This week is about putting a complete game together for Texas. Not just one half for the offense or one or no halves for the defense with a miscue here and there on special teams.
Complete game. Two halves of offense, defense and special teams.
With a big shot of confidence injected into the Texas secondary.
The bottom line is the Texas offense vs the Iowa State defense shouldn't be a fair fight.
Specifically the Texas running game, led by the Big 12's leading rusher - D'Onta Foreman (148.8 ypg, 7 TDs), who has six straight, 100-yard rushing games (second only to Earl Campbell's record of 11 straight) vs the Iowa State run defense, which is giving up 236 yards per game on the ground and is ranked 115th nationally.
Even though Texas is averaging 41 ppg this season - the offense has struggled to get into rhythm for one half or the other during UT's three-game losing streak.
It got into rhythm in the first half against Cal and Oklahoma State, but only scored a combined 16 points in the second half of those games.
Then, against OU, the offense couldn't get into a rhythm until the second half - too late to take advantage of three turnovers produced by the Horns' defense.
But the RESOUNDING question - obviously - is about the Texas defense and if it's finally going to put together a complete game and stop the onslaught of big plays given up (52 plays of 10 yards or more given up during the three-game losing streak).
Heck, for the season, 18 of the 26 touchdowns scored against Texas have come on plays of 10 yards or more that average 33.3 yards.
The average length of all 26 TDs scored against Texas this season is a staggering 23.8 yards - devastating.
The Texas defense has to get things turned around on third down and in the red zone - and, finally but foremost, in the secondary.
The Horns let OU convert its first six third downs of the second half last week - and paid for it as the Sooners scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half and led by as many 15.
UT's red zone defense has been a turnstile. Red zone defense is about attitude and toughness - yet of opponents' 16 red zone scores this season (of 18 trips inside the Horns' 20) - 12 of those have been touchdowns. Only TCU (14), Texas Tech (16) and Iowa State (20) have given up more red zone TDs this season.
And can we see the Texas secondary come back home and start playing like DBU at DKR? With some confidence and swagger instead of dizzy-bat-game confusion? Hope Davante Davis, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Sheroid Evans and all the team's safeties got coached up this week (although Jason Hall and Dylan Haines have made some plays the last couple weeks).
The Texas secondary is too talented to be making the mistakes they've been making.
One conversation I had with a big-money donor this week about Strong included this comment:
"After the Notre Dame game, I was excited, because it appeared we had an offense and a quarterback. And it's an offense that our defense needs to stop in the Big 12, so they're practicing against it every day, and you've got Charlie Strong's defensive mind overseeing it. It looked like the perfect recipe of coaching on both sides of the ball. And now it's been a month since the Cal game, and the defense has not only not been fixed - it hasn't improved."
Defensive improvement has to happen Saturday, or the snowball gets too big to stop.
Texas 41 ... Iowa State 31
I cannot believe the day has come where I have been seriously contemplating if Texas will pull out a W over Iowa State. My how quickly things can change.
Iowa State has dropped some heartbreakers this season, and I wonder if Texas will be the team that will end their heartbreak? If things go in a similar direction as the last several weeks, it's a realistic possibility.
There's little doubt the Texas offense should very easily be able to score against the Cyclones' defense, which ranks No. 105 in the country in total defense, giving up 453.5 yards per game. Of course, the Texas D is ranked 115th, giving up 477.2 ypg, and ranks 127th (of 128) in pass efficiency defense (probably the best measure of pass defense because it factors in completions, passing TDs given up as well as a D's INTs, etc).
As much as this is starting to sound like a broken record, this game comes down to how well the defense can stop Iowa State's offensive attack.
And so far, the defense has not been able to stop any Big 12 offenses, so there's a very good chance this game will be a shootout.
However, I'll (hesitantly) give the Longhorns and the offense the edge over the Cyclones.
Texas 45, Iowa State 35
HD Contributor ALLEN PERKINS
UT needs to play press man coverage. Don't play zone at all - less confusion. But it's got to be press man. Not free-release man.
Getting Texas' big corners - Holton Hill (6-3), Davante Davis (6-2), Kris Boyd (6-1) - playing press man and really getting their hands on receivers and re-routing them - with safeties over the top - should help them get into an aggressive mindset and maybe - just maybe - start to build their confidence.
The Texas defense forced four turnovers vs OU and needs to continue that trend Saturday night by hitting Iowa State's two QBs - Joel Lanning (6-2, 232) and Jacob Park (6-4, 205) - as much as possible.
Giving up yards between the 20s isn't as painful if the drive ends with a turnover or missed field goal - the way it played out in the first half of the OU game.
Even the Texas defense limiting ISU to a FG is like a stop with UT's offense scoring 41 PG (17th nationally).
Give D'Onta Foreman the ball a lot.
The offense needs to be more diverse and creative at times. OU knew what was coming from the 18-Wheeler Package on first down from the OU13, and the Horns ended up with a field goal.
Problems converting on third down (39% on 3rd down) have been about a lack of execution or penalties this year, such as the false start on Kent Perkins on the red zone possession mentioned above, creating third-and-13 from the OU16. Texas can't afford those problems. Not on a team where a killed offensive drive is a reason to panic.
Sterlin Gilbert is the reason UT is much better on offense. Shane Buechele and D'Onta Foreman are the other reasons. The running lanes for D Foreman last week vs OU really started showing up consistently after Buechele connected with Devin Duvernay for a 63-yard TD pass to start the second half.
Charlie Strong needs to work with the DBs, the LBs, then the DL ... in that order. I don't care what other responsibilities he has. That's the priority list.
The O-line needs to protect Buechele better, and the run blocking wasn't great against OU either. Keep throwing deep. Buechele needs to get the ball out more quickly on some of those shallow sideline throws, because defenses are sitting on them. Either that, or use more pump fakes and double moves.
Tackling was great in the first half and just OK in the second against OU.
The Cyclones are talent-thin, especially on the offensive line and on defense. But they're getting better, because they're coming together as a team - the exact thing Texas needs to accomplish this week.
Iowa State could've won against Baylor and at Oklahoma State. ISU scored 42 vs BU and 31 in Stillwater last week.
ISU QB Joel Lanning can run and throw - as Texas will recall from last year's 24-0 shutout of UT in Ames (when he threw for 188 and a TD and ran for 64 yards, including a long run of 20 yards). He has a big arm and is Tim Tebow lite as a runner. He was a former high school wrestler.
WR Allen Lazard is ISU's best player (NFL prospect), but he will drop some balls at times.
ISU's defense is not good. It gave up 469 rushing yards to Baylor. ISU isn't great against the pass either.
In the end, Texas wins.
Texas 45, Iowa State 34
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