The Texas defense gave a ranked UCLA team fits, stifled Baylor’s top-ranked offense and virtually slammed the door on then-No. 11 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
But just when Longhorn fans thought defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s unit might be one of the best in the country, Iowa State, a perennial cellar dweller in the Big 12, came to Austin and hung 45 points on Texas.
“We missed a few tackles, missed a few assignments,” sophomore defensive back Dylan Haines said. “We are just going to look back at it and try to get all of those things corrected. But I think we are obviously a lot better defensively than we played tonight.”
Given how well the defense played against tougher competition, Haines’ claim may be accurate. It’s also tough to be much worse than they were Saturday night.
The Cyclones racked up 524 total yards in the contest, led by junior quarterback Sam Richardson, who threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score.
Iowa State’s offense, which failed to muster anything against North Dakota State of the FCS earlier this year, had 30 first downs and averaged nearly five yards per carry against Texas.
“Not very pleased with our defense — thought we could have played better than we did,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “Sometimes you think you’re better than what you are, and defensively we know we can improve.”
All season long, Texas’ defense has been a staple amidst mistakes on offense and special teams. Against the Cyclones, that script was flipped.
“The offense bailed us out tonight,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “We didn’t play like we wanted to on defense, but the offense stepped their game up.”
As Iowa State continued to score, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and his offense kept pace, turning in their most complete performance of the season. Meanwhile, the Longhorns’ special teams, which has been a liability all season, won the field position battle all evening and converted both its field goal attempts, including the game winner.
With a trip to Manhattan, Kansas, to face Kansas State — who sits atop the Big 12 standings — coming up this weekend, things won’t get any easier for the Texas defense.
If nothing else, the poor performance against Iowa State was humbling, as Texas clearly understands it will have to be better against a slew of ranked teams in the last five games of the season.
“The defense needed a wake-up call,” Strong said. “Because I think our defense was feeling too good about themselves, and this will get them back down to earth.”