It’s a play many have forgotten because of a controversial no-call late in Texas’ 31-30 victory over Iowa State last year. But the Longhorn defensive backs certainly remember it.
In the win, the Longhorn secondary allowed Iowa State to throw for a then season-high 262 yards through the air, including a 97-yard touchdown strike that set the record as longest pass play in Cyclone history.
“The [defensive backs], we actually watched the game from last year, a couple of plays,” senior safety Mykkele Thompson said. “And you can just tell it’s a totally different team, and our mindset is different.”
It’s apparent Texas’ defensive backs have grown a lot since then. The defense has allowed less than 134 passing yards per game — third best in the nation.
But going back to last year’s game, Iowa State’s 97-yard score was the result of poor coverage and bad angles from Texas’ defensive backfield. Junior cornerback Duke Thomas, who was covering junior receiver Quenton Bundrage on the play, allowed him to get inside on the slant route. Thompson was the last line of defense but took a poor angle, which allowed Bundrage to take off for the end zone untouched.
Although Thomas was responsible for allowing the catch in the first place, Thompson’s bad judgement was what turned a routine first down grab into a score.
“I actually went back and watched that play a couple of times,” Thompson said. “And I actually recorded it on my phone to re-watch it.”
It may be one of the lowest points of Thompson’s career, but the senior uses it as a motivational tool to continue to improve and as proof of how far he has come since last October.
“I click on it just to remind me where I was and what I’m trying to prevent to be the role player I said I need to be,” Thompson said.
Thomas, on the other hand, cringes at the sight of that touchdown, as well as most of his plays from last season.
“I seen it today in film, but just watching the film of my last year’s self was like night and day,” Thomas said Tuesday. “Every time I watched myself last year it just reminded me to keep working because I don’t want that happening again.”
With another season of experience under his belt, Thomas has noticed a huge development in his play over the past year.
“I was young,” Thomas said. “Everything I see on film was just bad in my own eyes. Just watching myself, how I’ve grown so much and how I play now versus last year is a big difference.”
Both Thomas and Thompson are having the best seasons of their respective careers. Thomas intercepted a pair of passes against Kansas and is tied with senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and senior cornerback Quandre Diggs for the team lead in that category with three.
Thompson, on the other hand, has spent a lot of time playing corner when the defense was in its nickel package. For the most part, he has held his own and has continued to improve as the season wears on.
“It’s getting more comfortable [playing corner] just because this is my first year playing it,” Thompson said. “So, it’s always rough at the beginning, but as the season goes on, I am getting more comfortable back at playing corner.”