Jaylan Ford comes up big, forces two turnovers in Texas’ 24-21 win over Iowa State

Jordan Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor

Without junior middle linebacker Jaylan Ford’s two clutch turnovers, Texas’ movie-like ending to its thrilling win over Iowa State would’ve been a different story. 

Ford came into this season relatively unknown by the national media and Longhorn fans alike. However, he knew he wanted to be great from the moment he got to Austin. Despite only getting two starts and playtime primarily on special teams in his first two seasons, the three-star recruit from Frisco, Texas had high expectations for himself coming into his third year.

“Props to (inside linebackers coach Jeff Choate) because he believed in me ever since he got here,” Ford said on Sept. 19. “He’s been really hard on me because I told him when I got here, I told him I wanted to be great. He’s been able to hold me to that.”

While Ford has scripted himself a cinematic season in 2022, accumulating 66 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack, his high expectations for himself came to full fruition on Saturday.

Down 21-17 late in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers connected with sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy on a three-yard, two-step route for a touchdown, giving the Longhorns a three-point lead after sophomore Bert Auburn’s extra point.

With 4:43 left in the game, Texas’ defense had to get the Cyclones off the field so the offense could run out the clock, which is easier said than done. Iowa State never truly lost rhythm on Saturday, converting nine of 15 third downs and its sole fourth down conversion attempt. 

Primarily relying on receiver Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers used seven plays to drive the ball 39 yards to bring up a 1st-and-10 deep in Texas territory. On a quarterback keeper, redshirt senior safety Anthony Cook saw Dekkers pull the ball and one of his teammates take care of the blocker protecting the quarterback. With a gap to Dekkers, Cook charged toward the quarterback, making the fumble-forcing tackle. 

“Cook came and hit the ball out, and (Jaylon) Guilbeau tried to recover it,” Ford said. “I saw the ball moving around, so my instinct was just jump on it and get it.”

Ford’s fumble recovery hammered the nail in the coffin for Iowa State’s hopes of coming out of Austin with its fourth-straight win against Texas. However, Ford’s interception before the end of the first half rejuvenated a dormant and stagnant Longhorn offense, which only ran 14 plays for 31 yards with a missed field goal up to that point.

Following a missed field goal deep in Cyclone territory, Iowa State drove the ball 54 yards in three plays, hitting Hutchinson and wide receiver Jaylin Noel up the middle in man coverage, placing the team deep in Texas territory. Following an offsides penalty on redshirt senior defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, Dekkers easily hit Noel for a five-yard touchdown pass.

After Texas went three-and-out on its next offensive possession, Iowa State drove another 56 yards in nine plays, finding themselves in the Longhorns’ redzone once more. On a 3rd-and-6 on Texas’ 7-yard line, Dekkers threw a pass intended for tight end DeShawn Hanika into traffic in the paint.

Ford sniffed out the pass, jumping up to bring the football down behind his head and preventing a potential 14-point deficit.

Ford said that effort makes plays on defense. As a middle linebacker, getting to the ball will come naturally if you’re hustling on the field and properly making reads because it’s your job. However, he was still proud of his playmaking, especially because Ford had never beaten the Cyclones as a Longhorn.

“It’s a great feeling, especially when that kind of sealed it for us,” Ford said. “I know it’s been a thing for us to win a good game and then come up short. I think it was just a big emphasis showing that we got that fight in us.”