At one point earlier this season, the running back room at Texas was in shambles. Keaontay Ingram loved last Saturday that he’s still the guy at the top of the depth chart.
As the Big 12 season begins to wind down and the Longhorns head to Iowa State Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m., Ingram and the crop of rushers that continue to get healthy and more potent will play an even more pivotal role.
“The dude is pushing 230 pounds right now, squatting more than he ever has in his life and power cleaning more than he ever has in his life,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said Monday. “When you can do that, you're going to see an added burst. The nagging part of that knee deal is finally subsided to the point where he feels pretty fresh.”
With Ingram battling a banged-up knee and Jordan Whittington on the sideline with an injury, Roschon Johnson carried much of the running load for Texas for the middle part of the regular season.
Ingram broke out in the Longhorns’ 27-24 win over Kansas State on Saturday, rushing for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 16 attempts, and catching a pair of passes for four yards.
Iowa State has allowed motor than 150 yards on the ground in three straight games and has given up six rushing touchdowns in that span.
"I think playing complementary football the way that we did, to be able to beat Kansas State the way that we did in terms of the time of possession and running the football and stopping the run, I think, is exciting,” Herman said. “Obviously, we've got to replicate that throughout these coming weeks.”
After Kansas State took a 14-0 lead early on Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns defense bucked down with three big players coming back into the fold after missing some time with injuries.
“We settled down,” Herman said. “We played much better on first and second down. I thought our D-line played really well in terms of the penetration and push they got creating much more third and manageable situations for our defense, and we executed.”
Not to say Texas is injury-free.
Junior Angilau is out with an MCL sprain, and Herman said the best-case scenario would be the week after Iowa State. Receiver Collin Johnson tweaked his hamstring and is getting “aggressive” treatment this week.
Linebacker Chris Brown was cleared faster than originally anticipated to play with a cast on, while DeMarvion Overshown, Jeffery McCulloch, and Whittington are all cleared.
Last year, Texas beat Iowa State 24-10, and the Longhorns held Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy largely in check. This season, the Iowa State quarterback is having another stellar season, averaging more than 300 yards per game.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was gung-ho about sticking with the scheme throughout the salon when he Longhorns’ defense was absolutely devastated by injuries. Herman said there isn’t another option.
Herman will say that all of the Longhorns’ goals are still achievable, even if their playoff hopes are slim to none and they would need some help to make it to the Big Championship game.
For the first time in more than a month, it actually feels like things are steadily improving in Austin.
“Part of being on the ropes is you don't get off of 'em with one game, just one win,” Herman said.