Benson credited his much-maligned offensive line for his highlight reel performance, and said the team's 245 net rushing yards is just the way it's supposed to be at the Forty Acres.
"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' 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. Wallace was 18-of-39 passing for 226 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
"I was really excited about this win because it came at a tough spot for us," head coach Mack Brown said. "One of the toughest times for a head coach and his assistants is trying to prepare their team for a tough game after they have had a big win on the road."
But tough times were eased with Benson running full throttle and the offensive line consistently moving the pile for the first time since the North Carolina game. (Maybe they just like to play in the rain.)
Benson carried the ball on each of Texas' first four plays from scrimmage, gaining 44 yards, and capping the 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run. He registered 61 yards on the possession, eclipsing by two yards his net rushing total for the entire game 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, though, CB Nathan Vasher stopped the drive when he stepped in front of a slant pass for the INT, giving Texas possession on its own 28 with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter.
But for the third time in as many games, the Horns responded to a turnover with a turnover. This time, Texas drove deep into Cyclone territory on the strength of SE Roy Williams' 19-yard reception and freshman RB Selvin Young's 19 yards on three carries. But Benson fumbled 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 had for the rest of the first half. Like the intermittent rain falling on DKR, Wallace sprinkled 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 an Adam Benike 19-yard field goal. He missed 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 cheated their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage as the half wound down, but DT Jordan Carstens and NG Tim TeBrink threw Simms for a five-yard loss to end a four play Texas possession.
Brian Bradford's punt carried just 29 yards (he averaged 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 fell to the soggy turf. When Wallace hit a well-covered Lance Young in the end zone on a 16-yard fade pass, completing a five-play, 65-yard drive, Texas found itself trailing at halftime for the first time this season, 10-7.
"We were getting beat in almost every area after the first half, so we were in trouble," 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."
Enter Cedric Benson. After three runs netted nine yards on Texas' first series of the second half, Benson burst over left tackle following RG Derrick Dockery's driving block, cut back across the grain as he neared the goal line, and carried it in from 59.
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 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."
Dusty Mangum's PAT made it 14-10 with 3:29 expired from the third quarter.
The Cyclones are one of the best second-half teams in the nation, storming back against Iowa and Florida State. But against defensive coordinator Carl Reese‘s bunch, Iowa State netted just 78 yards on 32 plays in the second half, and held the ball for just 3:30 in the fourth quarter. For the first time this season, the Cyclones were shut out in the second half. Overachieving MLB Reed Boyd was the game's leading tackler with 11 total.
The Texas defense submitted one of its best stands of the year after DB Nik Moser blocked Bradford's third quarter punt attempt and recovered it at the Texas 29 (it was the first block against Texas since the September, 2000 Stanford game). After the ‘Clones moved to the Longhorn 19, the Texas ‘D' furnished a textbook demonstration on how to defense the option, limiting Wallace to four yards and one incompletion.
Benike's 32-yard FG sailed wide right.
For those of us who had forgotten what a third-down conversion looked like, the Horns converted five (count them!) of them on its best offensive drive of the season when it took over at its own 20 with 1:16 remaining in the third. By the time freshman RB Selvin Young crossed the ISU goal line on a 2-yard run to put Texas up 21-10, the 19-play 80-yard backbreaking drive ticked 9:04 off the game clock and just more than one-half of the fourth quarter. The possession was not without drama. With Texas' opting to go for it on fourth-and-inches at the ISU 22, both sides began celebrating as game officials brought the chains onto the field for the measurement following Simms' quarterback sneak. Texas converted by the slenderest of margins. Benson thrust one last dagger by rushing over left end for 10 yards to the Cyclone 11, and Young carried it in from there on three attempts. It was the freshman's fourth touchdown of the year.
No. 7 Texas raised its record to 7-1, 3-1 in Big 12 play. ISU fell to 6-3, 3-2 in league action.
The ISU contest marked the 1,100th game in UT history and its 400th at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The Horns own a 303-87-10 (.770) mark in 79 years at the facility. Texas holds an all-time record of 762-305-33 (70.8), which ranks fourth all-time in the NCAA by victories and sixth by winning percentage. Texas also extended its home winning streak to 17 games (1999-present), the third best mark in school history. The streak currently is the fourth-longest active streak in the nation. Nebraska, which Texas faces next Saturday in Lincoln, holds the nation's active winning streak at 28, dating back to the Horns' win against the ‘Huskers on Oct. 31, 1998.
SIGNS OF THE TIME
Fiesta Bowl representatives were on hand for Texas' home opener against North Texas. Saturday afternoon, officials from both the Alamo Bowl (Big 12 #4 versus Big 10 # 4) and the Tangerine Bowl (Big 12 #5, 6, or 7 versus ACC #4) were in the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium press box.