AUSTIN, Texas — Texas was a different team Saturday night against Iowa State.
The defense didn’t dominate as it did through much of the first half of the season, but quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and the offense were in rhythm and finally finished a game with a win.
"You look at our offense, and you watch them grow up, and you watch Tyrone get better and better every game," Texas coach Charlie Strong said.
It appeared the game would be decided in overtime when Iowa State tied it at 45 with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But Swoopes made two big completions to set up the game-winning field goal.
"I was going to go into overtime," Strong said. "I was going to say take a knee to overtime, because I didn’t think they could stop us on the offense, but once we ended up where we did with the kickoff return. I said, ‘let’s take a shot.’"
After the Longhorns jumped out to a quick 14-0 first quarter lead, the Cyclones responded and answered every Texas touchdown with a score of their own.
The defense that shut down Baylor and Oklahoma the previous two weeks gave up 524 yards to Iowa State.
"Not very pleased with our defense," Strong said. "I thought we could have played better than we did, but it’s always a good test when you can wake guys up."
The 48-45 win wasn’t pretty, but it’s another big step forward for Swoopes, who went 24-of-36 for 321 yards, one touchdown and ran for another score.
"The guys are also getting better, the offensive line is getting better," he said. "The receivers are out making plays for me, the tight ends as well and the running backs running the ball really well. All around I think we’ve all gotten a lot better over this month."
Swoopes wasn’t expected to see much playing time this year, but he was forced to step up when David Ash suffered a career-ending injury after the season opener.
And he’s come a long way since his first start in Texas’ embarrassing 41-7 loss to BYU in Week 2.
"It’s hard to explain, because I go back to spring practice and the spring game was, like, ‘wow, can he play quarterback?’ I was going to tell him to move to another position," Strong joked.
The young quarterback’s teammates are also seeing him grow into a much-needed leader at Texas.
"That kid’s grown up so much," wide receiver John Harris said. "You saw tonight, the poise, and just the way he commanded the offense. He basically took over the offense in the fourth quarter with his feet. That’s the first time I’ve seen him do that.
"You can see he’s grown up and he has to step up and make plays, and he’s going to do that. It’s great to see him grow up and he’s going to have more success going forward."
Swoopes is giving Texas fans hope that the Longhorns have finally found a reliable quarterback for the first time since the Colt McCoy era ended in 2009.
Texas’ 3-4 record, with wins over North Texas, Kansas, and Iowa State, isn’t going to impress anyone or satisfy the burnt orange faithful. Special teams blunders and self-inflicted miscues cost the Longhorns potential upsets of UCLA, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
But the defense has shown this season it can slow down high-powered offenses, and Swoopes continues to become more confident every week.
When the Longhorns begin to put it all together consistently, it won’t be long until Texas is Texas again.