October 17, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) The Texas Longhorns have reached a critical point in the season: start winning now or risk getting shut out of a bowl for the second time in five years.

The Longhorns (2-4, 1-2 Big 12) need at least four wins in their final six games to qualify for a bowl in coach Charlie Strong's first season. The only time Texas didn't play in a bowl under former coach Mack Brown was 2010 when the Longhorns crashed to 5-7 the season after playing for a national championship.

The Longhorns are home Saturday night against Iowa State (2-4, 0-3).

''I believe we're a better team than our record shows, but at the end of the day, wins and losses are what counts, and we haven't gotten it done,'' Texas senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. ''We understand the position we're in.''

Texas is at an odd juncture. After weeks of sputtering on offense, Texas arguably played its best game of the season in a 31-26 loss to Oklahoma. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seemed to take a huge step forward as the leader of the offense, but even Texas' best game wasn't good enough to produce a win.

''We got down 31-13, and (I) just kind of had to stay poised and just kept on playing. We almost put together something special and almost came back,'' Swoopes said.

Iowa State could grind Texas' season to a halt, just like it did in 2010.

That year, Texas returned home after a huge road win at Nebraska that was supposed to put a struggling team back on track for a potential Big 12 title. Iowa State's convincing 28-21 win sent the Texas season into a spiral instead.

Here's a few things to watch when Iowa State plays Texas:

SWOOPES: Can the Longhorns' quarterback turn in another big game and avoid the miscues like his interception that Oklahoma returned for a crucial touchdown? A big game in a losing effort is one thing, a victory is another. Texas fans would rather see a win than big passing numbers from Swoopes.

THIRD QUARTER: Most of Texas' problems this season have come in the third quarter, when the Longhorns have been outscored 49-14. Texas hasn't scored in the third quarter in the last four games, three of them losses.

''I don't know what it is,'' Strong said. ''That third quarter is sitting there, and we're just not getting anything out of it. Even on defense they move the ball some on us.''

SPECIAL TEAMS: Texas gave up a first quarter kickoff return for a touchdown against Oklahoma. A big punt return by UCLA and a fake punt by Baylor both were key plays in losses. Iowa State kickoff and punt returner Jarvis West is a scoring threat and returned a punt for a TD against Kansas State. Bit plays on special teams could spring an Iowa State upset.

INSTANT REPLAY: No team feels more snake-bit by use of official video of a play than Iowa State. The Cyclones had an apparent game-clinching touchdown overturned last year against Texas and have had so many calls go against them in recent years that athletic director Jamie Pollard publicly complained two weeks ago, drawing a $25,000 fine and reprimand from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

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