Texas Takes the Wind Out of Cyclones

On an afternoon when severe weather forced the temporary evacuation of Memorial Stadium, Texas won its eighth straight Big 12 opener, 37-14, at the expense of -- appropriately enough -- the Iowa State Cyclones. But, potentially, it was a costly win for the Horns.

RB Selvin Young (ribs) and DE Brian Robison (knee) left the game and did not return. Even SS/FS Michael Griffin was limping into the locker room at the end of the day. WLB Roddrick Muckelroy is out indefinitely with a ruptured tendon in his right hand.

"We'll know (Sunday) the extent of some of these injuries," Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said. "That's the way the game is. We'll take what we've got and move on. We've got a lot of good football players and a lot of guys that you trust."

Young walked to the locker room at the end of the first quarter and returned in street clothes. Later, Robison was carted off the field and was fitted with crutches.

"He said he'd be back," fellow DE Tim Crowder said of Robison. "That's basically all he said."

On a positive note, WLB Drew Kelson returned for the first time this season after suffering a high ankle sprain just before the September 3 home-opener. Kelson logged about 20 snaps while FS Marcus Griffin (ankle) also checked backed into the lineup after sitting out the Rice game.

Play was suspended for 70 minutes at the end of three quarters, but there was no delaying the inevitable. Texas was thoroughly dominant in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Is there any doubt that the Horns' defensive front is as good as advertised? The Horns entered the game yielding just one-yard per attempt and held ISU to 21 net rushing yards on 27 carries. Friends, that's 0.8 yards per run. Statistically, Texas will be Division-I's top rushing defense come Sunday morning. And if the Ohio State and Iowa State games are an indication, opposing offensive coordinators are simply not going to try to run on Texas this season.

"We felt they would throw the ball a good bit," Chizik said. "They avoided the run early."

RB Stevie Hicks netted 62 yards on 11 carries, but 26 of those yards came on one play when Texas stacked the LOS and Hicks slipped past the initial surge. Meanwhile, Meyer was 24-of-43 for 274 yards, including two TDs.

Longhorn linebackers were in the Cyclone backfield early-and-often. It was the finest showing of the year for Longhorn linebackers this season -- MLB Rashad Bobino tormented QB Bret Meyer from the opening snap -- even though the unit has been hard hit by injuries. From the press box, it looked like Chizik called for blitzes on nearly every other play. But, afterwards, Chizik said: "We didn't blitz a whole lot tonight. We didn't feel like we had to."

For three seasons, Texas coaches have been desperate to get more pressure on QBs; on Saturday, Meyer was sacked seven times (Bobino and Crowder had two sacks apiece). The defense also wanted to create more turnovers and entered Saturday's game with no INTs on the season. Against the 'Clones, Texas came up with two -- one from Michael Griffin, another from Aaron Ross.

"Turnovers are an enigma, they come in batches," Chizik said. "We've been harping on it; we've been preaching it. We knew they were going to come eventually."

Freshman LCB Ken Beasley lost his redshirt and was on the field during the opening series, checking in when Texas went with the nickel package on 3rd-and-10 at the ISU 16. Beasley, who briefly subbed for Aaron Ross on ISU's third series, is an up-and-comer, but his presence on the field is another indication that Longhorn coaches have been less-than-pleased with the backups at both corners (Ryan Palmer, Brandon Foster).

"We don't have the luxury of holding (Beasley)," Chizik said. "You can count on some of those younger guys (e.g., Robert Joseph) playing more before the end of the year."

Added head coach Mack Brown, "Deon has had good practices and, with our situation in the secondary the last two weeks, we feel he is a very talented young man who can help our football team right now."

The afternoon began with the type of oppressive heat and humidity (102 degrees heat index on the sideline at kickoff) that many hoped would greet Ohio State two weeks ago. Texas went with a hurry-up offense and a quick-hit passing attack that had Cyclone defenders standing with their hands on their hips by the end of the second quarter. By then, there had been two seismic shifts in momentum as Texas raced to a 16-0 lead before ISU responded with 14 unanswered points.

QB Colt McCoy continued his maturation process, efficiently connecting on 18-of-23 tosses for 212 yards and two TDs.

"His accuracy is the thing that impresses us the most," Texas coach Mack Brown said, "and tonight he made some plays with his feet."

McCoy netted 22 yards on seven keeps and is giving evidence that he is more likely to keep the ball on Zone Read plays. The O-line gave him outstanding protection; he was sacked only once, but not until late in the fourth quarter and the game long-since decided. The RS-freshman distributed the ball among eight receivers with SE Limas Sweed (seven catches for 106 yards. including a 15-yard TD reception) continuing to establish himself as the go-to guy.

There were 43 lightning strikes within a five-mile radius of DKR during the delay, according to a UT football official. As if on cue, the quick-strike Texas offense set the tone early. The Horns opened with an empty-set, going no-huddle and deftly orchestrated a 43-yard scoring drive in four plays and 66 seconds. The big play was McCoy's 18-yard flag pass to WR Billy Pittman to the Cyclone five. From there, RB Jamaal Charles showed terrific patience and balance, shaking a potential TFL and -- following his lead blockers -- weaved his way into the left corner of the north end zone for the game's first score.

DS Matt Purvis' high snap bounded out of the north end zone, resulting in a safety after the Longhorn defense forced its second straight three-and-out. Texas' second drive started from its 47 after Selvin Young's 29-yard return. On first down, Quan Cosby 34-yard option pass off the reverse to SE Limas Sweed was good for 34 yards. (It's precisely the type of play you didn't see against Ohio State and won't see against OU). McCoy's quick slant to Sweed picked up 17 and, following an off-sides penalty, Young's one-yard TD run around left end made it 16-0 with less than five minutes into the ballgame.

