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FROM THE STANDS: ISU Review

Saturday afternoon, about 90 minutes before kickoff, I was with a buddy watching A&M get 59-0-ed. The sooners had just lost in most frustrating fashion. (The ou radio broadcast after the game was saying, more or less “It’s so frustrating to out-gain and outplay an opponent and lose due to special teams and turnovers.” You don’t say? I wonder what that’s like? I wonder if Texas fans have any experience with that? Hmmm.) Baylor fell down the stairs in Morgantown and A&M was getting killed and eaten on live TV. Another friend texts us and says, “This is the greatest day ever so far. If we win tonight, today will be my new birthday.” Of course “we” is the Texas Longhorns and we did, in fact, win. So October 18th is his new birthday, y’all. Happy belated birthday, Dave!

Back to the Aggie thing. Oh. My. Gosh. I thought Bama would win, but I didn’t think they were going take their lunch money, girlfriends and souls as well. I am not the only one who has compared Kevin Sumlin to Mack Brown in his early days at Texas, but that was very Mack Brown vs. ou in 2000 (his third year at Texas, just like Sumlin this year at A&M), wasn’t it? It’s scary how similar they are. And again, 59-0.

The Horns need to find three more wins to go bowling. It was four, but then this happened …

 

IOWA STATE 45 TEXAS 48

I read a lot of the same things you do, and I’ve seen the endless debate between the students and alumni about seating and attendance. The younger crowd hates the fact the older crowd has better seats and shows up late and leaves early. That’s a valid complaint for a lot of them. Also a valid complaint is the younger crowd reaction to the “sit  down!” people. You know the ones, they scream “sit down!” when anyone within three rows of them stands up for anything longer than to let someone pass. I had two of those guys next to me Saturday and they spent as much time complaining about people standing up as they did watching the game. I don’t like the “sit down” crowd, either. I know you paid your money for those seats, but so did everyone else and if standing is really THAT big of a deal, then maybe you should go somewhere and watch the game where everyone sits, like a restaurant, or your house.

As for the younger crowd complaining about the west side showing up late and leaving early, they lost a lot of the credibility on Saturday night. The student section was almost completely empty at kick off, both in the south end zone and east side stands at the other end. You can’t really complain about something that you do yourselves, can you? Well you shouldn’t.

It was not a full house, but the fans that were there were loud and into it on both sides of the stadium, and the game was NUTS.

Initial Reactions

I felt like in the second half, especially at the end, the game was like a car racing downhill with no brakes. I love those games, but not when they involve Texas. I thought when Iowa State went right down the field and scored to tie the game with 31 seconds left, we were going to overtime. Several overtimes, more likely. But the Horns were having none of it.

Taking over at its own 28 with just 22 seconds left, I assumed Texas would take a knee, not try and force anything and give it back to ISU with a chance to win. Again, Texas wasn’t having any of that. OC Shawn Watson cut Tyrone Swoopes loose, and the Iowa secondary forgot the primary rule as a defensive back in coverage: never let anyone get behind you. Jaxon Shipley got deep on a wheel route and Swoopes hit him in stride down the sideline for a 39-yard gain. So stunned was Iowa State that Texas actually tried and converted that big pass, they had to call timeout. With 14 seconds left and looking at a 50-yard field goal, Texas needed to get closer. In the same spot down the left sideline, Swoopes found John Harris, who also got behind the Iowa State secondary, for a 29-yard gain to the Iowa State four. They reviewed the play, because Harris was dancing down the sideline and, to me, it looked like he might have stepped out of bounds as he caught it. But upon further review, I was wrong. The play was confirmed, putting Texas at the four with seven seconds left in the game. In trotted Nick Rose, who drilled the 21-yard field goal to put Texas up, 48-45, with three seconds to play. It held.

It reminded me of a bowl game and the aftermath felt like a bowl game. Sometimes you get sucked into a shootout, and it happened on Saturday night. The good news was the Texas offense was ready for it and responded, the bad news is the defense seemed to have no answer for Sam B and the Cyclone offense. The great news was special teams, who not only didn’t kill the game, but won the game.

If you weren’t already on the Swoopes train, I think you should find a seat, because Texas has found their quarterback for the next three years.

Crazy night, crazy game, crazy win.


