Cyclones upset No. 22 Texas 28-21 in Austin

Quarterback Austen Arnaud hands off to running back Jeff Woody on Saturday, Oct. 23, in a game against Texas.

Chris Cuellar

AUSTIN, Texas — It came with nail biting, prayers from 1,000 miles away and plenty of sweat, but with a 28-21 victory Saturday, Iowa State defeated the No. 22 Texas Longhorns for the first time in program history.

The Cyclones (4-4, 2-2) were outscored 120-27 in two defeats on the past two Saturdays, but came out on the field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium energized and confident. 

“I don’t know that I can express it,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads after the game. “I hope my face does. I hope my voice does.”

Taking a 14-3 lead into halftime in front of a stunned crowd, and clinging to victory even when the Longhorns (4-3, 2-2) scored back-to-back fourth quarter touchdowns, Iowa State held on.

Rhoads added another historic win to his resume after last year’s Nebraska road win, but this win may have been bigger. 

“We have given up 120 points over the last two weeks,” Rhoads said. “To stay focused, persevere and trust in that coaching and go back to work every day and think that you can win a ball game against the No. 22 ranked football team in the nation in one of the most traditional places to play college football — it’s a huge credit to our football players.” 

The Cyclone defense came up big at the right times and only allowed the Longhorn offense into the end zone twice in six trips to the red zone. The ISU offense was out-gained by more than 100 yards, but consistent success in field position and a much improved 7-of-17 third down efficiency helped the team to victory. 

National runner-up last season and ranked No. 5 to start the year, the Longhorns have now lost two games at home to unranked opponents this season. 

“What we did was totally unacceptable,” said Texas coach Mack Brown.  “There will be some guys that played really well. I told them in the dressing room that I’ll congratulate them. It’s a shame nobody will ever know it except the coaches.”

Totaling 199 rushing yards, the Cyclones’ offensive attack was keyed by senior running back Alexander Robinson’s 120 yards and two touchdowns. The Longhorn rush defense had been ranked No. 20 in the nation, but the 45 carries by the ISU offense were too much for the home team. 

“I think our offensive line did an outstanding job, and I think A-Rob got as skinny as he could on several of those runs to get himself through those holes,” Rhoads said. “In a game like this, against a defense as good as Texas’, a six yard run is a fantastic play.” 

The win was Iowa State’s first on the road against a ranked team since defeating Oklahoma in 1990. It also gave the team their first win against the traditional power program in eight tries. 

“This is a humbling victory, and this team has so much belief and resiliency as a program,” said ISU quarterback Austen Arnaud. “That’s the thing about us, we come into every game thinking we’re going to win. Today we did, and we were very fortunate.”

Arnaud finished the game 11-of-23 passing, with two touchdowns and one interception, and provided 40 yards on the ground.  

The Longhorns came off a big road win against Nebraska last week, with the Cyclones recovering from a 52-0 defeat against No. 3 Oklahoma. Energy is what the Cyclones credit, even if common sense and momentum indicate the Longhorns came in the stronger team.

“The last two weeks were really embarrassing and it’s a pride thing,” said ISU guard Alex Alvarez. “We know we can do things, we know we can execute things.” 

Another sign of the team’s improvement and change in mentality was its third down conversions. Just 4-of-26 turning a third down into chain movement against Utah and Oklahoma, the Cyclones were 7-of-17 against the Longhorns, picking up just enough to get the job finished. 

Texas scored 15 of its 21 points in the fourth quarter, and got the ball back on its own 10 yardline with just one minute left in the game. The Cyclones held under the pressure and momentum, just as they had all game. 

“I didn’t say a word to them,” Rhoads said. “I didn’t need to. I was speaking a lot throughout the course of the football game. I didn’t think I needed to on that drive. They knew what was left, and they knew what they had to do.”

Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert became nationally known having to fill in for starter Colt McCoy in the National Championship game last season. Gilbert hasn’t shined so far this season, but threw his first touchdown in a month against the Cyclones.

The sophomore completed 34-of-57 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns, but those big numbers weren’t enough to compensate for his three interceptions and fumble.

“I don’t know if I can stop smiling,” said ISU cornerback and Arlington, Texas, native Ter’Ran Benton. “I don’t know if I’m more happy that we won, or that I had about 20 family members up there. It was a good game. I put it all on the field.”

The Cyclones scored on long drives on three of their four touchdowns, but their biggest impact plays came from first-time starter Jacob Lattimer. The long-haired defensive end was named the starter ahead of Patrick Neal this week, and in his first game logged seven tackles, five of which were solo, two sacks, four hurries and one forced fumble that led to an ISU score.

“I just came in and it was just another game. I just came out and played as hard as I could,” Lattimer said.

Lattimer made a move from linebacker to defensive end in spring practice, and said he wanted to do anything to get on the field and help the team.

The Cyclones might still be susceptible to ugly games against top-flight competition, but with upsets like Nebraska last season and on the road against the Longhorns Saturday, the team is being recognized for their tenacity and pride.

After all, they have a coach that is “so proud.”

“We’re blue collar, and we sort of like it,” Rhoads said.