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Iowa State 23, Texas 20: Our five questions for the Longhorns — answered

Rich Tijerina
American-Statesman

1. Did Texas look rusty?

No.

It had been 20 days since their last game, but for the second straight game, the Longhorns exploded out of the gate. In the win over West Virginia, it was Bijan Robinson’s 54-yard run on the very first play of the game. On Friday, it was Sam Ehlinger’s 59-yard touch pass completion to Brennan Eagles. That led to an opening-drive field goal for the early lead, and then Ehlinger added a 17-yard rushing score on the Horns’ next drive to make it a 10-0 game. Texas led 13-7 after the first quarter. Of course, the Longhorns managed just one touchdown the rest of the game. Texas fell to 4-2 after bye weeks in the Tom Herman era.

Texas Longhorns wide receiver Joshua Moore (6) tries to elude Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Mike Rose (23) in the second quarter during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 27, 2020; Austin, Texas, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

2. Did Texas contain Breece Hall?

Yes.

Hall came into Friday’s game as the country’s leading rusher, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, with 1,169 yards and 15 touchdowns. He finished with 91 yards on 25 carries, an average of 4.6 yards. He did score the game-winning touchdown, though. But he had to make up his yards in the second half; he had only seven yards on three carries in the first quarter and had 10 runs for only 37 yards at halftime. The sophomore has been tearing through defenses — 185 yards in back-to-back weeks against Oklahoma State and Kansas, another 154 yards and three scores against TCU, and four more games of at least 130.

3. Did special teams play a role?

Absolutely.

In a three-point loss, it’s often the little things that can make a big difference. Special teams play went against Texas, which saw a questionable fake punt call fail in the third quarter and Cameron Dicker’s 58-yard field goal try to send the game into overtime tail wide left toward the end of the kick. D’Shawn Jamison’s big 39-yard kickoff return set Texas up at midfield, but the Horns’ offense squandered the good field position. Another positive: Dicker, handling punting duties the rest of the season, averaged 40.5 yards on his two kicks.

4. Did Joshua Moore bounce back?

No.

Moore has been Texas’ leading receiver all season, but he was finally overtaken by Brennan Eagles on Friday. For the third straight game, Moore has been virtually MIA in the Texas offense. He had just one catch against Oklahoma State, though it was the game-winning touchdown in overtime. And he had no catches against West Virginia, though he did recover a fumble before he left with an injury. Sam Ehlinger targeted Moore four times against the Cyclones, but he managed only one catch for 11 yards.

5. Which seniors shined one last time?

Sam Ehlinger.

That was about it for the departing seniors playing in their final game at Royal-Memorial Stadium. He threw for 298 yards, led the team in rushing and produced two touchdowns. But he also was stopped on a critical fourth-and-1 run at Iowa State’s 13, and he took an even more critical four-yard loss on a third-down sack on Texas’ final offensive play. It moved what would have been a 54-yard kick at the end for Dicker into a 58-yarder; Dicker’s career long was 57, set last year at NRG Stadium in Houston. It was hit-and-miss for other seniors; Caden Sterns led the team in tackles but also had a noticeable whiff on a first-quarter touchdown play, Derek Kerstetter played a clean game but also couldn’t clear enough room for Ehlinger on that fourth-down run, and Ta’Quon Graham finished with only one tackle but did draw a holding penalty.