Longhorns look to erase memories of Ames meltdown

Michael Shapiro

It’s probably best not to bring up Halloween night in Ames, Iowa, to the Longhorns.

The evening conjures up memories scarier than Freddy Krueger for Texas, who spent Oct. 31, 2015 getting shellacked 24-0 by Iowa State. Turbulence on the flight home to Austin matched the turbulence on the field, capping a brutal trip for the burnt orange. 

“Last year we know what happened there; that game was just a nightmare for us,” senior safety Dylan Haines said. “Literally, going up there, the plane flight was rough, the atmosphere was rough, and we go out there and get shut out and give up all these points. It was just a complete nightmare.”

The loss was arguably the low point of head coach Charlie Strong’s tenure in Austin, an embarrassment against a team far from the top of the Big 12. The Longhorns threw for just 85 yards on the evening, totaling 10 punts compared to just 11 first downs. Not a single Longhorn drive ended in anything other than a punt or interception. 

Texas’ offensive futility was the story of the night. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jerrod Heard struggled all night, failing to read coverages and find open receivers. He went 2–5 in the first half, throwing for just 15 yards before being benched. Then-junior Tyrone Swoopes didn’t fair much better, going 6–13 for 59 yards in the second half. 

“There were breakdowns at every position,” Strong said following the loss. “When you look at it, it is not just at the quarterback position, we have to get better all across the board.”

The issues plaguing the Longhorn offense have now faded away five weeks into the 2016 season. The offense that looked so incompetent against the Cyclones last year has morphed into a potent attack. An attack that averages 41 points per game, good for No. 17 in the nation and No. 3 in the Big 12. 

Running back D’Onta Foreman has been the engine behind Texas’ offensive resurgence, leading the conference in rushing. The junior has crossed the 130-yard mark in all four of his appearances this year. He’s also a safety valve for freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, able to shoulder the offensive load when the passing game stalls. 

“Sometimes we don’t even block it the right way, he just finds a way where he can bounce back outside and drop his pads and just run through people,” Strong said. “But he is special, and he’s really an
outstanding player.”

Foreman should find success against the Cyclone defense. Iowa State ranks last in the Big 12 in rushing defense, surrendering over 235 yards per game on the ground. And with sophomore running back Chris Warren out with a knee injury, Foreman should see an even heavier workload.

Despite its 1–4 record, Iowa State is no cupcake. The Cyclones have dropped their past two contests, but those defeats have come against No. 11 Baylor and an Oklahoma State squad that beat Texas 49-31 just two weeks ago. They held Baylor to just 178 yards passing and led the Bears 42-28 heading into the fourth quarter in Week 5. 

The Longhorns understand the threat posed by Iowa State and say they won’t be taken by surprise when they take the field on Saturday night. Texas must come out fast against the Cyclones or risk repeating the Halloween horrors they endured in Ames a year ago.

“We’re Texas, we got to play at a high level,” sophomore defensive tackle Chris Nelson said. “We know who we are. And we’ll come out there this Saturday and we’re going it play at
that level.”