- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Hope is no longer tattered and hanging limp on the mast.
Instead it's been unfurled and flying high on the strength of three straight Texas wins, each one more convincing than the last. The latest, a 33-7 win over Iowa State in front of 100,018 fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, allowed No. 17 Texas (8-2, 5-2) to hold onto the hope that it could reach, if not the BCS, then at least be in high Cotton.
That it took this long for the halyard to reach its high point has left some tenures -- mainly that of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz -- flapping in the breeze. And just because Texas has finally overcome its early toe stubbing, it is not quite time to mistake what has happened over the last three games for a return to the top for the Big 12's flagship program. The Longhorns are still behind Kansas State and Oklahoma.
A game such as this at least allows for wishful thinking. And some of it based in more fact than the speculation that overshadowed the ills of 2011 and the preseason hype of 2012. Texas could soon be at the level of its competitors and its past.
David Ash, who hit 13 of his first 14 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, is a sophomore.
Mike Davis, who has back-to-back 100-yard games and touchdown receptions of 25, 61 and 75 in those games, is a junior.
Johnathan Gray, who has rushed for 302 yards since he was inserted as the starter three games ago, is a freshman.
The Texas offense, which had not topped 600 yards in a conference game since 2005, had 609 yards. The offense successfully featured a variety -- double pass, statue of liberty, tackle Luke Poehlmann split out wide -- that previously was reserved for the blue turf of the Northwest.
"We used quite a bit today," Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "There is a lot of things in there that we have probably had over the last couple of weeks that we have just been practicing that we haven't gotten an opportunity to do. Those things just kind of marinate as the season goes on and then it is time to come out."
Let the buffet begin then.
All these meats and cheeses, finally laid out for the legions to see, should allow Texas coach Mack Brown to go from the town crier back to at least someone ascending the palace steps. Then again, this is college football, where the whims of the masses turn on each play.
For Texas there are still plays that can turn the masses, if not on the coaches, then at least to each other with quizzical looks. The defense can be ineffectual -- Iowa State had 102 first-quarter yards yet finished with just 277. The kick coverage can be deplorable -- a 20-yard return was allowed on a squib kick and 41-yarder on a slightly deeper kick. The kicking game is head slapping -- Anthony Fera was pulled after a missed extra point and a blocked field goal.
And some of the plays called by Harsin -- a 3rd-and-6 from 16 carry for 1 yard to fourth-string running back Jeremy Hills? -- are head-scratchers.
But for three games the groans have been lost in the exuberance of big plays and playmakers. And the ills, which looked like cracks in the foundation, might just be cosmetic. Now whether or not the rouge is rose-colored by the end 2013 depends on how Texas finishes this season.
Kansas State waits on a horizon that should have 30 mile-per-hour winds blowing from the north bringing with them the fear and pestilence that have affected all visitors this season. Also known as Manhattan in December.
A showing there, just a decent showing, could be a ray of light for the future. And a performance like the one over Iowa State at least allows for there to be some hope that Texas might not bend in the face of a stern test. To pass that test, Texas' players and coaches first have to take to heart the "Remember November" sign affixed to the wall of the Moncrief Center.
"You have got to finish the season and that is very, very important for us because it gives you momentum going into the bowl season and into next spring and next year," Brown said.
It also would give Texas hope for the future.
17hK. Lee Davis
16hTristan H. Cockcroft