Is anyone else completely tired of hearing about all the quarterbacks the University of Texas could have recruited? Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley — add Bo Wallace to the list. Texas coaches talked to Wallace last spring but decided not to recruit the junior college national champion quarterback, opting to stick with David Ash and Case McCoy.
Against Ole Miss, Ash paid back the faith head coach Mack Brown showed in him and grew up before our eyes. Ash led Texas to a dominant 66-31 win on the road over the Ole Miss Rebels. The score could have been even more lopsided as the Texas offense took a knee at the one yard-line at the end of the game. They ran up those 66 points, the second most ever in the Mack Brown era, with almost 700 yards of offense, the second best in Longhorn history.
It was exactly the kind of offense head coach Mack Brown wanted to see. His offense racked up 350 yards rushing and 326 yards passing. You can't be more balanced than that.
The David Ash coming out party would have been perfect had the Texas defense played better. More on that in a moment.
It's clear that despite spectacular offensive talent — powerful running backs and speed on on the outside — this Longhorn offense takes its cues from its quarterback. The football team took a big step forward playing their best game against their best opponent so far, on the road.
It was exactly the kind of offense Brown wanted to see. His offense racked up 350 yards rushing and 326 yards passing. You can't be more balanced than that. "We've been seeing this in practice, but we were just weren't able to play with that confidence we had tonight," Brown said n his own understated way after the game.
Ash not only managed the game well, but he got the ball to his playmakers — wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who spent Friday at the White House with the U.S. Olympic team and who may be the fastest player in college football, played his best game as a Longhorn with 80 yards rushing, 102 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns came on huge plays, one on an end around for 69 yards, the other on a 55 yard pass.
Tailback Malcolm Brown led the ground game, finally getting the carries he needs to be affective — 21 carries, 128 yards, two touchdowns. Not to be outdone, wide receiver Mike Davis played his best game as a Longhorn. Davis finally showed the promise that brought him to Texas as he went after and caught some poorly thrown balls, made great downfield blocks and finished the game with 124 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Ash continued his careful play, again not giving up a turnover and throwing with great accuracy. This season he has a 76 percent completion percentage — an incredible number. At one point Ash connected on 15 straight passes and the offense scored on eight straight possessions. Ash finished 19 of 23 passing for 326 yards — a career high — four touchdowns and no interceptions.
It was his best night as a Longhorn and the first time he showed some arm strength and confidence in the deep pass. Ash still has accuracy issues — he badly under threw several long balls and missed on an easy corner route to Jaxon Shipley that he could throw in high school — and he still needs to get rid of of the ball faster, but if he continues maturing at this rate, Ash will make Mack Brown look like a quarterback genius.
At the outset, the Longhorn offense was worried about an Ole Miss defensive line that counted nine sacks in their first two games. The Longhorn offensive line never allowed a Rebel to touch the Texas quarterback, while the Longhorn defense got into Bo Wallace's face all night long, with five sacks and heavy pressure.
Texas must continue to improve if they want to achieve their goals this season, and at this rate, everything is still possible.
It wasn't a perfect game, not even close, but it was a game that taught the Longhorns a few things. Ole Miss is a much better team than Wyoming or New Mexico, and the Longhorns needed to be shaken out of some day-dreaming a few times after again giving up big plays. They have to get more focused if they expect to beat Big 12 conference foes.
The Ole Miss offense played an up tempo mixed bag with a steady diet of Jeff Scott on the ground (95 yards rushing, one touchdown) and Dante Moncrief through the air (144 yards receiving, one touchdown). Both had great success as the Texas defense seemingly forgot how to tackle on several explosive plays by the Ole Miss offense.
Texas defense gave up 24 points and over 400 yards to Ole Miss a week after shutting out New Mexico. Mississippi is good, but they are not Oklahoma, and they are not Kansas State. The defense must avoid giving up those big plays — on Saturday they gave up a 75 yard pass and a 48-yard run for touchdowns — or those easy points if they want to contend for the Big 12 championship.
Still, with three interceptions — the first one Steve Edmunds ran back for the first score of the game and the other two by Quandre Diggs who had a tough night covering Moncrief — and five sacks, there is plenty of positive for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to use in getting the defense fine-tuned.
Texas special teams came up big too with a blocked punt and the best kick-off coverage in many years, until the kick team fell asleep in the fourth quarter and gave up a 100-yard return for a touchdown.
There is still much to fix. The vaunted Texas secondary spent the immediate post-game looking for their jockstraps after getting burned deep way too often; Ash's arm is still suspect as he has yet to hit a deep receiver in stride; Nick Jordan missed another field goal making the true freshman only three of seven this year and that aforementioned huge let-down by the kick team.
But given the confidence shown on this night, there is no reason to believe the Longhorns cannot get those things fixed.
Texas needed to start fast and the offensive line needed to play their best game both protecting the quarterback and leading the ground game — check. Ash needed to get the ball down the field — check; he averaged over 17 yards per completion. The Texas defense needed to shut down the Ole Miss offense and avoid giving up big plays — well, something to work on there.
And they have some time. The Longhorns get a week off before traveling to Stillwater to play the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Texas must continue to improve if wants to achieve its goals this season, and at this rate, everything is still possible.