With the USC game almost 2 weeks behind them, the Longhorns will play in their second straight primetime matchup this season on Thursday night against Iowa State in Ames. If Tom Herman and his varsity squad want to prove that they are on the rise, they cannot afford to fall flat in their first conference game of the season.
Texas and Iowa State have played 14 times prior to Thursday night’s contest, with Texas winning all but two of those games. In 2010, the Longhorns came off an impressive upset of top-10 ranked Nebraska in Lincoln, earning a #22 ranking, and followed it up the next week by losing to Iowa State 21-28 at home. Tom Herman, the current head coach in Austin, was the Cyclones Offensive Coordinator that season.
Iowa State also beat the Longhorns for the first time at Jack Trice Stadium in 2015, during the Charlie Strong era. Coming off two wildly unexpected back-to-back wins against #10 ranked rival Oklahoma and Kansas State in Austin, the Longhorns followed it up with a dud, getting shutout by the Cyclones in Ames 24-0.
Texas would be wise not to overlook this game, for the aforementioned reasons and more. Iowa State almost snuck away with a win in 2013, Mack Brown’s final year as head coach, losing to the Longhorns 31-30. This game was one of the nails in the coffin with respect to Brown’s tenure in Austin, and Herman’s players need to prepare diligently for a Cyclone team that plays with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
For the Longhorns to be successful, they must establish a run game. Texas had 35 rushes for just 68 yards against USC, which was in the bottom 20 of FBS schools in rushing defense prior to the matchup. The Trojan rush defense was abysmal, and the Longhorns were only able to muster 1.9 yards per carry.
This will be especially difficult since left tackle and future NFL star Connor Williams was injured in the loss to USC. Williams sprained the medial and posterior collateral ligaments in his left knee and sustained a tear in his meniscus, which he will have repaired soon thanks to arthroscopic surgery. There is no timetable for his return.
With the loss of Williams and the considerable lack of depth on the Texas team, particularly on the defensive front, the Longhorns could be looking at another nail-biter in Ames. If they come out swinging and establish a running game early on that complements whoever starts at quarterback, Texas has a great chance at leaving Ames with a nice road win to open conference play.
The season only gets tougher for the Longhorns from there, as they will return home to host Big 12 rival Kansas State in Austin on October 7th. First the Longhorns must go through Ames, and that won’t be easy considering this may be one of the best teams the Cyclones have fielded in years. The Cyclones narrowly lost to their in-state rival 2 weekends ago in an overtime thriller and disposed of Akron last weekend, while the Longhorns look to keep some of the momentum from their loss to USC going forward as conference play begins for both teams.
The 15th iteration of these two programs meeting on the gridiron should prove to be a good one, as both teams have the talent to put up points and stop opposing offenses. In the end, it will be up to the quarterbacks from both teams to win the game through the air.
The difference will be the rushing game, as the Cyclones field one of the best rushers in the Big 12 in running back David Montgomery. Montgomery has rushed for 321 yards on the season, which translates to a 107 yard-per-game average and 5.7 yards per attempt.
After incessant criticism for the lack of touches given to running back Chris Warren in the loss to USC, Tom Herman must find a formula for getting his tailbacks involved in the game. Warren is the team’s leading rusher with 212 yards on 26 carries.
Will the Texas defense, with all its injuries and depth issues, be able to contain Montgomery and the Iowa State air raid? They will have to dial up the pressure like they did against USC if they want to force Iowa State QB Jacob Park to beat them through the air.
The game kicks off at 7 PM on ESPN in Ames, Iowa.
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