Late third quarter mayhem proves Texas’ composure

Trenton Daeschner

For many seasons now, the identity of the Longhorns has been one of misfortune and setbacks. Anything that could possibly go wrong typically has.

Take Texas’ matchup with UCLA in 2014 when the Longhorns held a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter before a late touchdown from the Bruins spoiled a potential win.

Take Texas’ loss to Cal in 2015 when the Longhorns, led by quarterback Jerrod Heard, mounted a 21-point rally in the fourth quarter only for kicker Nick Rose to miss a game-tying extra point that would’ve forced overtime.

Take last season when the Longhorns had three extra points blocked in the first half in a loss to Oklahoma State. And we can’t forget the most egregious loss of them all, when Texas lost to Kansas in week 11 last year. 

Or take this season, just for good measure, when the Longhorns had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown in a 51-41 defeat to Maryland in the
season opener.

Take your pick of any of these games, where things slipped away and ill-fated results followed.

There was a brief moment late in the third quarter on Thursday night against Iowa State where Texas’ mental fortitude was once again put to the test — only this time, the outcome wasn’t a painful one.

“You think about that sequence now,” Herman said at his Monday press conference, pondering the effects of what could have been.

The Longhorns held a firm 14-0 lead with under three minutes to play in the third quarter and faced a punting situation from their own 11-yard line. Out trotted junior punter Michael Dickson, a Ray Guy Award finalist in 2016, for another routine boot. Dickson already had punts of 61, 60, 56 and 45 yards in the game. The ensuing punt was just more clockwork — until it wasn’t.

Dickson made an uncharacteristic error and shanked the punt out of bounds, which only traveled 17 yards.

Iowa State was set up at the Longhorns’ 28-yard line. Four plays later, the Cyclones had cut into the Texas lead after Jacob Park’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Eaton made things 14-7. The Cyclones were right back in the game.

But it was only the beginning of what would be a stressful, pivotal couple of minutes for Texas, where the Longhorns of past seasons nearly reared their ugly head.

On the ensuing kickoff, senior wide receiver Armanti Foreman fumbled and Iowa State recovered. But replay review showed that Foreman’s knee was down.

“The way we look at things around here — I don’t care knee down or not — if the ball is out and you’re not handing it to the official, then we consider that a fumble,” Herman said.

Two plays later, Iowa State thought it had tied the game after picking up a loose ball on the ground and returning it to the end zone. The Longhorns had tried a screen pass, but it was batted down. Once again, replay review saved Texas, ruling the pass had been going forward.

Texas kept its 14-7 lead for the time being and wound up with a composed 17-7 victory on the road. 

For once, the identity was different.

“I was really, really happy with the composure,” Herman said. “Especially offensively, where it could have been finger-pointing, head-hanging, moping around, the whole nine. And they were ready to go back out there time and time again to move the football.”