Two college football coaches have been fired in the last week, and a third could have been imminent had Texas been unable to pull out a victory over Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday night. The Longhorns used a Case McCoy goal-line touchdown with 48 seconds left to play to retake the lead, 31-30, and pull out the win over the Cyclones.
Texas isn’t out of the woods at all. The team gave up 30 or more points for the third time in five games, and ISU had 429 total yards on the day, proving the Greg Robinson defense hasn’t been much of an upgrade over that of the departed Manny Diaz. Remarkably, as bad as everything has been, the Longhorns are 3-2 and 2-0 in the Big 12.
But the winning score wasn't without controversy, as a non-fumble call led to a postgame outburst by Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads (video at top).
While Brown might not be around Austin much longer, as suggested by Longhorns legend Earl Campbell’s comments this week, the late game theatrics (and the arguable gift from the Big 12 officials) may have bought him a short reprieve. The hot seat circus will now follow him into the Red River Rivalry on Oct. 12 vs. Oklahoma
Here are three quick thoughts from Texas’s 31-30 win over Iowa State on Thursday [BOXSCORE]:
Texas running back Johnathan Gray: While there aren’t a lot of positives to the Texas season thus far, the biggest has been the play of the Texas sophomore runner. Gray, a former Rivals five-star recruit and the fifth best player in the class of 2012, has rushed for more than 400 yards in the past four games, including 88 yards and a touchdown against the Cyclones.
Gray is one of those runners who gets better when he starts going downhill. And when Texas is able to block effectively (something that hasn’t happened nearly enough when Case McCoy has played for the injured David Ash), Gray has a chance to pick up yards in a hurry. Even with his attempts to cough up the football in the red zone on the last Texas possession, he's got a bright future.
Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson: Texas had trouble against mobile quarterbacks before defensive coordinator Diaz was removed for Robinson, and the change hasn’t really helped much. Richardson extended plays with his legs and was able to complete enough passes to give Iowa State the lead in the fourth quarter before the game-winning drive by the Longhorns. Richardson isn’t an incredibly accurate quarterback (career 60.7 percent completion percentage), but the Longhorns D could make Floyd from Little Giants look like an All-Conference performer.
Richardson threw a 97-yard touchdown to Quenton Bundrage with 7:19 left in the third quarter, the longest pass play in Iowa State history, to put ISU up 20-17. He finished the day 14-of-21 for 236 yards and two touchdowns with 79 rushing yards.
Texas’ problems are far from over: Obviously having Ash out has something to do with the Longhorns’ struggles offensively, but it’s to the point now where you have to take Ash’s head injury as a situation that will be fluid for the rest of the season. Simply put, this is not a good offense. Case McCoy (26-of-45, 244 yards, 1 TD, rush TD) is a shadow of the college player his brother was, and he shouldn’t be doing much more than handing the ball off and throwing short routes. But the Longhorns insisted on throwing the ball against Iowa State and abandoning the run game for long stretches at a time. Teams better than Iowa State will key on that and make Texas pay in Big 12 play.
On the other side of the ball, the Longhorns run defense isn’t fixed by any stretch of the imagination. Iowa State doesn’t have an imposing run game and was still able to move the ball pretty well, finishing the day with 193 yards. Texas continues to be bothered by the arm tackling bug that has plagued the Longhorns all season. There are some much more potent offenses the Longhorns are yet to face, and the three additional wins Texas needs to get to bowl eligibility will be hard to come by with games against Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor left.