Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson walked off the field at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, to the sound of jeers from the costume-clad Cyclone fans last Halloween.
One small child particularly irked Jefferson for his ruthless heckling after Texas’ 24–0 loss to then-one-win Iowa State.
“He was being very rude,” Jefferson said. “It was the worst feeling … [I was] like ‘where’s your mom?’”
The Longhorns nearly cringe when recalling the burn of last year’s loss in Ames. Texas came into the game as heavy favorites, but left humiliated as the Cyclones dominated from wire-to-wire.
“That whole game was a nightmare to me,” Haines said. “We go up there and it’s away, it’s just a crazy environment and we just kind of blew it.”
And Texas can’t forget that feeling heading into Saturday’s matchup with Iowa State at Darrell K Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium. The Longhorns once again enter the contest as the heavy favorite with an 18-point spread, according to OddShark. But the betting lines don’t matter when the two teams hit the field.
“[We’re] definitely not taking this team lightly,” Haines said. “This team is going to be treated like any other team.”
The Cyclones enter the matchup in a similar position to last year with just one win. However, new head coach Matt Campbell hasn’t let his team go down without scaring opposing fanbases.
Iowa State nearly pulled off two massive upsets in the last two weeks. The Cyclones led both undefeated No. 11 Baylor and Oklahoma State by double digits heading into the fourth quarter. But an inability to close games cost the team the two contests by a combined 10 points.
“They’re a good team, and that’s it,” Haines said. “Their record doesn’t show it, but they’re playing good ball. They’re competing with everyone, and I know they’re going to come in here and give us their best shot.”
Head coach Charlie Strong must have his team prepared this time around. The third-year head coach said he sensed Texas was in trouble before kickoff in Ames last year.
“You saw it coming because before the game,” Strong said. “We were out there, and I think it may have been like a little dew on the grass or something, and they’re like, ‘oh, it’s slippery’. Okay, so we’re going to worry about the grass?”
Strong can’t let his team lose focus before the game again, or Texas may find itself on the wrong end of another massive letdown. At 2–3, every game is a must-win for the Longhorns, and they can’t afford to drop winnable games.
“We have a different team now and this is a critical game for us and we need to go play well,” Strong said. “This is a conference game. We’re coming back home, been away from home for a month, and we need to just get our fans back into it and make sure we play well.”
Conquering Iowa State won’t be an easy task despite its 1-5 record. The Cyclones boast the conference’s No. 2 pass defense and have recently flashed an explosive offense, averaging 31 points per game against Big 12 teams.
Texas holds the edge on paper and will have homefield advantage. The team also brings the motivation to snap a three-game losing streak.
Still, if Strong wants to avoid another letdown to the Cyclones, perhaps the best motivator is bringing back the memories.
“I can’t forget about that,” senior receiver Dorian Leonard said. “We have to go out there and give it our all this weekend.”