Tom Herman

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Texas Sports

Sam Ehlinger has shown Texas fans plenty of good and plenty of bad this season.

One moment on Saturday, he tossed a beauty of a pass for a 50-yard pickup. The next moment, he evaded a would-be sack, turning a broken play into a positive one that left the West Virginia defense dazed and confused. And if you stuck around long enough, you saw Ehlinger throw a head-scratching pick-six that let the Mountaineers back into the game.

On a cold, rainy Saturday in Morgantown, Ehlinger showed why he’s the ultimate risk-reward player.

“You got to forget about the past if it’s good or bad,” Ehlinger said, “because you can’t let it affect the future.”

After watching sophomore Shane Buechele start the game and lead the Longhorns for the first two series, Ehlinger gave Texas a spark. The plan had been for Ehlinger to come in on the third offensive series no matter what. But he was unsure if it’d be for good.

“Obviously we knew that I was going in the third drive,” Ehlinger said, “but I had no idea after that what was gonna happen.”

The Longhorns went three-and-out on Ehlinger’s first series. His second was when things changed.

On the first play of the second quarter, Ehlinger delivered a perfect ball to redshirt freshman wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps down the sideline, which went for 50 yards and set up Texas in the red zone for the first time in the game. Minutes later, Ehlinger tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to graduate transfer tight end Kendall Moore to put Texas up 7-0.

The next Texas drive was peak Ehlinger. Facing a third-and-9, he evaded a West Virginia rusher who had broken free, scrambled out of a near-sack, then sprinted down the sideline for a 17-yard gain. The next play, Texas tried a trick play and had junior wide receiver Jerrod Heard throw a pass back to Ehlinger, who then ran for 23 yards to the West Virginia 31.

Ehlinger found junior running back Chris Warren III down the seam for a 20-yard touchdown pass moments later to put Texas up 14-0 late in the first half.

Texas fans had seen the reward. But then came the risk in the second half.

Facing a third-and-8 at West Virginia’s 22-yard line with under six minutes to play in the third quarter, Ehlinger dashed for 17 yards to set up a first-and-goal on the five. Ehlinger popped up after the play and pointed his hand forward to signal a first down.

It was the reward.

The Longhorns looked ready to break open the game and go up by three touchdowns.

But on the very next play, Ehlinger committed a costly mistake. A West Virginia defender broke loose in the backfield and got a hold of Ehlinger as he dropped back to pass. Instead of taking the sack, Ehlinger attempted to get rid of the ball as he went to the ground.

It was the risk.

Ehlinger desperately flung an errant pass that found the hands of West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson, who returned it 94 yards for a touchdown to cut the Texas lead to 14-7.

He wasn’t fazed by that play, either. Ehlinger calmly led Texas on two more touchdown drives in the second half to help ice the game.

“He’s tough. He’s a competitor,” head coach Tom Herman said. “He gives us a dimension in the run game. He rushed for 68 yards, 7.6 yards a carry — that’s a pretty good day at the office.”

Ehlinger has given Texas fans a dose of everything this season — a lot of good and, at times, a lot of bad.

But the most important thing he gave them on Saturday was a 28-14 win, making the Longhorns bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.

“Coach kept saying, ‘Just keep swinging, keep swinging. It’s gonna pay off. It’s gonna pay off. Keep swinging,’” Ehlinger said. “Obviously we would’ve liked some of the games (this season) to go differently, but we kept our head down and we kept working. To be able to go to a bowl and have that opportunity after the hardships and the close games that we’ve went through this year says a lot about the coaching staff as well as the players on the team.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nick Wagner, Austin American-Statesman

As the fourth quarter winded down on Saturday in Morgantown, West Virginia, several Longhorns could be seen dancing and celebrating on the sideline. Head coach Tom Herman even flashed a grin.

When the clock hit 0:00, cementing Texas’ 28-14 victory over No. 24 West Virginia, the Longhorns officially earned what hasn’t been done since 2014: bowl eligibility.

“It was fantastic,” Herman said. “These guys, the smiles on their faces, we know we’ve got one left, but this was a big one to get another road conference win, to beat a top 25 team and make sure that our seniors are bowl eligible.”

The Longhorns and Mountaineers struggled for the majority of the first quarter in what was a treacherous downpour on the turf. Then, Texas caught a break –– at the expense of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier.

Grier took the snap from inside the one-yard line, faked the handoff and made a break for left end of the endzone. Grier dove for the pylon, but as he returned to his feet, he threw his right hand into the air, displaying a gruesome injury that deformed his middle finger.

The officials ruled the play a touchdown which gave the Mountaineers a 6-0 lead for the time being. Grier was sent to the locker room. One minute later, the officials overturned the touchdown call and Grier would not return for the remainder of the game.

The Mountaineers were forced to play redshirt sophomore Chris Chugunov and the Longhorn defense took advantage, holding a team averaging 39 points per game to zero at halftime.

“I thought our defense, to hold them to zero points offensively until mid-way through the fourth quarter,” Herman said.  “I think (that) was definitely something that kept us in the game.”

The Longhorn offense failed to put any points up in the first quarter as well until freshman Sam Ehlinger relieved starting quarterback Shane Buechele of his duties after the first two drives.

Ehlinger made his presence known immediately on the first play of the second quarter. The Longhorns faced a third-and-4 when the freshman quarterback floated a pass just over a West Virginia defender and right into the hands of redshirt freshman wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps for a 50-yard reception.

“That was difficult because it was pouring and the ball was pretty wet,” Ehlinger said.  “Reggie said he couldn't find it for a little bit because it was raining so hard. But it was good. It was a little boost knowing ‘hey it’s pouring and we can still throw the ball for 50 yards. We can do whatever we want in this game.’”

Ehlinger remained behind center for the rest of the game and finished the game completing 12-of-19 attempts for 136 yards and two touchdowns. But he did have one disastrous mistake in the third quarter. With the Longhorns five yards away from the end zone, Texas threatened to take a commanding 21-0 lead.

Then, right before Ehlinger was pulled to the ground for a sack, he desperately tried to throw the ball out of bounds. But it didn’t make it there. Instead, the ball landed right in West Virginia cornerback Kenny Robinson’s lap, who returned the interception 96 yards to cut the lead to 14-7.

“The pick-six, that’s a kid probably trying too hard,” Herman said. “I think he thought he could throw it away. As the saying goes ‘You’ve gotta know when the journey is over.’ We were in field goal range…  I suspect that will be a mistake that you won’t see him make again.”

Despite the interception, the Longhorn defense continued its dominance by holding a West Virginia offense averaging over 500 yards to 295 yards en route to a 28-14 victory, allowing Tom Herman and the Longhorns to leave Milan Puskar Stadium with both a victory and a bowl bid for the first time since 2014.

“They're kids that have been beat up quite a bit the last couple of years and to be able to say we’ve reached one of our goals this season,” Herman said. “These guys are ecstatic, but they also know we've got one left.”

The same players who suffered from back-to-back 5-7 seasons danced in celebration as the final seconds of the game dwindled down. Although the Longhorns do have one more game remaining in the regular season, one thing is for sure: 5-7 is no more.

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Some players call him old man, others just call him ‘Twuan, but Saturday night, fifth-year senior Antwuan Davis was just the next man up.

Texas adopted the slogan “next man up” in response to players who are forced to step up when the team loses a player to injury. However, with the news of starting cornerback Holton Hill’s season-long suspension combined with the injury of junior nickelback and team captain P.J. Locke III, it begged the question, who is that next man?

That question found an answer when Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley released the ball from his own end zone. The ball left Stanley’s fingertips and right into fifth-year senior Antwuan Davis’ hands. Davis returned the interception all the way to the corner of the endzone to give Texas an early 14-0 lead.

And just like that, Texas found its next man up.

“Once I had the ball, all I could see is the end zone,” Davis said. “I saw the whole d-line blocking, I saw a cornerback come over and throw a block and I said ‘Man thank y’all. This means the most to me.’”

This wasn’t just any ordinary pick-six for Davis, though. This was his payoff for the hard work he put in not only on the field, but in the class.

The defensive back found himself in a predicament last season. After getting redshirted in his his first season at Texas, Davis technically had one fifth and final season of eligibility.

However, in order to play, he needed to graduate.

“This is a guy that needed to pass an ungodly amount of hours in the spring and summer to graduate, and he needed to graduate to be eligible to play this season,” Herman said. “(Safeties coach) Craig Naivar dove into his life and prodded him and taught him and mentored him.”

Davis said he was forced to take five classes during one session, followed by one during an off period and another four during the summer –– all for one more season of eligibility.

As the summer came to a close, Davis received his diploma.

“The day that my diploma came in at the end of the summer and I was cleared for the season, I hugged coach Naivar and I hugged coach Herman because these guys really helped me get all the way through to where I am,” Davis said. “It was such an appreciative moment.”

Several months have passed since Davis got his hands on his diploma, but he said the younger guys on team still ask him about his five-year journey at Texas.

“These guys hung in here with me from spring from two years ago,” Davis said. “Some of the freshman are like, ‘Man how do you do it?’ I’m like man you’ve just got to be patient. You've just gotta wait till your time comes.’

Davis’ time happens to be now. Between Locke’s injury and Hill’s suspension, Davis was asked to step up. And he did. The fifth-year senior recorded a second interception in the second quarter and even recovered a fumbled punt.

After the game, junior safety DeShon Elliott saw Davis walk by.

“What’s up, old man?” Elliot asked.

Despite the teasing, which Davis promises is out of love, Elliott wasn’t surprised by the performance from that “old man.”

“He balled. I knew he could ball,” Elliott said. “I’ve been sitting behind him for two years. I knew when he got in the game, he was gonna take advantage of the opportunity and was gonna do his job and that’s what he did.”

Now, Davis can see the end of his Longhorn career. After the game, the fifth-year senior reflected on his journey on the 40 Acres and expressed his gratitude to his teammates and coaching staff for the help and opportunities along the way. 

And for these last two games, the Longhorns are just asking Davis for one thing in return: be their next man up.

“I tell these guys all the time, I cherish them,” Davis said. “I cherish the guys that I’m in here with. Seeing these young guys develop, I’m like man I wonder what the older guys think of me now. Old man ‘Twuan out there with them young guys. It’s just a real appreciative moment. Having my last one in two weeks, it’s gonna be tough but I really feel like I’m ready for it.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Tom Herman doesn't care to look and see what the betting line is on his upcoming game.

The Longhorns were 33-point favorites heading into Saturday night’s meeting against Kansas, a bottom-feeder program that is now 1-9 after Texas’ 42-27 win at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

“I didn’t know we were — I don’t ever know what favorite we are, no,” Herman said. “That’s a lot, though.”

Perhaps it was a lot for a Texas team entering Saturday with a 4-5 record, fresh off its worst offensive performance of the season last weekend against TCU in Fort Worth. Never mind the fact that the Longhorns shockingly lost to Kansas last November in Lawrence.

Kansas proved why it was a 33-point underdog from the opening kick, when it attempted to catch the Longhorns off guard in their own house.

After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Jayhawks boldly tried an onside kick. The plan didn’t work, however, as the Longhorns were ready for it and recovered the ball at Kansas’ 49-yard line.

“We’re always prepared for stuff like that,” senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe said. “Going into this game, you never know what’s gonna happen.”

On Texas’ first play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele delivered a 49-yard touchdown pass to Joe, who got behind the Jayhawks’ secondary.

The Longhorns were up 7-0 just nine seconds into the game. But fans would’ve been remiss to not draw flashbacks to last year’s meeting in Lawrence. Texas scored on its first play from scrimmage in that game as well to take an early 7-0 lead over the Jayhawks. The Longhorns went on to lose 24-21 in overtime, one of the worst losses in program history.

This night would not prove haunting for the burnt orange, though. Texas received boosts from a host of players in the first half to grab control of the game, never letting Kansas get firmly within striking distance.

Fifth-year senior defensive back Antwuan Davis needed just one half to turn in the best performance of his Texas career. Davis intercepted the Jayhawks twice, including a pick-six to put Texas up 14-0, and recovered a Kansas fumble on a punt return.

“It’s a great feeling to be out there with this defense, with this team,” Davis said. “I don’t want to be a missing piece. I want to be a part of this puzzle.”

Freshman running back Toneil Carter and sophomore wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey each rushed for scores in the first half. Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who didn’t start despite being cleared from a head injury, came in late in the first quarter and tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Cade Brewer.

Early in the second quarter, Texas tried its hand at a 44-yard field goal, but senior Mitchell Becker missed wide left, another chapter in the Longhorns’ kicking woes this season.

Texas scored more points in the opening quarter on Saturday night — 28 — than it has total in five of its games this season. The Longhorns led 35-17 heading into halftime.

But the second half saw mostly offensive ineptitude.

“I think with such an inexperienced (offense) that we have right now, we’ve got to do a better job of not worrying about what the score is and not worrying about how the defense is playing and not worrying about ‘Oh, dang it, they stopped us, we have to punt,’” Herman said.

The biggest story out of Saturday night was simple — the Longhorns (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) got one win closer to bowl eligibility. One more win can help salvage what has been an erratic first season under Herman.

“There’s no lack of confidence, or there’s no issue with perception,” Herman said. “Winning for us right now is going to be hard, and that’s OK. That’s OK. As long as we win.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Dominant defensive performances aren’t anything new for Texas this season, but freshmen running backs Toneil Carter and Daniel Young are.

As the Longhorns headed down the tunnel following their victory in Waco Saturday afternoon, not many people in McLane Stadium looked twice when the scoreboard read Texas 38, Baylor 7.

It wasn’t the score that jumped out. It was who did the scoring and how they did it –– on the ground. Texas’ run game, which has been absent for the majority of the season, finally gained a glimpse of traction in the Longhorns’ victory over winless Baylor.

But it wasn’t the 250-pound junior running back Chris Warren III who put the Longhorn running game back on track. It wasn’t even sophomore Kyle Porter, who sat out for the second-straight game due to injury. It was two freshmen: Toneil Carter and Daniel Young, who have seen limited playing time thus far, and even spent time on the scout team.

“Those kids get better everyday. It’s incredible how hard they work and how hard they run,” junior linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “They were scout team at one point and now they're starters and trading in and out. I commend them for everything they're doing. They've been patient with it and let the process take care of itself and you see the success they had on the football field.”

Neither Carter nor Young broke the century mark in the blowout victory, but both proved efficient. Young averaged 8.6 yards per carry after bouncing out to the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown which gave Texas its 38-7 lead in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

And he wasn’t the only freshman running back who had a breakout performance. Toneil Carter averaged 4.7 yards per carry and emerged as the Longhorns’ leading rusher –– just the second time this season a non-quarterback has led the team in rushing.

“They broke tackles, which was encouraging to see,” Herman said. “They slivered around in there when things weren't blocked perfectly … I was proud of them. They protected the football which is always a concern when you're playing true freshmen at running back but I loved what I saw.”

The Longhorn offense wasn’t clicking early, especially in the first quarter where Texas’ only points came after junior defensive back DeShon Elliott returned an interception for a touchdown.

The offensive woes peaked in the second quarter after the defense recovered a Baylor fumble inside the red zone. The Longhorn offense not only failed to get in the endzone, but also saw the field goal attempt blocked to keep the score at 7-0.

However, once Buechele and the offense found its rhythm, it didn't look back. The Longhorns went to the quick-tempo offense early and often. And it not only led to points, but also confidence.

“When we can go fast, it helps a lot with our offense especially just keeping the defense off the field,” Buechele said. “They played a lot of snaps today, they played unbelievable. It was really good to see our running backs and offensive line work the way they did. “

The Longhorn offense now looks forward to its next challenge: a road test against No. 10 TCU. But even after the win Saturday, the 4-4 record is still in the back of some players’ mind.

“It sucks,” Jefferson said. “Because we should be a lot better honestly. But we’re not gonna play like we’re 4-4. We’re still gonna play like we're contending for something.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Hours before his team took the field at McLane Stadium in Waco and routed a winless Baylor team, 38-7, head coach Tom Herman had already seen exactly what he needed to see.

For a team coming off back-to-back, gut-wrenching losses, with its season teetering on an unstable pendulum, Texas could not afford to look past the now 0-8 Bears.

“We had talked all week about this being the most important game of the season,” Herman said. “Not because of what had really happened in the past or who we were playing or what their record was but the fact that it was the next one.”

And so at 5:45 a.m. at Texas’ team hotel, Herman saw words put into action.

“I was shocked,” Herman said. “A 5:45 a.m. wake-up call — there was no dopey-eyed guys, there was no ‘wipe the sleep out of their eyes.’ None of that stuff. They were intense and ready to go from the word ‘jump.’”

In a game that they could not afford to lose, the Longhorns (4–4, 3–2 Big 12) wore down Baylor with another solid defensive outing coupled with a relatively steady offensive performance.

The Longhorns’ defense came up huge on just the third play from scrimmage.

Baylor quarterback Zach Smith’s pass over the middle on third-and-8 was a little high as it tipped off of his intended receiver’s hands, which left safety DeShon Elliott in the right place at the right time. The ball fell right into Elliott’s hands for his team-leading sixth interception of the season. The junior returned it to the house for a touchdown to put the Longhorns up 7-0 early.

From there, Texas stayed in control in a game that was never really close.

“I don’t know if you can get started any better than that,” senior safety John Bonney said. “We took that momentum that DeShon gave us and just kept rolling with it the rest of the game.”

Texas took a 21-7 lead into halftime after two more touchdowns in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele — who made his third start of the season in place of injured freshman Sam Ehlinger — scrambled to find sophomore wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Later, after a fumble by Baylor punter Connor Martin set the Longhorns up at Baylor’s own 28-yard line, Buechele kept the ball on a zone read, sprinted up the middle and raced past Baylor defenders for a touchdown, putting Texas up 21-7. Buechele even sprinted all the way up the tunnel in the northeast corner of McLane Stadium.

“He showed us a little speed,” senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe said. “He kept on running through that tunnel. We started joking around calling him Forrest Gump. That was big for him.”

A couple of freshman running backs helped put things completely out of reach in the second half. Toneil Carter and Daniel Young each dashed for touchdowns, and junior kicker Joshua Rowland tacked on an 18-yard field goal to help the Longhorns shut the door in Waco.

While Saturday was a step in the right direction for the Longhorns, it was a small one in the grand scheme of things. But Texas avoided what it couldn’t afford to do — suffer a colossal letdown against a struggling opponent — and handled business. Next Saturday is another big one, as the Longhorns head to Fort Worth for a showdown with No. 10 TCU.

Asked after the game where he thinks the Longhorns are headed with four games left on the schedule, Herman avoided any bold prophecies. He just stuck to his mantra.

“Oh, I don’t know. I just want to go 1-0 this week,” Herman said. “The big picture is irrelevant right now.”

Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza | Daily Texan Staff

It was an all-too-familiar sight for the majority of the 92,506 spectators at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium: yet another heartbreaking loss.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns walked off the field in dejection, as they watched their opponent storm the field following another painful defeat.

This time, it was No. 10 Oklahoma State celebrating a 13-10 victory.

Stunned looks ran across DKR on Saturday afternoon –– except for a small, bright orange section on the visiting side of the stadium where the Oklahoma State fans celebrated the Cowboys’ win.

“I don’t know when we’re going to break through that barrier,” head coach Tom Herman said. “I thought it was going to be this week. We had an unbelievable week of preparation. The guys were focused and ready to go. But it wasn't.”

Texas took the Cowboys, a team boasting the top offense in the nation, into overtime with the score deadlocked, 10-10. Saturday marked Texas’ third overtime of the season, and the Longhorns appeared to be primed to polish off a major upset, until they didn’t.

Oklahoma State had the first possession of overtime, but the Longhorn defense did what it had done all game: prevented the potent Oklahoma State offense from entering the endzone. Texas forced Oklahoma State to kick a field goal, giving freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger the ball with an opportunity to win the game.

With Texas less than seven yards away from winning the game and pulling off Texas’ biggest win of the season, Ehlinger took the snap. The freshman quarterback rolled to his left but was quickly forced to backpedal after the Cowboy defense forced pressure.

Unable to plant his feet, Ehlinger lobbed the ball into the endzone, barely in the vicinity of junior receiver Jerrod Heard and sophomore Devin Duvernay. The ball floated several yards away from Heard and Duvernay and right into the hands of Oklahoma State senior cornerback and San Antonio-native Ramon Richards, who fell to the ground to end the game.

“It’s awful,” Ehlinger said. “Losing sucks. That’s every week that we lose … I just made a mistake. I thought that Jerrod [Heard] was going to circle back up to the back of the end zone for a jump ball. That’s why I put it up there for him and for a chance to win. It was a mistake.

Texas’ 13-10 loss marks the Longhorns’ fourth defeat of the season, and another close one at that. Overtime forced the Longhorns to do something they hadn’t done all game: depend on the offense to close things out. After a strong defensive effort, Texas’ offensive unit failed to ice the contest.

The Longhorn defense, however, kept the burnt orange in the game by holding the nation’s top offense, who came into the matchup averaging over 48 points per game, to 13 points –– the first time the Cowboys haven’t scored 20 points or more in 36 games.

But it wasn’t enough, not with the mere 10 points the offense put up.

“(The defense) played well enough to beat any team,” junior running back Chris Warren III said. “We’ve got to help them, point blank.”

Texas is now coming off of back-to-back one-possession losses to then-No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State.

The Longhorns’ loss to the Cowboys also marks their second overtime loss to a top-10 team. However, despite a 3–4 record (2–2 Big 12), Texas has been in every game this season.

Texas is close, and Herman knows it.

“I told our guys all week, after the loss to Oklahoma, that we were close and that close is a lot better than the alternative,” Herman said. “They’ve been a part of teams that were far away, and you know it when they are. This one’s not."

Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

Saturday will mark Tom Herman’s first Red River Showdown at the helm for Texas, but he still hasn’t forgotten what happened in 2000.

The Longhorns’ head coach, who served as a graduate assistant at Texas from 1999–2000, has a fond memory of the 1999 matchup: a 38-28 victory over the Sooners. The matchup in 2000, however, wasn’t nearly as kind to Herman and the Longhorns.

“63–14, I still remember that score, it’s been embedded into my brain,” Herman said. “I think when you go into one of the most storied rivalries in college football history, if not the most, it is most important that you recognize that this is a big game for a lot of people in both states.”

With one of the most historic rivalries in college football comes an electric atmosphere. It also brings a fair amount of trash talk with it. Oklahoma quarterback and Lake Travis high school alumnus Baker Mayfield got off to a quick start this week, taking a jab at UT freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger earlier this week.

When asked what he knows about the Westlake alumnus Ehlinger, Mayfield responded with, “He went to Westlake and he’s never beaten Lake Travis.”

However, other than Mayfield’s jab, both teams have been fairly silent leading into Saturday’s battle. Senior linebacker Naashon Hughes believes most of the talking doesn’t even come from the players — it comes from the fans.

“I remember my freshman year we had to walk through the OU side,” Hughes said. “There was a sea of crimson and I was like, ‘Man, this is crazy. Why would they make us walk through here?’ They would yell at us the whole time, ‘Hey you guys go to the wrong school, we’re about to score all day.’”

Saturday’s contest has been a long time coming for Herman, who will finally have a shot at redemption after the blowout loss in 2000.

However, he isn’t the graduate assistant anymore. Herman will stand in front of the team in the tunnel moments before the Longhorns take the field Saturday. And he knows exactly what comes with that.

“Responsible is probably the word that comes to my mind,” Herman said. “Leading this program is definitely a responsibility unto itself, but I would be naive not to tell you that this rivalry is important to a lot of people: a lot of stakeholders in this program, a lot of alumni, a lot of fans, citizens of the great state of Texas in general.”

Despite the anticipation for Saturday, Herman and the rest of his squad have said the same thing all week: their preparation and formula for success will not change. Herman acknowledged what’s at stake when it comes to the Red River Showdown, but he has made it clear that this is business as usual for the Longhorns.

“(It’s important) to make sure that your team knows the formula for success is not going to change,” Herman said. “It’s not going to change depending on the opponent, it’s not going to change on the location, it’s not going to change depending on what state your opponent hails from.”

Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz, No. 2, leaps over a Northern Iowa defender in their first game of the season. Jantz has traveled a long road to become a Division I starter.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

One year ago, Steele Jantz was trotting on to the field of RAM Stadium about to lead the City College of San Francisco football team at quarterback against another Northern California Conference opponent.

Flash forward and the 22 year old, who only started one game at quarterback while in high school, has led the Iowa State Cyclones to a 2-0 start, including an upset 44-41 victory over in-state rival Iowa in the third overtime last Saturday.

“You are going from one level of football to the next, and as the competition increases and the level of play increases, there is that unknown factor,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “[Jantz] has the personality that he has shown us thus far that he’ll be unflappable when it comes to 55,000 screaming fans and playing under the lights.”

Prior to this season, Jantz’s only FBS football experience was playing the role of then Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on the University of Hawaii’s scout team as a true freshman. After redshirting at Hawaii, Jantz joined the junior college ranks and transferred to City College of San Francisco in search of more playing time.

During his 2010 season at the helm of the City College of San Francisco offense, Jantz threw for 3,075 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 601 yards and 14 TDs to lead the Rams to an 11-1 record and a spot in the California State community college title game.

Jantz’s play caught the eye of Rhoads and Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman who offered him a spot on the Cyclone’s roster and a chance to compete for the job of starting QB.

After a battle in training camp with Jerome Tiller — who was eventually ruled academically ineligible and forced to sit out the 2011 season ­— Jantz won the starting position and was handed the ball for the Cyclones’ season opener against Northern Iowa.

“Steele emerged from a group of quarterbacks by displaying the three qualities we were looking for most consistently. That’s decision-making. That’s throwing accuracy and that’s getting things done with his feet,” Rhoads said.

In his first start as a FBS quarterback, Steele went 18-40 in the air for 187 yards and three interceptions and rushed for 80 yards and two TDs. Despite struggling throughout most of the game, Steele led the Cyclones to two scoring drives in the final five minutes and gave Iowa State a 20-19 win over Northern Iowa.

“I tried not to pay attention to the nerves, but there were some nerves,” Jantz said about his first game at the head of the Cyclones’ offense. “Luckily as the game went on, I was able to settle down a little bit.”

Despite a rocky, although victorious, start to his FBS career, Jantz brought his name to the front of the minds of the Cyclone faithful with a performance against Iowa that earned him Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors and caused Iowa State fans to rush the field.

“When I do things bad, when I make mistakes, I try to make sure that’s the last time that’s going to happen,” Jantz said following Saturday’s victory. “I’m the type of guy that really learns from mistakes so hopefully every game I’ll be getting better.”

Throwing for 279 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in addition to rushing for 42 yards, with a QB rating of 166.58, Jantz led Iowa State to the tying touchdown with 1:17 left in regulation and then to touchdowns in each of the three overtime periods.

“He’s just a natural quarterback,” said Cyclone junior wide receiver Josh Lenz. “He has a knack of making plays when he needs to and that’s what he’s doing.”

As he continues his transition from junior college to the FBS, Jantz will need to have more performances like his one against Iowa if the Cyclones are to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

“Steele Jantz makes plays. He made plays as a junior college player that we recruited and he’s making plays as an Iowa State Cyclone now,” Rhoads said. “Some guys rise up when the spotlight’s the brightest and he certainly has in two football games.”