Longhorns Win One for Strong, Defeat Iowa State 27-6

 

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“Every night we’re playing for that man,” freshman quarterback Shane Buechele said after Texas defeated Iowa State 27-6 on Saturday night in Austin. “We love him, and we’re trying to show it every night.”

If there was any doubt that Strong’s players, obviously frustrated after three-game skid, were behind their third-year head coach, it has evaporated quicker than the Cyclones’ second-half offense in the face of the Longhorns’ stout front seven.

Texas had given up 144 total points in the three losses leading up to the Iowa State game, in the process demoting defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and raising questions for some about Strong’s fate, despite vocal support from Athletics Director Mike Perrin and President Greg Fenves.

Strong wore a coordinator’s white armband covered with defensive plays, a new sight to behold at DKR for Longhorn fans. Whatever Texas did to prepare for Iowa State, who, despite a 1-5 record coming into Saturday night, scored 42 and 31 points in close losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, worked. The Longhorn defense finished with eight sacks, ceded only 280 yards, and did not give up a touchdown for the first time all season.

“We know when we put it all together we can be one of the most talented defensive lines in the country,” said senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette. “For the most part we got sick of hearing people saying that we can’t pass rush. We showed people we can be a dominant front.”

Heading into halftime down 6-3, the Longhorn defense had carried the offense, which struggled early. If you’ll remember—and Twitter wouldn’t let you forget until Trent Domingue’s 21-yard FG split the uprights with 15 seconds remaining in the first half—Texas was shut out by the Cyclones in 2015. Something flipped after halftime, though Strong didn’t chalk it up to any fiery talk during the break.

“I yell a lot,” Strong laughed, when asked after the game. “Halftime, first quarter, second quarter … I don’t take too many breaks.”

In all fairness, he had a lot to be ornery about. Texas was flagged nine times during the course of the game for 100 yards of penalties, including multiple back-breaking taunting calls that either killed Texas drives or extended Iowa State ones. Strong said he told officials during the game that he had never seen so many flags for that infraction before.

The third quarter, historically a bugaboo for Strong’s Longhorns, opened the floodgates for the offense. Texas scored 21 points on two long touchdown strikes of 37 and 75 yards to Jerrod Heard and Devin Duvernay, and a rushing touchdown from D’Onta Foreman. The latter marked the seventh straight game that the junior running back has reached the end zone. He’s also racked up 100 yards in each of those games.

By the end of the third quarter, it was apparent that the game was likely over, but still, even with the game out of reach and the clock approaching zero, the Texas defense held strong on a last-gasp Iowa State drive that stalled near the goal line. Playing for pride, for themselves, and their leader whom they feel has been unfairly criticized, the defense gelled against a formidable opponent for the first time in 2016.

“We’re tired of all the crap,” said sophomore linebacker Breckyn Hager, who finished the night with five solo tackles and a sack. “We love that man and want to keep him in-house.”

Quick notes:

-As mentioned last week, D’Onta Foreman’s ascendance is both good and bad for Texas, as the chatter is getting louder that the junior running back could bolt for the NFL after this season, even though Foreman hasn’t indicated he is leaving. He rushed 30 times on Saturday for 136 yards and a TD, showing the combination of speed and power that NFL coaches love in all-purpose backs. His seven-game streak of 100-yard games is second in Texas history, behind Earl Campbell’s 11 straight.

-The Texas kicking and punting game once again looked solid. Graduate transfer Trent Domingue was 2-2 on field goals and 3-3 on extra points, and sophomore punter Michael Dickson averaged 46.5 yards on four punts, despite a couple of unfortunate rolls that led to Cyclone touchbacks.

-Center Zach Shackleford left the game in the second quarter after a leg injury. He was helped off by two trainers. After the game, Strong said that the team didn’t have an update, but that it looked like he got rolled up. Sophomore Jake McMillon replaced him, and Strong said he was pleased with his effort.

-Freshman defensive tackle Jordan Elliott left the game early as well, but Strong didn’t seem worried about him being ready for next week.

-Buechele completed passes to 10 different Longhorn receivers, but none of them were named John Burt. The sophomore speedster barely saw the field, despite being listed as the starter. Dorian Leonard filled in for Burt, leading the team with 11 targets and five receptions, which went for 47 yards.

-Kudos to the Hellraisers for leading a loud “CHAR-LIE!” chant as the coach walked back through the tunnel after the win, as they have done after every home game this season. As a bonus, the spirit group also started a “MAR-VIN!” chant just after. That one was for five-star defensive tackle and overall No. 1 recruit in the state Marvin Wilson, visiting from Bellaire, Texas. Wilson said last week in an interview that he would eliminate Texas from his top list of schools if Strong was fired.

 

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