Texas' quick-start forced ISU out of its standard clock-draining, game-shortening M.O. The Cyclones benefited from Lamarr Houston personal foul on the ensuring kickoff to set up shop at their own 39. The visitors converted on 4th-and-one from the Texas 28 after FB Ryan Kock rushed off left tackle for five. ISU erased the goose egg when Meyer, under heavy duress, managed a last-second shovel pass to TE Walter Nickel who scored from five yards out.

McCoy's second INT of season resulted in a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive for ISU. Most of the damage was done on a 32-yard completion to a wide-open Nickel down the right sideline off play-action.

Big WR Todd Blythe collected a six-yard TD grab against RCB Tarell Brown and, with 9:50 remaining in the first half, the only difference on the scoreboard was the safety.

Now, the Big Mo was on the Cyclone sideline, and here you're thinking that Texas' best bet is to hitch its wagon to Charles. And that's exactly what the Horns did.

Charles for 22. Charles for 9. Then, Charles moved the chains with a one-yard plunge on 2nd-and-one from the ISU 43. After a quick breather that saw RB Henry Melton rumble for eight, Charles picked up 10, ricocheting off RT Adam Ulatoski, on the shotgun toss. Charles added five up the middle before McCoy hit Sweed on the quick-screen. Sweed never looked more like Roy Williams then when he stiff-armed his way into end zone for a 15-yard score. The eight-play, 74-yard march made it as 23-14 contest and swung the momentum solidly in Texas' direction.

"The plays Limas made tonight were game-changing plays," Brown said. "We'll continue to see that."

Just like we'll continue to see tailback-by-committee, even if Young sits out a game or two. Charles led all rushers with 78 yards on 17 carries while Henry Melton averaged 8.2 yards-per-tote (66 yards on eight rushes). Add it up, and a Cyclone defense that was holding opponents to 85 yards per outing was touched for 193 yards on 40 carries.

WLB Scott Derry logged his first start after Muckelroy underwent successful surgery Friday. Muckelroy is out indefinitely, though Texas trainers expect a full recovery.

"This type of tendon injury takes longer to heal, and requires a lot more caution in the process, than a broken bone," UT head trainer Kenny Boyd said.

Obviously, the most critical injury is Robison's. Even though Texas has more depth at DE than any time since scholarship limitations went into effect 20 years ago, Robison's game-day experience and warrior mentality is not easily replaced. For several minutes, the air left the stadium as Robison lay motionless on the turf with 5:40 left in the first half. The senior was leg-whipped by RT Aaron Brant, but Robison's fist-pumping ride into the locker room ignited the Texas defense. Subbing for Robison, DE Aaron Lewis pressured Meyer into an incompletion on 3rd-and-13, and the Horns took over on their own 25 following a 43-yard punt.

Looking to negotiate 75 yards into a stiff breeze with 4:29 left, you're thinking that Texas' best bet is give Charles a couple of carries to run some clock and move some chains. Not this time.

Three passes resulted in two incompletions and a loss of three. This drive was salvaged when officials flagged Rashawn Parker for roughing McCoy. Then, it was Charles in charge. The sophomore stepped-off 22 on the screen pass (you could hear ISU defensive coaches yelling "Screen! Screen!" in the coaches' box as the play set up from the Texas 37). Charles added 11 more off-tackle before taking a breather. McCoy had been mildly criticized for his tendency to pitch on nearly every Zone Read play but, on 2nd-and-six from the ISU 10, he kept for eight tough yards up the middle to set up 1st-and-goal. Melton rumbled untouched from two yards out to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive to make it 30-14 with 1:22 remaining.

Texas burned two timeouts on ISU's final offensive series. The visitors threatened to score, following a 17-yard completion on 3rd-and-13, followed by a highly-questionable pass interference penalty on Ross.

But then SS Michael Griffin produced Texas' first INT of the season at the Texas five (the ball bounced off Ross's back heel) as the Horns took a 16-point lead into the locker room.

With torrential rain and high winds bearing down on Austin, it was imperative for Texas to tack on an insurance run, er, score. A right sideline pass to Pittman netted 22 before Melton collected 28 yards on two rushes. But for the third time in three contests, Texas lost a fumble inside the five. The latest miscue was a McCoy turnover after he successfully converted a 4th-and-two at the ISU nine on the QB option. Tyrone McKenzie stripped the ball as McCoy stumbled toward the goal line; SS Caleb Berg made the recovery at the three.

The 'Clones picked up a first-down courtesy of a Matt Melton pass interference penalty, but a hard-charging SLB Robert Killebrew forced Meyer into an incompletion on 3rd-and-one from the ISU 25. Texas next series -- and final scoring drive prior to the monsoon -- was a harbinger of things to come. First, McCoy connected with Sweed on a 35-yard screen pass. (If Sweed cuts inside, it's a 63-yard TD). No worries -- the Jermichael Finley has begun. On 3rd-and-six from the 10, the RS-freshman TE made eye contact with McCoy and "that's when I knew I was going to get the ball."

Finley ran a corner route that took him just outside the left pylon of the south end zone. He was blanketed by two DBs and, in fact, FS Brandon Hunley had both hands on McCoy's attempt

"I took it out of his hands," said the 6-5 Finley. "I knew I was going to get the ball. I ran my route fast and crisp and jumped up and got the ball."

It capped a 63-yard, four-play drive. The Horns were content to run the clock when play resumed in the fourth quarter, in a stadium that was two-thirds empty.

It recalled the last time severe weather forced Texas to suspend a home game. It was ten years ago during another a Big 12 opener. The result was a 40-10 win over Missouri and, eventually, a Big 12 Conference title. Saturday's 37-14 decision against the Cyclones was a step in that direction. Dare we say: it's written on the wind?

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