After a month of losing on the road, Texas desperately needed something good to happen at home. For the players, and for head coach Charlie Strong.
They got it in a rough-around-the-edges 27-6 win over Iowa State on Saturday night behind a big third quarter and a defense that finally showed some life.
Shane Buechele passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns as the Longhorns snapped a three-game losing streak. Buechele threw scoring strikes of 37 yards to Jerrod Heardand 75 yards and Devin Duvernay in the third after the Longhorns' high-powered offense managed just a single field goal in the first half and trailed 6-3.
Three straight road losses and a defense that ranks among the worst in the country had fueled intense speculation that Strong's job is on the line in his third season. He has two years left on a guaranteed five-year contract that pays him more than $5 million per season.
The win snapped a 14-game losing streak when Texas (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) trailed at halftime.
"Coach Strong would tell you right now don't go play for him, but we do," Heard said.
Texas played its best defensive game of the season. Strong took over defensive play-calling two weeks ago and the Longhorns responded with eight sacks against Iowa State, containing a Cyclones offense that was averaging 39 points over the previous three games.
"The difference was we believed in ourselves and made plays. Had fun," defensive end Breckyn Hager said.
D'Onta Foreman rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown for Texas, his seventh game in a row with at least 100 yards.
Joel Lanning passed for 140 yards for Iowa State (1-6, 0-4).
Iowa State: The Cyclones' collapse came early this week. Iowa State lost upset bids with fourth-quarter meltdowns the previous two weeks, but were undone this week by the Longhorns big-strike touchdowns in the third.
"They wore us out," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. "We did a really good job against the run in the first half. Their adjustment was to go to the passing game."
Texas: A big sigh of relief for Strong. It's arguably his biggest win because he simply couldn't afford to lose. Now he has to string together some more. Texas has yet to win more than three straight games under Strong and the Longhorns go back on the road for two of their next three games.
`We want to be undefeated at home. Now we have to play better on the road," Strong said. "Our defense, they finally stepped up. The whole team. I said, `Challenge yourself. If you think you are a good football team, go perform.'"
The Texas running back is pounding his way through the Longhorns record book. His seven consecutive 100 yard games ranks second in school history, trailing only former Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell's 11.
Buechele, a freshman, has eight touchdown passes for 29 yards or longer this season.
"I was nervous myself when it was being 6-3," Strong said. "But I know this our offense is so explosive we're going to go score ... It takes a little time and we'll hit a home run, then boom, we'll hit another one."
Iowa State: The Cyclones are off next week, then host Kansas State on Oct. 29.
Texas: The Longhorns play at Kansas State next Saturday.