’t keep happening as we approach bowl season...
The Cyclones were just 3-14 (21%) on 3rd downs on the offensive side. On top of that, despite the dominant 1st half on defense, Texas ended up 6-17 (35%) 3rd downs have been a struggle for this otherwise very good Cyclones defense. Part of this is the explosiveness of the offenses on the other side of the ball, but after this many games down, the defense should be better at getting off the field on 3rd downs. Especially 3rd and long.