Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) runs the ball as the Longhorns take on the Cyclones in Ames, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — Breece Hall held up two fingers with minimal space between them.
It was an indication that he knew he was close. Very close to breaking his first carry of the second half in Iowa State’s 30-7 win over Texas on Saturday and running a long, long way.
Instead, Hall was caught up by his foot after a gain of six yards. Still, the Cyclones’ superstar tailback knew, despite being bottled up for the entirety of the first half, he was that close to busting a big one.
Two plays later, he did.
Hall took a pitch from Brock Purdy around the left side, shook a defensive back, reversed all the way back across the field and sprinted 47 yards to Jack Trice Stadium’s south end zone to give the Cyclones a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter.
“I had a few of those tonight with just some shoestring tackles that if they wouldn’t have got my foot I would have scored,” Hall said. “It felt good just knowing that I wasn’t that far away.”
The only thing that seemed far on this night — especially in the second half — was the distance between Iowa State and Texas. The Cyclones secured their third-straight win in this series. The Longhorns secured their fourth-straight loss in Big 12 play with all four coming at the hands of complete second-half implosions.
While Texas was able to take a 7-3 lead into the halftime locker room, the stat sheet did not present a picture of the Longhorns as the better team. Everything was a struggle for both teams as they slogged their way to 10 total first-half points and went a combined 4-of-16 on third downs.
Texas scored seven points on 126 yards of first-half offense. Iowa State scored just three points, set up by a Bijan Robinson fumble on the game’s opening possession, on 180 yards of total offense.
Something had to give. The responsibility to make something happen to change the game was likely to fall on the shoulders of Hall and Robinson, the unquestioned two best tailbacks in the Big 12 and perhaps the two best in all of college football.
At the half, that battle was swinging towards Robinson’s corner. He’d compiled 65 yards on 11 carries while Hall totaled just 17 yards on seven attempts.
Once Hall found the open field in the second half, the dam broke and the rout was on shortly thereafter.
“I thought Breece had one of the best games of his career,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “When Breece and I talk, we talk about being a complete tailback. There have been some times where that’s been good. There have been times where that’s not been to the standard that I think he would want that to be. I thought tonight, man, for our team to play great football, he needed to be an A player in all phases. I think you saw that tonight.”
All told, Hall rushed for 136 yards on 19 carries and added two touchdowns on this night.
He became just the ninth Cyclone to record multiple 1,000 yard rushing seasons, added to his Big 12 record streak of 21 straight games with a touchdown run and added his 18th game over the century mark, tying former Texas great Cedric Benson for fourth in Big 12 history.
Robinson finished the game with 90 yards on 18 carries and was forced to the sideline multiple times after getting banged up.
“I may be biased, but Breece is the best running back in college football,” Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson said. “I think today he proved it.”
Proved it, indeed.
Something else this game proved — once again — is the power of what Hall has proclaimed five-star culture.
While Texas might have the five-star players, the five-star facilities and every other resource at their disposal, Iowa State has pushed its way past the Longhorns on the football field with a program-wide culture built on courage, respect, humility and all-together want-to.
It is frankly no wonder Texas and its administration have elected to pick up their ball and go home — or perhaps more aptly stated as find a new home — by spurning the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Why would anyone want to be bullied on the football field by a program from an athletic department that operates with less than half the yearly budget? Texas spent $200 million on athletics last year.
Iowa State spent $90 million.
How does a team find success on the football field with fewer resources, less national “brand recognition” and fewer stars by their players’ names when they sign their letters of intent?
It takes five-star culture, baby. I’d run away too after being thwarted by something that people in Austin apparently fail to understand since it can’t be fixed simply by hiring a new coach or throwing money at the problem.
Of course, it helps to have the best tailback in college football on your side, too.
“Five-star culture is what we do. It’s what we have. It’s what we’ve worked for,” Hall said. “We came out here and we expected to win and that’s what we did.”
That they did.
And, unlike on Breece Hall’s first carry of the second half, it wasn’t very close.