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No.. 13 Iowa State is just one game away from the Big 12 Championship Game. That would be an enormous achievement for a program that has not won a conference title since 1912. The Cyclones needed a late strike from Star to beat Breece Hall and a missed field goal from No. . 17 holding Texas for the 23-20 win on Friday. Iowa State played basically the entire game from behind, making a five-game 69 yards with three minutes remaining. He scored a necessary touchdown when the fate of his season was at stake.
But Texas still had time – and it had quarterback Sam Ehlinger. The senior, who was effective throughout the game, got the Horns to the Iowa State’s 36-yard line in 10 seconds. But then Ehlinger took a brutally bad sack through Cyclones defender Latrell Bankston for a 4 yards loss. That forced Texas to take its final time out to prepare Cameron Dicker for a 58-yard field goal that went just inches to the left.
Texas and Iowa State were both very busy getting a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game, and the result was an even game. Texas had great success going offensively over the top to reach receiver Brennan Eagles, who had five catches for a career high of 142 yards. Ehlinger was the complementary piece in the game with 65 yards on the ground and a touchdown – a combination that made it difficult for the State of Iowa to stop the entire game.
But the Cyclones could also move the ball. Quarterback Brock Purdy had 312 yards through the air and preferred his tight ends to Charlie Kolar (six catches, 131 yards) and Dylan Soehner (five catches, 69 yards). Kolar was particularly effective in the second half of the vertical game. And even though Hall didn’t have the most dominant day – it was held under 100 meters for the first time this season – he still had the starting gun and some key runs on the crucial run.
Bankston was the defensive MVP for the Cyclones as he contributed to a number of key negative games and held the line during a game that asked the Iowa State three-man front to go into much of the effort to to get into the backfield. It didn’t always work, but the Cyclones made another game when it came down to it.
With the win, Iowa State remains stable with a 7-1 record in the Big 12 game and will face West Virginia at home in December. 5 in the last regular game of the season. Texas, falling to 5-3 and 4-3 in the conference, would need a lot of help to stay in the conference title game.
It wouldn’t have been surprising if Ehlinger – he’s a lifelong fan of Texas Longhorns – had one last hero game on the last day. Ehlinger mostly played his ass with a total of 363 yards of attack and two touchdowns. He was generally spot on with his downfield passes and a threat to the ball, especially on scrambles. The bond he and Eagles had had was unstoppable and nowhere near big enough on the fourth quarter schedule. Ehlinger played well enough to win, period.
But there have been two stellar cases where the state of Iowa came up with an answer to Ehlinger. The first was the aforementioned sack with 10 seconds left to make Dickers field goal even more difficult. The second was a 4-2 from the Iowa State’s 13-yard line eight minutes before the end of the game. Ehlinger held the ball on a reading and was stopped just before the first-down marker. At 230 pounds, Ehlinger isn’t easy to bring down, but the Cyclones have found a way. While a shotgun snapshot might drive some people up against a wall in such a short distance, you have to like your chances if Ehlinger is the one carrying the ball. Iowa State did a piece.
With that in mind, Texas is going to bring itself to its knees for missed opportunities to postpone the game. The Horns’ last four possessions had three turnovers with downs and one punt. So keep Iowa State close by.
The bread and butter for the Cyclones this year was a good defensive game and fed Hall with the game in progress. But Texas took Iowa State off the script early on. The Cyclones got into a 10-0 hole and didn’t do well in the red zone. The first three trips within the Texas 20-yard line earned nine points, and another trip within the 25-yard line just before halfway resulted in a missed field goal. For Matt Campbell’s team, that’s usually not a football win.
So make some adjustments in the second half that emphasize the tight ends in the passing game. Kolar and Soehner were game changers, even if they didn’t score touchdowns. They gave Purdy safety exits and were inconsistent against the Texas Defense. Iowa State didn’t have to rely heavily on the pass this year, but they did today. Purdy, who has now shown strong back-to-back performances, was good at throwing and running. He could play his best football at the right time. The tight ends certainly did today.
The Iowa State win means two things will happen. The first is that Campbell’s name will continue to shine brighter as the coaching carousel spins more. Iowa State fans roll their eyes a lot on social media when mentioning that Campbell may be leaving for another job – which I’m not saying he will or won’t – but there is a story that comes with it the territory. Campbell did a great job at Ames, and if he’s a hot commodity that’s a good problem.
For Tom Herman, the loss will only fuel the chatter in the hot seat. Keep in mind that Herman made staff changes in wholesale during the off-season – a move that usually serves as a last line of defense. It’s year 4, and in all likelihood, Herman will make an appearance as the Big 12 title for his time in Austin.
Tom Herman asked why he should stay the head coach in Texas after failing to make the Big 12 title game: « I can’t decide that. I have a feeling the future is very promising, where we have the program right now than where it was when we took it over. «
Herman actually made some brave phone calls against the state of Iowa. The wrong boat didn’t work, but it wasn’t exactly a bad call. An Iowa state defender made the key attack. Otherwise it was a first failure. And the decision to finish fourth with Ehlinger was also the right one, they just didn’t make it. But so often these are the types of calls that are either considered genius when they work or terrible when they don’t.
The remarkable thing about Texas is that Herman was the guy on the coaching cycle four years ago. He had connections with the program and the Big 12, trained under Urban Meyer and built a high ceiling for a good program of the group of five. He’s checked off everything that Texas should expect from someone. For one reason or another, it didn’t work out. Maybe Texas is taking a step, maybe not, but there’s no denying that Herman’s time in Austin was a disappointment.
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Iowa State Cyclones Football, Big 12 Conference Football, American Football, College Football, Texas Longhorns, Tom Herman, Sam Ehlinger
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