Big First Half Enough for Longhorns

It could have been a lot worse for Iowa State. Facing a 27-point halftime deficit and 301-yard discrepancy in total yards, the Cyclones looked destined for a repeat of its two other contests against Big 12 South opponents. But an offense sparked by the return of Austin Flynn and emergence of Stevie Hicks, ISU kept the floodgates closed and fought to a 40-19 loss to 20th-ranked Texas in Jack Trice Stadium.

And in a three-week stretch that has seen little positives for the Cyclones, must of the post-game talk had to do with the final 30 minutes instead of the opening session.

"I thought our kids really fought back in the second half and won it, 19-13," said Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney. "We just dug too deep a hole in the first half to have a chance to win the game. But I felt they played extremely hard for many snaps, especially in the first half."

"I was real proud of our second half and the effort. Those are the situations that are never easy to play in or coach in, but when you're down 27-0 at halftime it's a great test of the character of the program."

The second half also was a welcome sight for Cyclone fans looking that wondered where Flynn went in recent weeks, and if Hicks would ever make an impact at all.

But the two redshirt freshmen turned around an offense that mustered just 45 yards of total offense on 25 first-half plays. Flynn took the opening snap of the second half and proceeded to pass for 123 yards and one touchdown, while picking up 43 more on six carries.

"I thought Austin really got his confidence back in the second half, made some good plays, ran the ball well and made some nice throws," McCarney said. "I was very impressed with his comeback. I'm glad he fought back and there's no doubt his confidence is back."

Hicks, meanwhile, showed flashes of being the Cyclones' workhorse on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions. After managing just 17 yards through 45 minutes as a reserve, Hicks would end up leading the team in rushing with 67 on 11 carries.

It was a welcome sign for the highly-touted tailback that battled adversity and a bout with turf toe through the first six games. Coming into Saturday's game, Hicks was averaging just 2.8 yards on 28 carries.

"This helps me out a lot," said Hicks. "I think I'm more relaxed in the backfield. Earlier in the season, it was real frustrating for me because I couldn't do the things I was capable of doing. I was starting to think too much, because I was frustrated about what was going on. But I feel a lot better now and am letting things happen. It's getting a lot better."

The question begged, however, would Flynn and Hicks regain their season-opening spots as starters?

While saying Flynn would most likely travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, as the starting quarterback, McCarney wouldn't go so far on evaluating Hicks' chances.

"I don't know that it's that obvious at running back right now, because Mike Wagner played well too," the ISU coach said. "But Stevie ran hard. That was a physical Big 12 back running the ball in the second half. I'm very proud of him running hard and getting yards after contact. You can see he's a hundred percent now, and that was something that wasn't the case earlier in the season."

At least the Cyclones were able to gain some momentum out of the second half, because the first 30 minutes saw little in the way of positives. The Longhorns scored on their opening possession on a six-yard run from Cedric Benson, then tacked on a pair of touchdowns and a field goal in a decisive second quarter.

"They only had 45 yards of total offense in the first half, guys were flying around and we didn't have a turnover," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "We had our hands on a couple balls that should have been interceptions, but we couldn't get them. I thought we played well in the first half and pretty much dominated the game. Defensively, we shut them down completely, and our offense moved the ball. The defense did a great job with some poor field position."

Although the defense played well for a few possessions in the second half, Saturday's game marked the end of a tumultuous three-game run in which ISU has given up 145 points and 1,986 combined yards. Now, the Cyclones head to Lincoln to face a Husker team that blitzed Texas A&M.

"It's been hard," McCarney said. "Those are three outstanding offenses. That's tough. If we had all of our players out there, it's still a tough chore. At times it feels like we're going out there into a backyard brawl or shootout and we've got water guns."


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