An uncharacteristic fourth quarter on defense nearly costs Cyclones


Garrett Heyd/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s defense lines up against University Texas’ offense on Nov. 16, 2019. Iowa State won 23-21.

Matt Belinson

What ended up being a walk-off field goal nearly ended in defeat for the Cyclones on Saturday night after an uncharacteristic fourth quarter on defense.

The numbers don’t lie when it comes to the collapse Iowa State had in the fourth compared to the dominance it exerted early on in the first half.

Of the Longhorns’ 327 total yards on offense, 136 of them came in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns went 6-17 on third down on the night, yet converted five times in the fourth quarter.

Texas also held the ball for nearly eight minutes in the final quarter.

To put into context how dominant Iowa State was on defense in the first half, Texas had four consecutive drives end in a punt — along with a critical fourth down stop by the Cyclones at their own 22-yard line to take away points from the Longhorns.

Quarterback Brock Purdy saw firsthand the dominance of the first half defense and the multiple opportunities the dominance gave the Cyclone offense.

“Defense was amazing; they helped us out,” Purdy said. “For them to get three-and-outs back-to-back, it’s special and I’m so thankful for them. I tell them I love them all the time because of that.”

Throwing out the first touchdown drive the Longhorns ended the first half with, an average drive for Texas went four plays for 9.3 yards.

“First half, defense was lights out,” said defensive back Lawrence White. 

White said Iowa State did a good job of eliminating the big play in the first half, but in the fourth, Texas took advantage of miscommunication from Iowa State.

White said he felt Iowa State relaxed too much in the second half and in the fourth quarter.

Even with holding Texas to seven points in three quarters, the biggest test would begin as soon as the fourth quarter clock began to run.

The Longhorns finished its 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that began at the 2:40 mark in the third quarter and wasted no time to score once the fourth began.

Ten seconds into the fourth quarter, Sam Ehlinger threw his second touchdown pass of the night to cut it to a 20-14 Iowa State lead. 

After a four-play Iowa State drive, Texas would get the ball again at its own 15-yard line.

The bad field position didn’t matter in the end for the Longhorns, as Texas walked down and scored on a 15-play, 89-yard drive.

The drive wasn’t as easy for Texas as the numbers would indicate — Iowa State crumbled in long-yardage situations, allowing the Longhorns to rebound after their own inflicted mistakes.

After back-to-back holding and pass interference penalties, Texas was pushed back to its own 37-yard line for a second-and-35.

On the very next play, the Longhorns got 30 yards back on a catch by Brennan Eagles. Immediately after, the Longhorns not only picked up the first down on third-and-five, but also gained 26 yards. 

Four plays later, Texas took the lead on fourth-and-seven with Ehlinger scrambling and throwing his third touchdown of the night.

Iowa State folded in its biggest defensive drive of the night. Campbell said giving up a drive like that can happen with such a young group on the field, but in the end, you have to move on from it.

“That stinks, you know nobody wants to give up second-and-35, but it happened and we gotta learn from it and grow from it and we’ve had some of those situations that have occurred,” Campbell said. “We’re coaching 18 to 22 year olds, so it’s never going to be perfect as much as we want it to be, and I think that’s what championship cultures and championship-type players do — they have the ability to play the next play.”

Campbell said sooner or later, Iowa State will be able to build a foundation from being consistent on both sides of the ball to allow for a consistent game through four quarters in big moments.

But Campbell gave his hats off to Ehlinger for making it hard toward the end for Iowa State on defense, saying the junior is one of the best in the nation.

“I got a lot of respect for him and he did a great job of coming back and battling, and you just gotta keep playing,” Campbell said.