No. 22 Texas rallies in 4th quarter to beat Iowa State 24-21

Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman/USA TODAY NETWORK
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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas believes it’s a tougher, more resilient team that last season – and the Longhorns are showing it so far this fall.

The latest evidence came as No. 22 Texas, trailing struggling Iowa State in the fourth quarter, rallied to win 24-21.

Quinn Ewers threw for three touchdowns, including the go-ahead, 3-yard pass to Xavier Worthy with 4:43 remaining. Linebacker Jaylan Ford produced two turnovers, including a fumble recovery with 2:28 to play.

Bijan Robinson rushed for 135 yards, his fifth straight game exceeding 100, against the Big 12’s top defense.

The Longhorns (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) snapped a three-game losing streak against Iowa State and handed the Cyclones (3-4, 0-4) their fourth straight defeat.

Texas went 5-7 a year ago, Steve Sarkisian‘s first as coach. The Longhorns have worked to make wouldn’t happen this fall.

“This is completely different than last year,” Robinson said. “We would have lost the game last year, in my opinion.”

There were indications that Texas might lose this one, too. Iowa State moved to the Texas 32 with two receptions by its spectacular receiver, Xavier Hutchinson. But Hutchinson also dropped a long one at the Texas 9,

“I came up short,” Hutchinson said. “How I look at it, is if I make that catch we probably win the game.”

The Cyclones were still in position to pull off a surprise win, but quarterback Hunter Dekkers fumbled at the 32. Anthony Cook forced the fumble, Ford recovered, and the officials conducted a video review to determine if Dekkers’ knee was down or if there was targeting by Texas.

Both reviews went the Longhorns’ way.

“When I saw the ball out, like, I gotta go get it,” Ford said. “Shout out to Cook. He came down with a big hit on the ball.”

Iowa State, whose offense has struggled to score this season, had an opportunity to go up 14-0 six minutes into the second quarter. But Dekkers’ pass was intercepted in the end zone by Ford.

The Longhorns then moved 80 yards to tie the game on a 15-yard pass from Ewers to Worthy. Less than six minutes later, Ewers connected with Jordan Whittington for a 5-yard touchdown.

Texas added a field goal in the third quarter but could not put Iowa State away. First, Dekkers found sophomore Jaylin Noel over the middle for a 54-yard touchdown, his second of the game. Dekkers, a sophomore first-year starter, completed 25 of 36 for a career-best 329 yards.

The Cyclones took their last lead, 21-17, on Dekkers’ 11-yard run up the middle with 10:58 remaining.

“I’m so proud of him,” coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s hard to battle through the growth process when the ball is in your hands every play.”

Texas responded to Dekkers’ run by moving 75 yards on 11 plays for the go-ahead score. Ewers connected with Robinson for 13 yards on third and six along the way.

“We didn’t play very good,” Sarkisian said. “But we played hard, and we played tough. Generally that’s the sign of a pretty good team when you can not play your best football, but find a way to win.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Iowa State: The Cyclones, who rank 104th in scoring offense, failed to get a on 18 straight possessions in their past three games. The streak stopped on their third series against the Longhorns with a 5-yard pass from Dekkers to Noel in the first quarter.

Texas: The Longhorns were outgained in the passing game. Ewers threw for just 172 after passing for 294 and four touchdowns against Oklahoma last week. Ewers lost what could have been a 58-yard touchdown in the third quarter when a wide open Casey Cain dropped a pass down field. But Texas showed the resiliency to come back and win.

EFFICIENCY IN CLUTCH

A reason Iowa State had a chance to win was that it made nine of 15 third-down plays, including a 20-yard pass from Dekkers to Hutchinson before the Dekkers fumble. The Cyclones also converted a fourth-down play, Dekkers to Hutchinson, on the drive.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Longhorns elevated from receiving no votes to a No. 22 ranking after their 49-0 win over Oklahoma last week. There’s a good chance they won’t lose ground.

UP NEXT

Iowa State hosts Oklahoma on Oct. 29.

Texas plays at No. 8 Oklahoma State on Oct. 22

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.