AMES, Iowa (AP) — No. 22 Texas still has a path to the Big 12 title game.
But the Longhorns also head into Saturday’s game at Iowa State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) knowing that they will have to start playing much better. The Longhorns (6-3, 4-2) have split their last four games, with wins over Kansas and Kansas State that only came after field goals at the end of regulation.
They are a rare underdog against the Cyclones, who are favored by a touchdown.
“The expectations from our fans, from the media ... they're never going to be as high as what's inside of our building,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “We have tremendously high expectations.”
Iowa State enters play on a two-game skid.
SCOUTING THE CYCLONES
Iowa State nearly knocked the Sooners out of the playoff picture by storming back from 21 down to make it a one-point game with 24 seconds left. The Cyclones then decided to go for two, only to see Brock Purdy’s pass intercepted.
“That's life in the Big 12, right? You go from great quarterback to great quarterback,” Herman said of Purdy. “Last year you could tell he had a lot of moxie, you could tell he could run around and make plays.”
Purdy leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth nationally with 316 yards passing a game, and the sophomore also threw five TD passes in Norman last week.
Iowa State also ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 25 points a game, but that number spiked to 38 in back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
“They're, I think, pound for pound probably the most talented team, probably tied with or equal to Oklahoma in our conference,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “When you play teams that have elite players, that means your execution and detail (has) got to be really good.”
Still a rollercoaster for the Longhorns. Until last week, they were the worst punt return team in the nation, then got a 53-yarder to set up a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Then the Longhorns gave up a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD. Kicker Cameron Dicker has been a bit erratic during the first half of games, but he also booted the game-winning field goals on the final play against the Jayhawks and Wildcats.
Iowa State sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar is having a breakout season. Kolar is tied nationally in receiving yards (57.2) and ninth in receptions (4.0) at his position, and he has six TD catches in the last six games.
The Longhorns paired previously injured safeties Caden Sterns and Brandon Jones together for the first time in a month last week and it produced one of Texas’ best defensive efforts of the season. After giving up two early touchdowns, Texas allowed just 36 yards passing in the second half and nothing down the middle third of the field. Texas’ three sacks last week were the most in five games.
Purdy and LSU star Joe Burrow are the only players in the country to be responsible for at least six touchdowns in a game twice this season. Burrow also torched the Longhorns for 471 yards and four TD passes in September. ... Iowa State’s Breece Hall ranks fourth nationally among true freshmen with seven rushing TDs. ... Texas has won 11 of its last 15 Big 12 games. ... The Longhorns are the only league team that Campbell hasn’t beaten in four years with the Cyclones.
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report from Austin, Texas.