AUSTIN, Texas — Enter David Montgomery. Exit Sam Ehlinger.
Advantage ... Texas?
Montgomery, the second-leading rusher in the Big 12, returned to 16th-ranked Iowa State after serving a suspension during the first half for fighting last week against Baylor.
Ehlinger, the Texas quarterback, suffered an injured right shoulder when he was tackled by Greg Eisworth late in the first half during a field-goal drive. Ehlinger did not return for the second half, but the No. 15 Longhorns defeated the Cyclones, 24-10, Saturday night to sustain their chances of appearing in the Big 12 championship game.
Texas (8-3) improved to 6-2 in the Big 12, tied with West Virginia in second place, one game behind Oklahoma. If the Longhorns win Friday at Kansas, they will post their best regular-season record since 2009.
Iowa State (6-4) is 5-3 in the conference after having a five-game winning streak snapped.
The Cyclones can no longer reach the Big 12 title game.
“Quite honestly, they were the more physical football team,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “I think you saw that on both sides of the ball early in the game. Their physicality set the tone for the game.”
Montgomery finished with 33 yards on 10 carries. He scored on a 4-yard run with 1:33 remaining.
“I let my emotion overtake the game,” Montgomery said.
Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy had a rough night, completing 10 of 23 passes for 130 yards with an interception before being replaced by Kyle Kempt with 5:14 left in the game. Purdy was sacked five times.
Campbell said that Purdy was “dinged up” from the Texas defensive pressure that also prevented him from establishing any rhythm.
“I think Brock will be fine,” Campbell said. “I think more than anything. I just wanted to get Kyle into the game and see if we could settle some things down.”
Wide receiver Hakeem Butler made six receptions for 99 yards, but the Cyclones caught only six other passes.
“They had good coverage, but we were getting open,” Butler said. “Brock didn’t have enough time.”
Ehlinger, a sophomore, ran for one touchdown and threw for another, completing 12 of 15 passes for 137 yards during his half of competition. His replacement, junior Shane Buechele, completed all 10 of his passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
Campbell didn’t seem surprised by Buechele, a former starter.
“I think he did a great job,” Campbell said. “There’s a guy that’s played a lot of football in this offense, knows the answers when the looks get multiple. He knows where to go.”
The Cyclones spotted Texas a 17-3 halftime lead.
Iowa State held the ball for more than six minutes on its first drive of the second half, mixing runs by Montgomery with passes from Purdy to Hakeem Butler.
When the possession stalled at the Texas 25, Coach Matt Campbell elected to go for it on fourth-and-4. Campbell changed his mind after a false start by guard Josh Knipfel, but Connor Assalley’s 48-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left upright.
Texas promptly moved 69 yards for a touchdown and a 24-3 lead. Buechele connected with Lil’Jordan Humphrey for a 27-yard touchdown during which the wide receiver shed defenders en route to the end zone. That was not the first time the Cyclones had problems tackling.
“Everybody gives a great effort; that’s never an issue with us” Eisworth said. “But some people were out of gaps. Some people weren’t communicating. We had a lot of missed tackles tonight. Not wrapping up, wanting to make the big hit.”
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Iowa State earned the distinction of becoming only the third Texas opponent this season not to produce points on its opening drive. The Cyclones were forced to punt, and Texas responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Ehlinger accounted for 71 of those with his arm and legs, finishing the drive with a 7-yard run.
Ehlinger directed an even longer touchdown drive early in the second quarter, 94 yards, and it included a clutch, 20-yard completion to Humphrey on third and six from the Longhorn 10. Freshman running back Keaontay Ingram, a big recruit for Texas, made a 20-yard run during that trip. Then, showing some versatility, Ingram caught a pass from Ehlinger in the right flat and ran unimpeded for a 19-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
Ingram hobbled off the field late in the second quarter after getting tackled. But his replacement, Tre Watson, who is the starter, gained 39 yards up the middle, the big play in a drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker.
That put Iowa State, and Montgomery, in a bigger hole.
“The unfortunate part is you are playing a different kind of football game when you are down 14 when he comes into the game,” Campbell said. “I think that lessens his ability to impact the game.”