The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 22nd-ranked Texas Longhorns are coming off a thrilling upset victory, and they hope to carry the momentum into this weekend's Big 12 Conference showdown with the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State has suffered back-to-back losses to fall to 3-4 overall. The team is coming off an embarrassing 52-0 beating at the hands of Oklahoma, and the previous outing yielded a 41-point loss to Utah. The Cyclones are 1-2 in Big 12 action, and coach Paul Rhoads needs to turn things around in a hurry.
"Our schedule is tough, we just talked about that it won't get any easier," said Rhoads after the ugly loss to the Sooners. "We play Texas next week, who just beat an undefeated Nebraska team. You go back to work, you practice and you prepare."
The Longhorns not only defeated previously unbeaten Nebraska last weekend by a 20-13 final, but they managed to snap a two-game losing streak in the process and get back in the Top-25.
"I'm really proud of our guys, our coaches, our staff and our players," said coach Mack Brown. "It's really hard to win at Nebraska. They've got a great team."
Texas is now 4-2 overall, and while they also lost to the same Oklahoma squad that beat Iowa State, that defeat came by only eight points.
Texas has won all seven previous meetings with Iowa State.
Iowa State is scoring 22.9 ppg through seven outings, and the team is generating 307.6 total ypg. Clearly, there is room for improvement offensively, especially when considering the fact that the Cyclones are gaining a mere 3.9 yards per rushing attempt and 9.6 yards per pass completion. Austen Arnaud has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,060 yards to lead ISU, and he has tossed eight touchdowns against seven interceptions. The top receiver on the roster is Collin Franklin with 31 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns, while the top rusher, Alexan Robinson, has 488 yards and five scores to his credit.
Just like the Iowa State offense, the team's defense has some serious work to do. The Cyclones are permitting 32.0 ppg and 455.3 total ypg, and they are yielding over 200 yards both on the ground and through the air. Foes are rushing for over five yards per carry against ISU, a major reason the team owns a sub-.500 record. On a positive note, 15 takeaways have been notched, somewhat overshadowing a poor total of six sacks.
Against Oklahoma last weekend, Iowa State finished with only 10 first downs and 183 total yards while yielding 37 first downs and 672 yards to the mighty Sooners. Surprisingly, the Cyclones didn't commit any turnovers in the tilt, but they were just 4-of-15 on third down conversion attempts and couldn't move the ball at all on the ground or through the air. Arnaud was pulled from the game in the third quarter in favor of Jermone Tiller, and coach Rhoads was asked about that move after the loss.
"We would have played Jermone (Tiller) tonight regardless and at that particular time, it was time to make a change and see what he could do with the football team," said Rhoads."
Garrett Gilbert has had the unenviable task of replacing Colt McCoy as the Texas quarterback, and the young signal caller has certainly struggled at times this season. Gilbert only completed 4-of-16 passes against Nebraska last week for 62 yards, but he did run for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 rushing attempts, proof that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
"We've been encouraging Garrett to get more yards with his feet, and he did that today," said coach Brown. "He did it on quarterback draws, he did it on sprint, he did it on scramble and he made some key plays. He's a big strong guy and may not look like Vince [Young] or Colt [McCoy] when he's running the ball, but he's effective. And we've got to keep him doing that."
The fact that the Longhorns won despite gaining just 271 total yards is surprising, but most of the credit should be given to the defense. Texas managed to limit Nebraska to 202 total yards, including 77 yards through the air on 8-of-21 efficiency. Also worthy of mention is that the 'Horns permitted only 2.8 yards per rushing attempt to one of the top running teams in college football.
Texas is generating 24.0 ppg and 345.2 total ypg, numbers that certainly fall short of what is expected of the Longhorns. Gilbert has completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,213 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions, and he had only 14 net rushing yards prior to the Nebraska game. James Kirkendoll paces the Texas receivers with 23 catches for 288 yards, while Foswhitt Whittaker leads a balanced ground attack with 262 rushing yards.
The Texas defense has been strong all season, holding opponents to 18.8 ppg and 245.5 total ypg. Foes are gaining a mere 107.5 rushing ypg against the Horns at a clip of 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. The pass defense has been stellar as well, yielding just 9.2 yards per completion. While Texas' total of 18 sacks is impressive, there have been just eight takeaways mustered. Keenan Robinson paces the Horns with 56 total tackles.
Expect Texas to take care of business at home this weekend. Gilbert has yet to prove much as a passer, but he did prove that he has some toughness last weekend. The maturation process continues this Saturday.