It was, for those who appreciate the strategy of the game, a perfect afternoon.
Football, at its best, is like a game of chess. In chess, the queen is the most effective weapon, for she can move in any direction at any time. There are two ways to neutralize her. The first, obviously, is to capture it and the second is to keep the offensive pressure on the king so that the queen never gets in the game.
So it was on Saturday. Faced with a tremendously talented Iowa State offensive weapon in quarterback Seneca Wallace, Texas simply limited his options by keeping him out of the game. After a very impressive first half, when Wallace showed his Heisman-type ability, the seventh-ranked Longhorns defeated Iowa State in the second half by controlling the clock.
When it was over, it was a game of numbers. Iowa State, which held a 10-7 halftime lead, had 217 yards total offense on 41 plays and had held the ball for 17:20 at intermission. Texas, on the other hand, had 176 yards on 35 plays and had the ball for only 12:40.
In the second half, Texas ran 44 plays to only 32 for ISU, gained 210 yards to only 68 for the Cyclones and held the ball for an astounding 20:22.
If ever there has been one in recent UT history, this was truly a team victory. The defense stiffened against the efficient and effective attack of the Cyclones, and despite threats in the first half, held its ground. Wallace was exceptional, but so was the Longhorns defense. The offense took charge of the game in the second half.
Trailing at the half for the first time this season, the Longhorns gathered in the dressing room at the south end of the stadium to hear their coach talk about pride. Every phase of the game that was important, he told them, Iowa State had won: big plays, turnovers, time of possession and it went on and on.
Then he said, "there is too much pride in this locker room to let that continue. The game will be won in the first five minutes of the half and in the fourth quarter."
The record will show that Texas took the opening kickoff of the second half and began driving from its own 20 into a stiff northerly wind. On the seventh play of the drive, from the Texas 41-yard line, sophomore RB Cedric Benson broke over the left side, ran through a tackle and headed toward the end zone. Junior WR B.J. Johnson caught up with the play at the Iowa State 20, shielding Benson from the most likely tackler and the Midland native scored on a 59-yard run to give Texas the lead for good.
On the next possession, Iowa State ran four plays before freshman DT Rodrique Wright sacked Wallace for a 9- yard loss and the Cyclones punted. As Wright pulled Wallace to the ground, the clock clicked past 10 minutes. The first goal had been achieved — the first five minutes of the half were over.
With 1:16 remaining in the third quarter, UT took possession of the ball after a Cyclones missed 32-yard field goal. The score stood at 14-10.
For the next nine minutes and four seconds, Texas controlled the ball. When freshman RB Selvin Young followed his blockers into the end zone and junior Stevie Stigall nailed the ISU kickoff return man at the Cyclones 15 on Richmond McGee's ensuing kickoff only 7:12 remained in the game.
It was a classic power football drive, as the Longhorns ran 19 plays in traveling 80 yards. They converted four third downs and one fourth down and pushed their lead to 21-10 as they, for all practical purposes, ended the game. It was a wonderful game for Benson, who gained 199 yards, and his offensive line. It was also a great effort for junior FB Ivan Williams, who had 11 knockdown blocks and caught a career-high three passes for 32 yards.
In the locker room after the game, Brown talked about the 17th consecutive home win and the character his team had shown. He spoke very positively of Wallace and Iowa State and reflected on how hard both teams had played.
He held his hand up in the now-familiar signal of a clinched fist that represents "one Heartbeat" to his team and he then opened his hand to signify four fingers that stood for the fourth quarter.
"This," he said as he began to pull the fingers together, "leads to this."
And he clinched his fist once again.
Then, from the front of the room, the yell began.
"Whose house?" came the question.
"Horns house!" came the reply.
They shouted it over and over again, as if to say, "not in our house."
Outside, on the field which had held up so well despite the recent rains, the chess game was over. Just before the most potent weapon of the opponent could strike, check mate had occurred. For the first time since 1998, Texas had beaten its second ranked team in a row and its fourth in its last six matchups.
The victory moved the Longhorns' season record to 7-1 (3-1 Big 12) and they are now 2-1 in a stretch where they will have played four consecutive teams that, at some point this season, have been ranked in the nation's Top 15. Saturday night at Nebraska, UT will face a Cornhuskers team that has not lost at home since UT snapped a 47-game winning streak in 1998.
With two of the storied programs of college football paired up at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, that one will be all about pride.