AUSTIN (KXAN) — All week before Saturday’s matchup with Iowa State, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian told everybody he could about how much faith he had in freshman running back CJ Baxter.
Now everyone knows why.
As the lead back following Jonathon Brooks’s season-ending injury last week, Baxter rushed for 117 yards on 20 carries to help lead the No. 7 Longhorns to a 26-16 victory over the Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium.
Coupled with another tremendous effort by the Texas defense, allowing just nine rushing yards and only three third-down conversions, the Longhorns took one step closer to a spot in the Big 12 Conference championship game with their 10th win of the season.
“This was a lot of different players making plays tonight,” Sarkisian said. “For CJ Baxter to come up with the opportunity he got to go for 117 yards, and hard yards against that defense, and the tight ends showed up when he needed them.”
It was a defensive struggle for the entire first half with all the scoring coming from field goals with Texas holding a 6-3 advantage. Texas place kicker Bert Auburn came into the game with 11 consecutive kicks and left with 14 after a 3-for-3 performance. He hit a career-long 50-yard kick as time expired in the first half and also made tries from 39 and 42 yards.
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Texas finally hit pay dirt in the third quarter on receiver Jordan Whittington’s first touchdown catch of the season. On third-and-1, quarterback Quinn Ewers faked a handoff and found a wide-open Whittington behind the defense for a 23-yard touchdown with 5:33 left. Ewers threw another touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 31-yard strike to tight end Gunnar Helm to give Texas a 23-9 lead with 14:52 left after a 2-point conversion.
The Longhorns picked up a pair of points in rare fashion with a blocked extra point return in the third quarter. Following a Cyclones touchdown, T’Vondrae Sweat got his big paw in the air to block the point after attempt, and Austin Jordan scooped it up and returned it 82 yards for two points.
Texas defensive back Jerrin Thompson made a big defensive play late in the third with a diving interception to set up the Ewers-to-Helm touchdown.
“Defensively, we did it again,” Sarkisian said. “We played really good defense in the second half and we controlled the game.”
Texas could have had an even bigger margin of victory but two touchdowns were called back due to penalties and Xavier Worthy took a shot on a reverse play and fumbled on the Iowa State 9-yard line in the second half.
On Tuesday before the game, Iowa State offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford called out the Longhorns, saying that Texas, “gets all the big 5-star recruits and all the nicest stuff, and they think their (blank) doesn’t stink. They’re just human as far as I see them that have a high ego that needs to be checked.”
He also said about the Longhorns defensive line, “I don’t necessarily think it’s the best unit team-wise that we’ve been up against.”
Sarkisian addressed that after the game.
“I don’t know why you’d ever call them out. That would be the last thing I’d do getting ready to play us,” Sarkisian said. “They called out our culture, but our guys focused on what they needed to do and that was dominate the line of scrimmage.”
Ewers finished the game 23-of-33 passing for 281 yards with two touchdowns. Worthy caught four passes for 77 yards but left the game in the fourth quarter with what appeared the be a leg injury. Whittington had three catches for 56 yards.
For Iowa State, freshman quarterback Rocco Becht completed 24 of 32 throws for 323 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He hit tight end Easton Dean on a perfectly executed playaction pass on a fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter and Eli Sanders late in the third. Jayden Higgins had seven catches for 104 yards.
Texas (10-1, 7-1 Big 12 Conference) hosts Texas Tech in the Big 12 finale at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 24.
Final: Texas 26, Iowa State 16. CJ Baxter bursts onto the national stage with 117 rushing yards on 20 carries and the Longhorns hold Iowa State to 9 rushing yards.
1:42 4Q: Jaydon Blue runs up the middle for 2 yards on fourth-and-1 and that’s going to ice the game. Iowa State is out of timeouts.
3:20 4Q: On fourth-and-17, the Cyclones gain 11 and Texas will take over on downs on the Iowa State 43-yard line
4:05 4Q: After an illegal formation penalty set Iowa State back after a 13-yard gain, Ethan Burke and Byron Murphy crumple Becht in the backfield for a 9-yard loss on third down
6:14 4Q: FIELD GOAL TEXAS: Auburn came into the game with 11 consecutive successful kicks and he hit his third of the night, this one from 42 yards. Texas worked the clock nicely as well on the drive. 11 plays, 56 yards, 6:26. Longhorns 26, Cyclones 16
9:28 4Q: On his 15th carry, CJ Baxter hits the 100-yard mark with a 2-yard gain
11:30 4Q: Xavier Worthy is off to the locker room after he limped off the field. He had 4 catches for 77 yards at the time of his injury
12:44 4Q: TOUCHDOWN IOWA STATE: A beautiful playaction fake on fourth-and-1 by Becht as he sold the QB run up the middle, and then tight end Easton Dean snuck out with nobody near him. Becht lobbed it to him and 66 yards later, the Cyclones scored. PAT good. 4 plays, 75 yards, 2:08. Longhorns 23, Cyclones 16
14:52 4Q: TOUCHDOWN TEXAS: On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ewers hits Gunnar Helm for a 31-yard touchdown. Helm ran a shallow drag from the backside and then realized no one was around him and turned his route upfield. Ewers found him. 2-point conversion run by Whittington was good. 3 plays, 57 yards, 1:06. Longhorns 23, Cyclones 9
End 3Q: Texas 15, Iowa State 9. Texas will start the fourth quarter first-and-10 at the Cyclones’ 44-yard line after back-to-back 13-yard gains at the end of the third.
