No. 19 Texas went to Ames on Saturday afternoon knowing a win over Iowa State and a No. 10 Oklahoma win over No. 13 Baylor tonight meant a de facto Big 12 semifinal between the Longhorns and Bears next Saturday.
However, a season-high nine punts, eight three-and-outs, a failed fourth down try and a catastrophic offsides penalty conspired to cancel that semifinal before it began, as Iowa State beat Texas, 23-21.
The win is sweet triumph for Iowa State (6-4), whose four losses came by one, two, seven and one point.
Despite the 2-point margin, Iowa State dominated the first three quarters of the game.
It appeared Iowa State would take a 10-0 lead into the break, as Texas took over the ball at its own 25 with 47 seconds left in the first half, having gained 59 yards on their first 24 snaps. Instead, the Longhorns briefly came alive, covering 75 yards in alternating passes to Devin Duvernay and Brennan Eagles, bridging the gap to 10-7 and giving the visitors momentum heading into the break.
That momentum did not last. Brock Purdy found Deshaunte Jones wide open behind the defense on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, putting the Cyclones back up 10. Brayden Narveson then pushed the lead to 20-7 on a 48-yard field goal with 12:09 to go in the third quarter, and Texas answered by registering its sixth and seventh three-and-outs of the day.
The Longhorns finally got off the mat late in the third quarter, moving 80 yards in 10 plays and scoring when Sam Ehlinger hit Keontay Ingram on 3rd-and-10 for a 21-yard touchdown, a play when he leaked out of the backfield and punished a zero blitz.
When the Texas defense forced a punt with 12:20 to play, the Longhorns took over at their own 11 and put together a marathon, miracle 15-play, 89-yard touchdown drive in which Texas overcame a 2nd-and-35 and, later, took the lead when Ehlinger found Malcolm Epps for a 7-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal, giving Texas a 21-20 lead with 5:37 to play.
Iowa State gained a first down on the ensuing possession, and prepared to go for a 4th-and-5 from midfield, but a delay of game forced Matt Campbell to send the punting unit on the field, giving Texas the ball and the lead for the first time of the game. The Longhorns did nothing with it, running for no gain on first and second down and throwing incomplete on third, marking their eighth three and out of the game. Chris Naggar‘s ninth punt, a season high, sailed and rolled 67 yards, pushing the Cyclones back to their own 18, but they were in Texas territory in two plays thanks to a 15-yard strike to Jones and a 22-yard grab by La'Michael Pettway, while fighting off pass interference.
Jalen Green eventually forced an incompletion on 3rd-and-4, setting up a 44-yard field goal with 2:16 to play. But Narveson’s try never happened, because Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai jumped offside, putting the Iowa State offense back on the field.
Having exhausted all its timeouts to set up the first try, Texas could not stop as Iowa State ran the clock down to just four seconds. This time, Connor Assalley tried from 36 yards, and it was good, clinching Iowa State’s first walk-off field-goal win since 1983.
The loss drops Texas (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) out of Big 12 title contention and will send them back to Austin wondering what might have been. In addition to the Ossai penalty, Texas also blew an opportunity in the second quarter, when D'Shawn Jamison intercepted a Purdy pass at the Iowa State 39 but Texas stubbornly refused to throw the ball on the possession, running sight straight times, including for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-2 from the Iowa State 22.
For the game, Texas ran for 54 yards on 26 carries, 27 of them by Ehlinger, who completed 22-of-40 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns.