Texas vs. Iowa State: 10 Things We Learned from the Longhorns' Win

Zach Shelton@@zachisagingerFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2013

Texas vs. Iowa State: 10 Things We Learned from the Longhorns' Win

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    The Longhorns narrowly escaped with a 31-30 victory over the Cyclones.
    The Longhorns narrowly escaped with a 31-30 victory over the Cyclones.David Purdy/Getty Images

    Who says you can't win ugly? Hopefully nobody, because there is no other way to describe the Texas Longhorns' 31-30 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones.

    In a result that was mired by a controversial non-fumble at the goal line, Mack Brown's job and team escaped Ames, Iowa, unscathed.

    The win was hardly perfect, however. The Longhorns were outgained by over 100 yards, edging the Cyclones in only turnovers and penalty yardage.

    But the latter two proved to be enough as the referees could not overturn a ruling that Johnathan Gray was down before fumbling with less than a minute to go. Two plays later, Case McCoy snuck into the end zone for the game-winning score.

    The real lesson here? The Longhorns are still not a good team, and any hopes for a Big 12 run will soon be squelched.

The Oklahoma Game Could Get Ugly

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    Blake Bell could embarrass the Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry.
    Blake Bell could embarrass the Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The one real takeaway from this victory? Texas is in real trouble for next week's Red River Rivalry.

    The Longhorns were outgained, outplayed on both sides of the ball and clearly outcoached against the Cyclones. The outcome came down to an unfortunate camera angle and the call on Johnathan Gray's fumble.

    If quarterback Sam Richardson and running back Aaron Wimberly can account for 462 yards of offense, what will Blake Bell and Co. do to this group? With all due respect, that Oklahoma team is much better than what Texas faced on Thursday.

    So Mack Brown and the Longhorns' Big 12 hopes each survive for another week, but it could get really ugly in Dallas next weekend. The inevitable seems to only have been delayed.

This Team Cannot Win with Case McCoy

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    Case McCoy was unimpressive as the Longhorns escaped with a win.
    Case McCoy was unimpressive as the Longhorns escaped with a win.David Purdy/Getty Images

    Sure, the Longhorns got a win with Case McCoy starting under center. But it was the first time they have done so since 2010, and it was much closer than it should have been.

    McCoy's line of 244 yards and a touchdown does not look bad at all in a win. But the senior needed 45 attempts to get there, consistently missing on his throws and telegraphing others with a big windup. 

    This offense is much less explosive with McCoy at the helm. He does not stretch the field like Ash and is no threat whatsoever to take off and run. This is why Iowa State was able to stack the box in the second half.

    At this point, Ash had better be healthy for the Red River Rivalry. It is clear McCoy will not get it done in that game, and throwing Tyrone Swoopes out there without any prior experience would be a major mistake against that defense. 

Mike Davis Makes Targeting Argument More Interesting, Controversial

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    There is dirty, there is really dirty, and there is Mike Davis' block on Deon Broomfield. But Davis got to stay in the game, while targeting penalties threaten to get players tossed on a weekly basis.

    After Joe Bergeron was well into the end zone, Davis dove at Broomfield's knees and drew a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff. Most would agree that he deserves more.

    Compare the Davis play to the above one made by Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix against Texas A&M. Clinton-Dix gets called for targeting and then stands to be kicked out of the game for making what is actually a great play on the ball. The ejection was overturned, but the 15-yard penalty stood.

    Davis, on the other hand, takes a blatant dive at a player's knees. It is not a football play and could have easily ended Broomfield's season due to a torn ACL. Yet Davis was able to stay in the game.

    Did Davis intend to hurt Broomfield? Hopefully not, but it's possible. But his status is never in doubt after a useless play, while Clinton-Dix had to cross his fingers after making a great one.

    Something is a little off there.

New Coordinator, Same Problems

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    Aaron Wimberly had no problem shedding tacklers on his 20-yard touchdown run.
    Aaron Wimberly had no problem shedding tacklers on his 20-yard touchdown run.David Purdy/Getty Images

    Even with a new coordinator and a whole offseason to fix the problem, the Texas defenders still do not finish tackles. 

    All of their other problems aside, any fool watching the Longhorns can tell you that they do not tackle properly. They are not wrapping up and are definitely not driving anybody to the ground.

    There were plenty of instances of this failure, but none were more egregious than what took place on Aaron Wimberly's 20-yard touchdown run. Wimberly cut left and broke into the secondary where safety Adrian Phillips tried to arm-tackle him while corner Carrington Byndom, instead of driving Wimberly to the ground, attempted to shoulder the Cyclone off his feet.

    This happens far too often with this Texas team, and it is an effort problem. Nobody wants to tackle, so instead they just get embarrassed.


Applewhite's Offensive Strategy Is Puzzling

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    Major Applewhite relied heavily on Case McCoy despite achieving success with his talented running backs.
    Major Applewhite relied heavily on Case McCoy despite achieving success with his talented running backs.Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    The Longhorn tailbacks averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Case McCoy averaged 5.4 yards per attempt. Guess whose number got called 45 times?

