The Great Escape, Part II.
Steve McQueen would sue the Texas Longhorns for stealing his thunder, but he’s no longer with us.
As for Mack Brown, his program appeared ready for a right proper burial out here in Middle America.
But something happened before the undertaker could measure this group for 85 black suits with optional burnt orange ties and hankies: Iowa State didn’t finish the job.
And to its credit, Texas climbed out of the graveyard and pulled off an improbable win after doing everything in ts power to give this game away.
Congratulations, Longhorns. You just won two games in a row for the first time this season and it only took five games to do it.
The fallout from Thursday night’s 31-30 win? More questions than answers.
Did the refs whiff when they ruled Johnathan Gray down by contact in the final seconds, nullifying linebacker Jeremiah George’s fumble recovery and a subsequent Iowa State win? Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads certainly thought so.
Did Major Applewhite get too wrapped up in watching the Book of Manning that he confused Case McCoy with Eli, calling 45 passes against only 29 running plays? At one point in the third quarter, there were 15 consecutive pass plays, even though Gray and Joe Bergeron were doing a pretty good job of running the football.
Maybe Major was paying homage to his mentor Greg Davis, who is scratching a decent living east of Ames as Iowa’s offensive coordinator. Whatever the reason, he made things a lot more difficult than they should have been. Texas averaged 5.4 yards per carry, but it was hard for the running backs to get carries on this night.
And most important, will Texas even show up in Dallas to play Oklahoma? Sure, the Horns will show up. Question is, will they give the Sooners a game?
The Sooners are one of two teams — Baylor is the other — that have looked the part of a program that believes it can win a Big 12 championship, and nothing Texas did here will convince the oddsmakers that they can stay within two touchdowns of Oklahoma.
Now, walking into the Cotton Bowl to play Oklahoma with a 3-2 record doesn’t exactly inspire a boat load of confidence in the Texas locker room, but the Horns aren’t in the position to ask for much better. Texas has been to dark places in the first half of the season, and Brown, for one, will take that record and a 2-0 mark in the Big 12 over the alternative.
Thursday was emblematic of what Texas football has become in the years since Colt McCoy left. The Longhorns try hard. They scrap. They claw. And sometimes they even win.
Credit the defense for even making this win possible, even though it had a lot to do with the Horns being in such dire straits in the late going. I mean, who gives up a 97-yard touchdown pass to Iowa State?
But when it mattered most, they dug in and kept their team in the ballgame. The pass breakup in the end zone that led to Iowa State’s late field goal kept the deficit at six points. Defensive ends Cedric Reed and Jackson Jeffcoat closed it out by teaming up on a deflection and an interception.
But not before McCoy saved Brown’s bacon for the second time in a year.
And Case wasn’t all that bad in relief duty, even if those passes to the sideline take a near eternity to get there. He even showed that he has more MPHs on that fastball than originally suspected when he connected with John Harris on a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to end the first half. The throw traveled at least 50 yards in the air and, for the record, did not quack. It may have also kept young Tyrone Swoopes in a red shirt for at least another week.
McCoy completed 29 of 45 passes 244 yards and did not turn the ball over, which is mandate No. 2 in the backup quarterback playbook.
Mandate No. 1 is to get the win, and on a night when the players all wore “JS” on their helmets in memory of Longhorns legend James Street, McCoy did enough.
Moving forward, there aren’t many prognosticators that will give Texas a chance in you-know-where to beat the Sooners, but the series has taught us that each team has a fighting chance.
All things considered, Texas got a win. And in these trying times, that’s a real big deal.