Texas had a lot of firsts Saturday night.
Holding its opponent to less than 300 total yards for the first time since week two was one of the biggest.
The six points surrendered in Texas’ 27-6 victory over Iowa State were also the least head coach Charlie Strong’s defense has surrendered this season. And it was the first time his unit was able to hold the opposition to under 100 yards rushing — the Cyclones managed a mere 98 yards on the ground.
But the Longhorns reverted back to their old ways in one particular negative statistic. Texas gifted Iowa State 100 yards on nine penalties — the first time Texas had surrendered 100-plus penalty yards since the first two weeks.
“[There were] just too many penalties,” Strong said. “When you’re playing, you can’t give away plays. If you look at us on offense [in] the first half, that’s what really stopped a lot of our drives.”
Texas committed only two penalties for 10 yards against Oklahoma, but that hasn’t been the norm for Texas this season. The Longhorns rank No. 95 in the nation in penalties, with 7.3 penalties per game, and No. 109 in penalty yardage, with 69.7 penalty yards per game.
Texas only managed to put three points on the board in the first half against Iowa State, and yellow flags played a large role in its mediocre offensive output. The first drive of the game was interrupted when junior wide receiver Jake Oliver was called for offensive pass interference, and senior receiver Jacorey Warrick committed the same infraction later in the half.
“It’s just tough to overcome,” offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said. “Those are things we’ve got to really work on and really focus on, to not only lessen but to eliminate … Just got to be clean. And guys have to just understand and know, and be right.”
The defense also racked up the yellow laundry in the victory. Sophomore cornerback Kris Boyd was overzealous in celebrating a third down stop, and his antics drew a flag for taunting that extended an Iowa State drive in the thirdquarter.
Sophomore linebacker Breckyn Hager’s celebration of a fourth down stop warranted the same penalty later in the quarter, backing the Texas offense up 15 yards on its next possession.
“I mean, it can’t happen,” Hager said. “I let my emotions get the best of me. And that’s something I just learn from. Really, I was just so proud of my defense. I was just so proud that, like, my emotions were just so hard to control.”
Although the Texas offense scored quickly on freshman quarterback Shane Buechele’s 75-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Devin Duvernay after Hager’s penalty, it won’t always be that easy.
As Texas gears up for the heart of its Big 12 conference schedule, limiting penalties within the players’ realm of control will be crucial against opponents such as No. 9 Baylor and No. 12 West Virginia — both of whom are undefeated.
It’s one thing for Texas to beat a one-win Iowa State team after handing the Cyclones a free 100 yards. But the task gets much harder if Texas does the same when it plays the conference’s powerhouses later in the season.
“We’re going to learn from it, and that’s a mistake that won’t happen again,” Hager said. “Because it can’t happen against better teams — that can cost us. I understand that it was not the right thing to do.”