The Good

I seem to say this a lot: Tyrone Swoopes, John Harris, Jaxon Shipley. Marcus Johnson making some plays. THE SPECIAL TEAMS. Malcolm Brown. Seeing all the Distinguished Alumnus Award winners before kickoff. No fumbles in the red zone! Iowa State’s offensive line. Sam B. Richardson. Allen Lazard. Dylan Haines’ monster 74-yard interception return for a touchdown. 17-fourth quarter points, most importantly points 15-17. Will Russ. The Coors Light tent. (It was all free. FREE).


The Bad

The terrible interception thrown by Tyrone Swoopes. The John Harris fumble returned for a touchdown. The pass rush. The defense. Iowa State’s pass defense on the last Texas drive.  The Iowa State captains at the coin flip, seemingly arguing about what to do as Quan Cosby laughed standing next to them. Those crotchety old men next to me.


The In Between

Did you see how close Texas was to mishandling the snap on Malcolm Brown’s second touchdown run to give Texas a 45-38 lead with a minute and change to play? The snap was a bullet that looked like it was going to zip right through Swoopes’ hands, and it almost did.  Charlie Strong talking about offensive tackle Camrhon Hughes, getting his first start due to an injury to Darius James, “We call him NCAA, which means No Contact At All. NCAA, he doesn’t block anyone in practice, but that’s what we got” in the post-game press conference. Was that a joke? Was that real? I couldn’t tell.

An ugly win, a shootout win, a close win … they all count and I’ll take it. I saw lots of guys grow up on Saturday, but I saw some other things that caused me some concern. Here’s what I saw on Saturday:


Offensive Line: As I said, Texas lost Darius James for the game and sophomore Camrhon Hughes was forced into the start. At 6-foot-7, 324 pounds, he’s a beast, but he has absolutely zero experience. I thought he looked pretty good all things considered. Iowa State brought the house on blitzes nearly every play and got to Swoopes only one time. The ol paved the way for 512 yards of offense, including 191 on the ground, and gave Tyrone Swoopes the time needed on those two deep passes to set up the game-winning field goal.

I want James back, because he’s got experience, but I thought Hughes looked solid.


Wide Outs/Tight Ends: Monster day from Harris, Shipley and Marcus Johnson, who combined for 17 catches, 281 yards and a touchdown. John Harris led the way with nine catches for 147 yards. It’s amazing this is the same guy from the last three years. He fumbled and that returned for a score, but he made up for it with that huge catch to set up the game-winning field goal. Just as big on Saturday was Shipley, who set up Harris’ monster catch by getting Texas into that position with the 39-yard catch the play before. He was clutch, too, taking a crossing route for 22 yards on 3rd & 8 from Iowa State 26, setting up a Malcolm Brown touchdown a play later. And how about Marcus Johnson, who rebounded from a tough ou game with a touchdown catch on the opening drive and a 14-yard reception on 3rd & 3 that set up Texas for the game-tying touchdown in the second quarter. Well done from everyone.

I thought the tight ends would be more involved, but Texas was looking elsewhere. Still, MJ McFarland and Geoff Swaim caught three passes between them.


Running Backs: Malcolm Brown led the way with 72 yards on 19 carries and scored twice. He ran hard and closed well, scoring when he had the chance. I thought Jonathan Gray looked better this week, averaging four per carry and scoring once, but he only got the ball six times. My guess is with the pressure Iowa State was bringing the staff was more comfortable with Brown in there in pass protection. Gray is going to get his carries, but right now Malcolm Brown is playing better and getting the time. A solid day from both guys, who scored three touchdowns total on the ground.


Quarterbacks: Tyrone Swoopes has 655 yards passing with three scores and 145 yards rushing with three scores in the last two games. That’s 810 total yards and six scores. Against Iowa State he threw for 321 yards and a score and rushed for a career-high 95 yards and two scores. He was fearless on that last drive, leading Texas down the field to win the game. Shawn Watson looked like a fan himself in the press box after those catches, running around and screaming his head off. It was terrific. The guy looks more and more confident and comfortable every game and, finally, he got the win.

Saturday’s win will do nothing but increase that confidence, especially when you consider how it went down with Swoopes leading the team down the field for the score. If there were any doubters, they should be converted now. There is no question this is Swoopes’ team and, with this win in this fashion, everyone on the team knows it. A great day.

Please don’t throw the ball back into the middle of the field from the sideline. Did anyone see Vince Young at halftime talking about that? He looked like he was physically hurt talking about it. Texas won the game, but if Swoopes holds on to that ball Texas almost surely scores a few plays later and it’s 21-0, and that might have sucked all the fight out of Iowa State.


Defensive Line:
Malcom Brown did what he does, totaling nine tackles and getting a sack. Hassan Ridgeway got hurt, as did Naashon Hughes; Shiro Davis (what happened to him? He was the beast of the spring and summer, and now he’s fallen way down the depth chart) and Poona Ford stepped in. Texas wasn’t ready to turn over the entire dl Saturday night, but they didn’t have a choice and they looked a bit lost. Mark Mangino did a nice job of exploiting Texas’ youth and inexperience and the veteran ol for Iowa State played their best game of the season.

It was not the best day for the dl, but the offense was there to pick them up.


Linebackers: Jordan Hicks led all tacklers with 13, had two tackles for loss, a sack and a broken up pass. He was everywhere. Steve Edmonds was reported hurt earlier in the week and Dalton Santos took his place. He was decent, but not the playmaker Edmond has been the last few weeks and when Edmond did enter later in the game, he looked less than 100%. Too many times the Edmond/Santos spot was caught inside or guessed wrong outside on a running play and was out of position to make the tackle. Over that last few weeks that had gotten better, but it was not at all good for many parts of the night Saturday.

This will happen again, and the linebacker play opposite Hicks must return to Baylor and ou levels.


Secondary: Another big hit for Texas was the absence of safety Jason Hall, who missed the game with a knee injury. With a new safety and linebacker playing, Iowa State abused the middle of the field with future NFL tight end EJ Bibbs. Dylan Haines had a great play on the 76-yard interception for a touchdown and Duke Thomas had an interception, but Texas seemed to play way off and very conservative for many stretches of the night and Iowa State took advantage. I thought when Texas cranked it up, they totally controlled Iowa State, but with all the new faces on the d, it seems Vance Bedford didn’t fully trust them and played more conservative. I don’t think it worked and I expect next week Bedford opts for the more aggressive play.

Great play from Haines.


Special Teams: A game-winning field goal. Another field goal. No blocks, no misses, no penalties. A 50.7 yards-per-punt average. No big returns allowed. No gaffes made. A great day from the special teams. Happy birthday, Dave!


So …

That didn’t go at all like I thought. I thought Texas was going to blow them out and had that interception not occurred, I think Texas might have blown them out. But credit to Paul Rhoades and Iowa State for fighting back, and credit to Texas for doing the same. The defense was struggling, so the offense said “We got this.” And they did. Tyrone Swoopes put the team on his back play after play, as did John Harris and Jaxon Shipley, and in the end the unit that has been the biggest issue won the game with a field goal.

That was not a great team, but the way Texas came back and won that game was something that is going to help this team grow up. I am not overly concerned about the defense, because sometimes there are shootouts in the Big 12. It’s what we do. And Texas not only survived their first Charlie Strong shootout, they thrived.

Well done.

THIS WEEK IN THE BIG 12

No.14 KANSAS STATE 31 oklahoma 30
There is a rule in 5th grade Austin football: if you get up by five touchdowns, the game is over right there. That happened on Saturday as the Town & Country Warriors South went up 35-0 right before half, ending the game. Happy birthday again, Dave!

No.15 OKLAHOMA STATE 9 No.12 TCU 42
This went as I thought it would. TCU is for real and this was never really a game. The Frogs need some help (someone needs to beat Baylor for them to take over control of the Big 12) but they are the class of the Big 12 at this point.

No.4 BAYLOR 27 WEST VIRGINIA 41
And down goes Baylor. The Bears looked awful in the cold and wet of Morgantown, dropping passes and setting a Big 12 record for penalty yards with 215 on 18 flags. Well done to the Mountaineers, who are now in the Big 12 title race. I guess he won’t get fired after all.

KANSAS 21 TEXAS TECH 34
Did anyone watch this game? Me, neither. I thought surely KU would win, but I overestimated how bad they are.


Back on Thursday with K-State-ness.

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