Texas is atop the Big 12 standings, but it can't feel very good about itself heading into its rivalry game against Oklahoma next week after barely outlasting Iowa State, 31-30, Thursday.
The Longhorns' limitations on both sides of the ball were exposed once again, but UT caught a handful of breaks and took advantage, most notably when running back Johnathan Gray fumbled on consecutive plays at the goal line on the Longhorns' final drive. Replay did not overturn a down by progress ruling on the first fumble, even though the ball was cleared out and scooped up by Cyclones linebacker Jeremiah George. When Gray lost the ball on the very next play, he was able to scoop it up. UT's Case McCoy scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak one play later.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was furious with the non-call in his postgame news conference.
Before his late-game ball-security struggles, Gray was UT's best offensive weapon, gouging an undersized Iowa State defensive line. But the sophomore carried the ball only 16 times for 89 yards, scoring on a 45-yard run in the first quarter. Wide receiver Mike Davis picked up the slack with six catches for 64 yards and picked up several pass interference penalties. A 44-yard Hail Mary score by the Longhorns' John Harris to end the first half salvaged a largely forgettable evening from McCoy (26-of-45 for 244 yards and one touchdown).
George solidified his credentials as one of the top linebackers in the conference, finishing with 13 tackles, three tackles for loss and one pass breakup. George's range and attacking tendencies stood out, especially in comparison to the more highly touted UT defense.
The Cyclones offense gained 463 yards of total offense, with clearly hobbled quarterback Sam B. Richardson still passing for 262 yards and rushing for 83 yards. Running back Aaron Wimberly had a game-high 119 yards and one touchdown and also caught a touchdown, showing good elusiveness.
As they did against BYU and Ole Miss, the UT front seven looked totally mystified about how to stop a running quarterback, getting little help from the secondary. Now they must deal with Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, the two OU signal-callers with a proven track record of using their legs to pile up yards.
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat did come through with two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one interception of a deflected Richardson pass to end the game.
Considering the difference in talent between Iowa State and Oklahoma, UT will need another set of miraculous circumstances to break its three-game losing streak to its Red River rival.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.