AMES, Iowa -- The redemption tour rolls on for Texas.
Next stop Dallas.
No doubt that the next opponent, No. 2 Oklahoma, will prove more difficult to exact revenge upon than the one that lined up across from No. 17 Texas on Saturday night. Iowa State, which spent the week billing this as one of the biggest games in Jake Trice Stadium history, spent the game proving the Cyclones are long way from hosting any big games.
Although ISU, at the very least, proved to be hospitable hosts in front of the 56,390, the second largest crowd in school history. The Cyclones (3-1, 0-1) turned the ball over three times in the first half, allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown, missed a chip-shot field goal and stood and watched as Texas rushed out to a 34-0 halftime lead.
When the second half yawns had subsided, Texas (4-0, 1-0) had a 37-14 win. It also had taken another cathartic step in forgetting the history it wrote last season.
"We don't ever speak about revenge," Texas quarterback Case McCoy said. "But a lot of us have a nasty taste in our mouths from this one last year. And there are a lot of people on the schedule like that."
Oklahoma anyone? The Sooners, who won last year, loom. And so do the thoughts surrounding the game.
"Our guys will be excited about it," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
So will just about everyone else. Both teams will be ranked, with OU in the top 10 and Texas peeking around the corner. It is the 10th time in the last 11 years that both teams enter the game ranked (Oklahoma was unranked in 2005).
But this is a vastly different Texas team than any of the other squads Brown has brought up I-35. In fact, it is a vastly different team than Brown took to the Rose Bowl just two weeks ago.
That much was evident against Iowa State.
David Ash, the package player with five, maybe 10 plays at his disposal two weeks ago, has most of the playbook open to him now. And the pages he is reading are not the same ones McCoy has at his disposal. As a result, Texas is more versatile on offense.
"I haven't really been thinking about what they have given me or haven't given me [as far as plays]," Ash said.
Well, Texas gave him 30 opportunities under center against ISU. McCoy had the same number. In prior games, the numbers had been tilted more in favor of McCoy.
With McCoy struggling at times in the first half, it was Ash who was stuck under center and stuck ISU with a decision -- stop the run or the pass. Big-bodied and big-armed, Ash is adept at either. Just the threat of his feet kept ISU off balance.
"He had a couple of series by design that we put in there for him," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "We have got to utilize those guys the best we can."
Ash led two of Texas' three first-half touchdown drives, capping each of those with a touchdown pass. Foswhitt Whittaker took a direct snap and a direct route to the end zone on the other score.
On the first touchdown drive, it was Ash's ball fake and footwork that froze ISU's secondary and allowed Mike Davis to be wide open for a 48-yard touchdown pass. Ash's second touchdown throw came on a play where he lined up at wide receiver, took a pitch from Jaxon Shipley and threw it back to Shipley for a 40-yard scoring play.
"It is something we have toyed with a little bit, and fortunately it worked, and we needed it at that time," Harsin said.
While McCoy was ineffective early against the Cyclones, the Texas coaching staff has been steadfast in wanting both quarterbacks to play, because it allows them a margin for error. And that is true against teams such as Iowa State.
But when it comes to Oklahoma there is no margin for error. The Sooners are too explosive and opportunistic on defense.
"We know we have to be extremely focused, and there will be no jacking around this week in practice," Shipley said of preparing for OU.
The defense, despite the multitude of turnovers created, also needs to shore up its play.
The middle continued to be soft. Iowa State's Shontrelle Johnson and James White were able to rip off large chunks and averaged 4.7 and 5.8 per carry, respectively. Quarterback Steele Jantz was able to extend plays as he rolled up yardage between the 20s.
"He is as slippery as a bar of soap,'' defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "We tried to bring some of our secondary guys up there, just so we could match him athlete for athlete."
But when it mattered, the defense was able to stop Iowa State. The Cyclones were shut out in the first half. The two touchdowns in the second half came when Texas was substituting liberally.
Next week it will be good against good.
"Four and 0 gives us great momentum," Brown said. "They are obviously one of the best, if not the best in the country right now. We have got a lot of work to do. But our guys are excited about playing."
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation
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