Just Out of the Grasp

It is a game of inches, and sometimes quarter-inches. With No. 7 Texas clinging to a 14-10 fourth quarter lead at Austin and facing fourth-and-inches at the Iowa State 22, Longhorn quarterback Chris Simms' called his own number and was promptly stood upright at the line of scrimmaging by a hard-charging Cyclone defensive surge.

Players from both sidelines began celebrating and signaling first down as game officials stretched the chains across the soggy Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium soil for the critical measurement.

By the nose of the football (actually, it was by its chinny-chin-chin), Texas converted.

On the next play, sophomore RB Cedric Benson would rush over left end for 10 yards to the Cyclone 11, while freshman RB Selvin Young would carry it in after three attempts to complete Texas' second-half come back, 21-10.

Texas upped its record to 7-1, 3-1 in Big 12 action while the No. 17 Cyclones fell to 6-3 and are 3-2 in league play. It is only the second time in the last three seasons that head coach Dan McCarney's bunch has lost consecutive league games. (Then again, not many NCAA teams face back-to-back road games against a pair of Top 10 teams).

"Overall, I am very proud of the effort that this football team has put forward," McCarney said. "It's been a hard couple of weeks as we have had to play two top 10 tens on the road. Winning road games is a very difficult thing to do (especially at Texas where the home win streak now stands at 17, fourth best in NCAA)."

After Texas opened the game by forcing a Cyclone punt, Benson carried the ball on each of the first four plays from scrimmage, gaining 44 yards, and capping the 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run. He would register 61 yards on the possession, eclipsing by two yards his net rushing total for the entire game the previous week against Kansas State.

On its second possession, Iowa State took over on its own 27 and moved the sticks to the Texas 34 on a drive bracketed by Wallace's 16-yard scamper on a sprint out and TB Michael Wagner's 11-yard gain on a sprint draw.

The next play, CB Nathan Vasher stopped the drive when stepped in front of a slant pass and Texas gained possession on its own 28 with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter.

But for the third time in as many games, Texas would respond to a turnover with a turnover. This time, the ‘Horns would drive deep into Cyclone territory on the strength of SE Roy Williams 19-yard reception. But Benson would fumble for just the fourth time in 426 career carries while fighting for extra yards just inside the ISU 24.

In stopping the drive, the ‘Clones also put an end to whatever momentum Texas would have for the first half. Like the intermittent rain falling in Austin, Wallace would sprinkle the field with intermediate completions to SE Lane Danielson, FL Jack Whitver and WR Lance Young while a pass interference penalty against CB Rod Babers set up the Cyclones with a first down at the Texas 2-yard line.

They did not score.

After RB Hiawatha Rutland rushed three times for zero yards, a false start penalty negated a PK Adam Benike 19-yard field goal. He would miss from 24-yards out on the next play, but the 18 play, 72-yard drive kept the Texas defense on the field for 9:27. They would leave the bench just 53 seconds later after Simms' slant pass glanced off Williams' fingers, resulting in SS JaMain Billup's tip-drill interception at the Texas 44 with 7:45 remaining in the half.

This time, Bineke connected from 40 yards out as the six-play, 13-yard drive cut into the Longhorn lead, 7-3. The ‘Clones would cheat their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage as the half wound down, but it was DT Jordan Carstens and NG Tim TeBrink throwing Simms for a five-yard loss to end a four play Texas possession.

P Brian Bradford's punt carried just 29 yards (he would average 28.7 yards on three kicks) and ISU took over at the Texas 35 with 3:58 remaining. On the first play from scrimmage, WR Jamaul Montgomery contributed an acrobatic 28-yard reception as he was falling to the soggy turf. When Wallace hit a well-covered Vance Young in the end zone on a 16-yard fade pass, completing a five-play, 65-yard drive.

The Cyclone's led at halftime, 10-7, on the strength of QB Seneca Wallace's 12-of-19 showing for 217 yards, including a 16-yard scoring toss to WR Lance Young (his fourth TD reception of the season). It was the first time Texas trailed at halftime this season.

"We were getting beat in almost every area after the first half, so we were in trouble," Texas head coach Mack Brown said, "not because we were down 10-7 but because we were down in so many areas (total yards, time of possession, third down conversions, total offensive plays). I'm very proud of our guys for coming out of their funk in the second quarter and ending the game with 33 minutes of possession time."

Texas coaches were well aware of Wallace's propensity to lead a team back in the final 30 minutes. The senior would finish at 19-of40 for 295 yards, and added another 15 yards on the ground.

That is why Texas' game plan was to control Wallace by controlling the clock. Although the ‘Clones would dominate the stat sheet at intermission, the ‘Horns won the all-important battle for possession time, 33:02 to 26:58. Iowa State would net just 78 yards on 32 plays in the second half, and would hold the ball for just 3:30 in the fourth quarter. For the first time this season, the Cyclones would be shut out in the second half.

The day belonged to Benson, who was the perfect storm on a rainy afternoon that finally got the Longhorn ground game out of the doldrums by running for 199 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries (6.6 average). It marked the third-best rushing performance of his career (213 vs. Kansas, 208 vs. North Carolina). Benson's 59-yard rushing TD in the third-quarter to regain the Texas lead was his second-longest as a 'Horn (61 yards vs. Kansas).

There was nothing special about the call, ISU head coach Dan McCarney said. It's just that the ball carrier is very, very special.

"It was a basic toss that play that everyone learns in the seventh grade," McCarney said. "The only difference was that there was an NFL running back carrying the ball. We missed a few tackles, but Benson had something to do with that. He is a great running back."

Benson credited his much-maligned offensive line for his highlight reel performance..

"It felt good to get back to the way we are supposed to be playing," Benson said. " It all began with the guys up front because they created a lot of space by opening up holes. We were tired of not playing like a top team, so we wanted to come out and dominate."

Texas' 19-play, 80-yard touchdown (with the critical fourth-down conversion) took more than nine minutes off the game clock and proved to be the backbreaker. But the ‘Clones know they had their opportunities and were in the ballgame throughout.

"We went into halftime feeling good and thought we could pull out a win," WR Lane Denielson said, after contributing 55 yards on four grabs. "We had many opportunities, but they just didn't work out for us. Right now, we can't worry about losing two weeks in a row to two top 10 teams because we need to focus son getting a win next week against Missouri."

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