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Texas falls to Iowa State for fourth straight loss, looking like a team that's lost, too

Sarkisian never saw any quit: ‘Ultimately, we didn’t coach well enough for this ballgame clearly, and we didn’t play well enough to win.”

AMES, Iowa — Let the record show that Texas lost Saturday night in America’s heartland. 

But what’s worse, these Longhorns just look lost.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian switched quarterbacks. That didn’t work. The running game worked for a while and then didn’t. The defense held as long as it could. But these Horns are on pace to challenge some of the worst defensive numbers in school history. Of course, the unit would break eventually.

This 30-7 loss was Charlie Strong-era disfunction. It was only the second time that Iowa State had beaten Texas by double figures. 

The Iowa State sideline celebrates after Cyclones running back Breece Hall scores a touchdown in the second half of Texas' 30-7 loss Saturday night in Ames, Iowa. It dropped Texas to 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the Big 12.

Asked why his team looks lost, Sarkisian never broke character. “I guess that’s your opinion, not mine,” he said. “I feel like we battled our butt off for really the whole ballgame. It wasn’t about effort.”

Replay: Another week, another second half swoon for Texas in a 30-7 loss to Iowa State

Texas led 7-3 at halftime, and the crowd of 61,500 at Jack Trice Stadium got library quiet at times. Those same fans were roaring afterward as the Cyclones scored 27 unanswered points after the break. The Horns just got embarrassed as boos and chants of “SEC!” rained down on their heads yet again.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson is tackled hard by Iowa State defensive ends Will McDonald IV, bottom, and Zach Petersen in the first quarter. Thompson was later replaced by Hudson Card.

Texas (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) now has a losing record with three regular season games remaining. The Longhorns have lost four straight for the first time since the 2010 season, which was a 5-7 disaster. They could stop the bleeding at home next week against 1-8 Kansas. That telecast has been relegated to ESPNU. 

Remaining games against West Virginia and Kansas State are coin flips at best. Sarkisian’s predecessor, Tom Herman, never lost a game by more than 17 points. Sarkisian’s teams have now done that twice in his first season. 

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“You can’t really say nothing. It’s four weeks straight in a row. What can you really say?” defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said. “Just keep your head up and keep working.”

Did anyone ever quit? “I never think that’s a question,” edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo said. “We do our best every time. Nobody’s going out there with bad effort. That’s just not in the plan at all. I just feel like they score more points.”

Sarkisian felt the same way. “No, not at all,” he said when asked if anyone quit. “I felt our guys continued to fight. And I appreciated that about them. That’s hard, and I felt like we stood tall.”

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, left, congratulates Iowa State's Matt Campbell after the Cyclones' win at Jack Trice Stadium.

Iowa State (6-3, 4-2) simply unleashed running back Breece Hall. He had just 17 yards at halftime. But he finished with 136 by wearing down the second-worst run defense in the Big 12. 

Quarterback Brock Purdy had 252 yards passing. But the most dangerous throw of the night came from receiver Xavier Hutchinson. His 47-yard toss to Tarique Milton gave the Cyclones a 16-7 edge in the third quarter, and that alone probably sealed the deal.

It’s the second straight week that a trick play has done real damage. “Shout out to them for exposing that part of our defense,” Oghoufo said. 

The Horns needed a strong start, and running back Bijan Robison wanted to give them one. He was churning those legs and powering ahead on the game’s second play but then fumbled. Iowa State converted the turnover into a 24-yard field goal. It could have been worse, but 6-foot Josh Thompson climbed the ladder to break up a pass intended for the 6-foot-6 Charlie Kolar in the end zone.

Texas cornerback Josh Thompson breaks up a pass in the end zone to Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar on the Cyclones' first drive Saturday night. It came on third down, forcing them to settle for a field goal.

The Horns went three-and-out the next three drives as quarterback Casey Thompson looked all out of sorts. When Texas got the ball back with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left in the first quarter, Sarkisian switched to Hudson Card.

“He gave me an opportunity, and I try to make the most of it,” Card said. “But obviously we have to get better as a team.”

Card, the season-opening starter, hadn’t been seen for any length of time since getting pulled in the Arkansas loss. It wasn’t long before he ignited the offense with a quick throw to Joshua Moore in traffic. Moore, who got into a verbal altercation with Sarkisian on Wednesday, looked as if he was running angry for a 24-yard gain on third-and-seven. After that play, Texas went to the ground and started chipping away. Robinson picked up his 34th yard of the night and went over 1,000 for the season. Roschon Johnson got some chances. Sarkisian even called for Card to run a keeper around right end on third-and-three. He went airborne and reached the marker.

Finally on the drive’s 14th play, Xavier Worthy scooted around the left end for a 4-yard score on a jet sweep. Texas had four passes and nine runs, ate 5:38 off the clock and took a 7-3 lead. That was a win, considering how weird the game felt.

There was a fair amount of jawing throughout the first half. Johnson found himself in the middle of some chaos when he stood up for Card as the Cyclones went after the quarterback. Nice to see somebody fighting for Card. Nobody stood up for him the night the Razorbacks drove him into the Natural State dirt. The Horns were battling. But as Texas fans have seen, halftime is when things fall apart.

“We say speeches; we motivate each other to stay up,” Coburn said. “It’s just one of the things that just happens. I mean, I don’t know.”

Mark this as the fourth straight game in which Texas had a second-half lead and gave it away. Hall broke loose for a 47-yard touchdown run where he went practically untouched. Hutchinson’s touchdown throw made it worse. Hall’s 2-yard score with four minutes left in the third quarter effectively iced it.

Iowa State’s two field goals in the fourth quarter just padded the final score. Texas had 28 plays in the second half for a total of 81 yards. The Horns had eight three-and-outs total on the night.

Down the stretch, Robinson suffered a neck sprain. X-rays were negative, a team spokesman said. DeMarvion Overshown also had to be helped off the field with what looked like a right leg injury. But he ultimately returned. Albert Collins and T’Vondre Sweat also had to be helped off.

In the locker room afterward, Sarkisian could be heard telling his team to “keep moving forward.” Right now, this program is headed backward.

“Ultimately, we didn’t coach well enough for this ballgame, clearly,” Sarkisian said, “and we didn’t play well enough to win.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS