Ugly win over Iowa State still a win for UT

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
1:20
AM ET
 

To say “a win is a win” and just move on doesn’t feel applicable. Not on this night.

The final score -- Texas 31, Iowa State 30 -- seemed like one of the few things the Longhorns got right on Thursday.

There are positive ways to spin what Texas did against the Cyclones, what with the fourth-quarter comeback and the final stop and getting to 2-0 in the Big 12. But it’s hard to heap too much praise on that victory without sounding disingenuous.

In his postgame comments, though, Mack Brown said he considers this a great win for Texas. He loves a good comeback. He’ll take the victory and he won’t complain.

“One of the trademarks of our football teams have been comeback wins, especially in close games like this,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of our guys.”

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Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports

Texas celebrated the win over Iowa State, but that doesn't mean it was a great victory for Mack Brown and his Longhorns.

He also offered this: “It’s about winning. It’s not about who called plays good or who scored points. Stats do not matter. Points do. So I’m proud of this team, proud of the coaches for hanging in there.”

If we want to strip away the details and just get real simple, yes, the Longhorns needed to escape Ames, Iowa, with a win. They did just that.

This was ultimately the result they wanted. How they did that, however, wasn’t very pretty when you go down the list.

A 45-yard touchdown run and a 44-yard Hail Mary accounted for more than half of Texas’ total offense in the first half.

After his 45-yard score, Johnathan Gray received five carries for 14 yards the rest of the half. Texas was wise to ride him in the second half against Kansas State -- when Case McCoy came in for David Ash and had to run the show -- and he put up career-best numbers. This time, he was too often a nonfactor. He’d finish with six carries on Texas’ final drive and just 10 during the rest of the game.

Coaches said ISU took away Texas’ ability to run, and that the pass game would have to set up a successful rushing attack. So McCoy attempted a career-high 45 passes, completing 26 for 244 yards.

Oh, and there was the personal foul penalty in which it appears Texas receiver Mike Davis took a cheap shot at an Iowa State defender's knees after a play was over. That's not a good look and could merit a reprimand from the Big 12 this week.

But surely none of this comes anywhere close to mattering as much as Texas’ last drive of the night. The Cyclones can’t complain about the position they put themselves in. Texas’ 75-yard drive to clinch was aided by 23 yards of obvious ISU penalties.

But the goal-line ending was something else entirely. ISU coach Paul Rhoads probably had every right to be outraged when it was all over, after referees ruled that Gray did not fumble from 2-yards and 1-yard out on consecutive attempts.

They were close and difficult calls, the second one more so than the first. Iowa State fans will maintain Texas got two gigantic favors from the officiating crew.

But for Texas to get a 1-yard rushing touchdown from McCoy -- after its own fans howled throughout that it was finally time to use the dual-threat freshman Tyrone Swoopes -- was almost a fitting ending to a game that Texas just barely did enough to win.

“We were able to put enough together to get out of here on a Thursday night, and we’ll take a win any day,” McCoy said.

What Texas did Thursday was enough to beat Iowa State. It won’t come anywhere close to being enough against Oklahoma next week.

But, again, Brown sees lots of positives. Nothing he saw on Thursday night dented his optimism going forward.

“This gives us some confidence. They’re happy in there,” Brown said. “They’ll feel better going into next week’s game. You can coach them hard when you win and you mess a lot of things up.

“This is good. This will be a real positive for us moving forward. I’m really excited. I think I love comeback wins on the road more than anything in football.”

Brown might not find many who agree with him. But the scoreboard says his team won, and Texas isn't playing well enough to ask for much more than that.

Max Olson | email

Texas/Big 12 reporter

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