AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State was supposed to be better. Texas was supposed to be vulnerable.
In the end, neither team looked like they were ready to compete for a Big 12 title on Thursday night — but it was the Longhorns who survived the conference opener.
Shane Buechele threw for 171 yards and a score, and Texas beat Iowa State 17-7.
Chris Warren III added a rushing TD to help the Longhorns (2-2) improve to 13-2 against the Cyclones (2-2). Iowa State gained just 256 yards — and only 10 on the ground.
“The defensive performance was phenomenal,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “To hold a team to 10 yards on the ground, to get the turnovers and fourth-down stops that we did in their stadium was impressive.”
Warren had an 11-yard touchdown run and Toneil Carter caught a 22-yard TD pass from Buechele to give Texas a 14-0 halftime lead.
The game — which was about as ugly as one can get four weeks into the season — hinged on a pair of plays in a 21-second span late in the third quarter that went the Longhorns’ way.
Texas appeared to fumble away a kickoff deep in its own territory, but the runner was ruled down on replay. Iowa State then took an apparent fumbled backward pass into the end zone, but the officials ruled the ball was going forward after a review.
Jacob Park threw for 246 yards and had a career-high three interceptions for Iowa State, which had scored at least 40 points in each of its first three games.
“They brought a lot of pressure in the first half and had more guys on the line of scrimmage than there were blockers. It can put you in a tough situation,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.
Texas: The Longhorns did what they’ve done so often against Iowa State, pushing the Cyclones around while dictating tempo through the ground game. Texas’ rebuilt offensive line had issues with holding calls, and its entire offense looked discombobulated at times. But a win on the road in league play is never something to scoff at — especially when you’re just four games into Herman’s coaching tenure. “There’s a lot of work on offense. But we’re going to celebrate winning because it’s hard to come by,” Herman said.
Iowa State: It was as if the Cyclones saw Texas come out in their all-white road uniforms and froze. Almost none of the improvement Iowa State has made under second-year coach Matt Campbell was evident against the Longhorns. The first two touchdowns Texas scored came after penalties the Cyclones could’ve avoided, and questions about the play-calling — like why did star running back David Montgomery have just six carries in the first half? — lingered all night.
Buechele certainly spread the ball around, completing passes to 11 different receivers. Lil’Jordan Humphrey led the way with four catches, and six Longhorns caught at least two passes. Buechele made a poor choice that led to an interception, but he was largely accurate, completing 19 of 26 passes against a talented Iowa State secondary. “Offensively we’ve got to get better, but I was really excited to get back on the field,” Buechele said after missing the USC game.
Montgomery came into play with 321 yards and four TDs on 5.7 yards per carry. But Iowa State unsuccessfully tried to open things up with its passing game in the first half, which forced them to abandon the running game after it went down by 14 points. Montgomery finished with 34 yards on nine carries, while Park threw the ball 48 times. “I think Jacob got rattled a little in the game because of the pressure, and we didn’t do a good enough job of protecting him,” Campbell said.
Iowa State linebacker Joel Lanning — who was the quarterback when the Cyclones beat Texas 24-0 in 2015 — had 20 tackles. … Warren finished with 44 yards rushing and Buechele had 42. … Iowa State was 3 of 12 on third down and 0 of 2 on fourth. Texas’s Malik Jefferson stuffed Park on a fourth-and-4 at the 50 midway through the fourth quarter. … Factoring in sacks, Iowa State finished with just 10 yards rushing.
Texas hosts Kansas State next Saturday.
Iowa State travels to face Oklahoma on Oct. 7.