    Case McCoy threw 26 passes in the second half. Johnathan Gray, who ran for a 45-yard touchdown in the first half, had eight carries in the entire second half. Daje Johnson, the offense's fastest player, touched the ball twice.

    Remember that McCoy is the backup quarterback and that the Cyclone defense allowed over 175 rushing yards per game prior to the matchup. Unless the plan was to draw five pass interference penalties, this strategy does not make much sense.


Duke Thomas Should Not Have Flirted with a Position Change

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    Cornerback Duke Thomas has been picked on by opposing offenses.
    Cornerback Duke Thomas has been picked on by opposing offenses.Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    During the offseason, the Longhorn coaches experimented with moving corner Duke Thomas to receiver. Through five games, it is clear he should have continued to learn how to play corner.

    There is a giant target on Duke Thomas' back. Against Kansas State, he was burned multiple times by Tyler Lockett deep down the field. Against the Cyclones, he gave up an Iowa State-record 97-yard touchdown to Quenton Bundrage.

    This is not the same player who saw action as a backup in 13 games his freshman season. Instead of working on becoming a reliable starter for the 'Horns, he spent much of the offseason learning to become a backup receiver.

    Depending on the extent of Sheroid Evans' injury, Texas has no choice but to hope Thomas gets better.

Quandre Diggs Needs to Explore a Change

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    Quandre Diggs has uncharacteristically quiet in the nickel role.
    Quandre Diggs has uncharacteristically quiet in the nickel role.Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Junior Quandre Diggs continues to have issues making an impact as the team's nickel corner. At this point, he may be better served playing safety or moving back to the outside.

    Diggs has played five games in the nickel role occupied by greats like Kenny Vaccaro, Earl Thomas and Aaron Williams. The result has been 21 tackles, one pass breakup, half a sack and no picks

    This is a major dropoff in production from the player who has led Texas in interceptions the past two years. His name is barely called, while his teammates in the secondary continue to miss tackles and blow coverages.

    Perhaps a change of scenery is needed to get Texas' best defensive back in a position to make plays. He has the range and ball skills to make a great deep safety, and there is no doubt that he would be better in coverage than Duke Thomas has been the past two games.

    Whatever Texas does with Diggs, the Longhorns needs to get him back to making an impact. Maybe the best is yet to come from the nickel, but it seems he would be better served moving elsewhere.

The Call on the Field Makes a Big Difference

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    The play everyone will be discussing is Johnathan Gray's near fumble that held up under film review. Fans can assume what they want, but the call on field is the determining factor in these scenarios.

    It was an official's worst nightmare. A runner goes down in a dogpile, a defender comes sprinting out with the football, and the home crowd is elated with the prospect of a nice upset. And you cannot see a thing.

    There is one angle from above where it appears Jeremiah George is able to get the ball from Gray before he is down, but even there you cannot see the ball until he is running down the field. 

    What matters is that Gray was ruled down by contact. There has to be indisputable evidence to overturn, and it can argued that Gray was down before that ball was out. Had the original call been a fumble, it would not have been overturned either.

    That said, it looks like a fumble, and Mack Brown's job security should probably be the biggest story as a result. That is not the way it shook out, and it cost the Cyclones a well-deserved victory.

The Longhorns Win Both in Spite of and Because of Gray

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    In spite of his near-fatal errors, Gray had another good game for the Longhorns.
    In spite of his near-fatal errors, Gray had another good game for the Longhorns.Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

    Johnathan Gray may have almost cost Texas the game, but it sure would not have won without him. The Longhorns definitely need him right for next week's matchup with Oklahoma.

    The sophomore ball-carrier led the team in rushing for the fourth straight game, accumulating 89 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Gray also added three catches for 15 yards, though he was often overlooked by McCoy.

    Gray has emerged as the team's leader in the backfield and continues to march toward the 1,000-yard mark. But it is safe to say that goal-line duties will be handled by Joe Bergeron or Malcolm Brown from here on out.

John Harris Deserves a Bigger Role

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    Harris made a spectacular 44-yard reception on a Hail Mary.
    Harris made a spectacular 44-yard reception on a Hail Mary.David Purdy/Getty Images

    For the third time this season, John Harris has delivered a big play when the Longhorns have needed one. It is time to give him a bigger role.

    After his 54-yard touchdown broke the ice against New Mexico State and his 30-yard reception got his team going against BYU, Harris delivered again when he was called upon. This time it was a 44-yard Hail Mary that gave the Longhorns a 17-13 halftime lead.

    The leaping score was Harris' second of the season. He now has five catches for 141 yards on the season, leading the team with a 28.2 average. His 6'3" frame gives Texas a big target over the middle, and he is a good fit as a tight end in a spread system.

    With no other tight end making an impact as a receiver, it seems the senior has earned a larger role in the offense.