- David Ubben, College Football
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Iowa State and Texas met at a crossroads a year ago. Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads notched a second tenure-defining win, beating the Longhorns for the first time in program history.
It came on the Longhorns home field a week after Texas beat undefeated, then-No. 5 Nebraska on its home field.
Against Iowa State, the Longhorns hit what coach Mack Brown called the worst moment of a season full of awful moments. Rock bottom, if you will, followed by a memorable rant from Brown that foreshadowed the offseason coaching overhaul.
"You can't trust your team and you can't trust your coaches ... They're not getting (players) ready to go," he said after the loss, which Texas trailed 28-6 in the fourth quarter of a game it lost 28-21.
It was the first of five consecutive conference losses to close the season.
"They’re just a very good team and they took it to us last year. They hit us in the mouth from the start, so we better sure we’re ready to play," said Texas safety Blake Gideon.
A year later, both teams are trending upward. Both teams are 3-0 entering their conference opener.
And both are at another crossroads. Where each goes from here could be decided on Saturday.
"We want to win every game, but for this being the conference opener, we want to start 1-0," Gideon said. "We want to set the stage for a great year and want to be able to start on the right foot. It would be huge for us."
Win Saturday, and Texas is a rivalry game win over Oklahoma away from announcing itself as a factor on the national stage once again after 2010's 5-7 embarrassment.
But lose? All of a sudden, upcoming dates with a pair of top 5 teams in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State make 3-3 a very real and very undesirable option in Austin.
"There’s definitely a different feel around the building starting conference," Gideon said.
Rhoads added another benchmark win earlier this season, beating rival Iowa in overtime.
After going on the road to beat UConn, Rhoads has a chance to notch another legendary win and likely launch his 4-0 team into the top 25.
"Those guys have shown they can win close games and go compete on the road and they protect their house very well," Gideon said.
This week, the Cyclones will have plenty of help. The school had never had a sold out game before this season, athletic director Jamie Pollard said Tuesday. This season, the Cyclones already have three.
The school record for attendance through three games was around 154,000, Pollard said.
This week, the Cyclones are expected to top the 166,000 mark.
The first two games came against in-state competition. Now, it's a marquee opponent. Each win this season for the Cyclones has featured a fourth-quarter comeback.
Saturday, we'll see if there's more thrilling theater waiting at Jack Trice Stadium.
"It shows maturity of their team and how they’re going to keep fighting to the end," Gideon said. "It will be important for us to match their intensity."
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