0:58 3Q: Jerrin Thompson breaks on the Becht pass toward the sideline and makes a diving interception. A terrific play that gives Texas the ball back on the Longhorns’ 43-yard line
2:13 3Q: TOUCHDOWN IOWA STATE: Becht drops a pass to Eli Sanders for a 14-yard touchdown, but Sweat blocks the PAT and Austin Jordan returns it 82 yards for two points. Wow. Longhorns 15, Cyclones 9
5:53 3Q: TOUCHDOWN TEXAS: On third-and-1, Texas dials up a playaction pass and Jordan Whittington is WIDE OPEN for a 23-yard TD catch. It’s Whittington’s first TD catch of the season and it’s the first TD of the game for either team. PAT good. 9 plays, 91 yards, 4:25. Longhorns 13, Cyclones 3
Halftime: Texas 6, Iowa State 3. Texas has 205 yards of offense but penalties have killed them. Iowa State was held to 115 yards of offense in the first half, including just five rushing yards, so the defense is doing its job.
0:00 2Q: FIELD GOAL TEXAS: Auburn hits a career-long kick from 50 yards as time expires in the first half. 10 plays, 58 yards. 2:25. Longhorns 6, Cyclones 3
0:48 2Q: Ja’Tavion Sanders limps off the field and that’s certainly not a good sign for the Longhorns if they want to get their offense going
2:25 2Q: A block in the back wipes another Texas touchdown off the board. Worthy took the punt 86 yards for a score but Kitan Crawford got called for the illegal block. Texas takes over at its own 10-yard line instead of celebrating its first touchdown
6:17 2Q: A reverse to Worthy was looking great until Jeremiah Cooper knocked the ball out and Will McLaughlin jumped on the loose ball at the Iowa State 9-yard line.
7:27 2Q: After the ruling on the field of a first down for Iowa State was overturned on review, Contreraz had to kick it from 51 yards and he yanked it left. Texas takes over on their own 33-yard line
11:18 2Q: FIELD GOAL TEXAS: Bert Auburn connects from 39 yards out and ties it up. 7 plays, 11 yards, 3:31. Longhorns 3, Cyclones 3
12:50 2Q: A holding penalty wiped out a tremendous scramble and pass by Ewers to hit Adonai Mitchell in the end zone
14:48 2Q: Worthy grabs the punt and returns it 24 yards to the Iowa State 33-yard line, so prime field position for a Texas offense that hasn’t really found its footing yet.
End 1Q: Iowa State 3, Texas 0. Alfred Collins gets to Becht for a 4-yard loss on the sack and the Cyclones will punt on the first play of the second quarter
1:14 1Q: All three Texas drives have ended in punts, but Sanborn hits one that takes a nice roll for a net gain of 54 yards down to the Iowa State 10-yard line, so at least the Longhorns flip field position
3:27 1Q: FIELD GOAL IOWA STATE: After an illegal touching penalty wiped out a 7-yard gain on third down, Byron Murphy sacked Becht for a 6-yard loss on third-and-10. No matter, however, as Chase Contreraz hits from 45 yards to give the Cyclones the lead. 11 plays, 53 yards, 5:47. Cyclones 3, Longhorns 0
6:19 1Q: Sweat is back in the game and appears to be OK. A good thing for the Longhorns, clearly.
7:53 1Q: T’Vondrae Sweat is down on the field with his helmet off. The replay showed when Sweat lost his footing, the Iowa State running back’s knee hit him in the side of the head.
9:14 1Q: Ewers gets sacked twice on the drive and Sanborn has to punt again, and Iowa State’s returner muffed the punt but managed to jump on it to keep possession. Cyclones take over at their own 20-yard line
12:01 1Q: Iowa State goes three-and-out on its first drive but Tyler Perkins thumps a 52-yard punt that Xavier Worthy fair catches at the Texas 32-yard line
12:54 1Q: CJ Baxter took a big hit on a third down play and dropped the pass, leading to a Texas punt. Iowa State’s freshman quarterback Rocco Becht leads the Cyclones on their first drive starting at their own 10-yard line
15:00 1Q: Iowa State boots it through the end zone on the opening kick and Texas will get the ball first at its 25-yard line
Pregame: Jack Trice Stadium is sold out and the fans in Ames aren’t exactly keen on the Longhorns, like every other team in the Big 12. Iowa State is honoring its seniors before the game, so expect the Cyclones to be emotionally charged as this one gets going