Texas offense struggles

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Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon (81) dives over Texas’ Carrington Byndom (23) to make the score 13-7 on Saturday. Texas had a lot of missed opportunities during Saturday’s loss. Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden passed for 218 yards while Texas’ David Ash was 22-for-40 passing for 139 yards with no touchdowns and two turnovers.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

The start of the David Ash era at quarterback didn’t offer much improved results for Texas.

The Longhorns lost to No. 6 Oklahoma State, 38-26, on Saturday at Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium in Ash’s first career start as Texas dropped its second game in a row.

For the first time this season, the Longhorns (4-2; 1-2 Big 12) played just one quarterback. The freshman split time with sophomore Case McCoy in three prior games. But now, it’s clear the coaches have found their man in Ash.

“It’s different when you’re the guy,” Ash said. “It’s different than when you’re just going in every once in a while, taking a snap and running off the field. You’re out there the whole time. There’s no time to relax. You’ve got to be focused for an entire game, and I’m learning to do that.”

Still, the offense struggled to find its rhythm in the passing game with Ash going 22-of-40 for 129 yards. The Belton High School graduate threw an interception on the Longhorns’ second possession and one on his final pass, his fourth in the last two games.

“We’ve got to eliminate the turnovers,” Ash said. “That’s what’s been plaguing us. When you’re doing that, you can’t win games.”

But Texas found success running the ball. Malcolm Brown rushed for 135 yards on 19 carries, including a pair of touchdowns. D.J. Monroe was also effective on the ground, rushing four times for 33 yards.

Brown put the Longhorns on the board with a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to tie the game, 7-7. Texas recovered a fumbled punt on the OSU 15 before the freshman punched it in on the Longhorns’ first play.

The Longhorns allowed a touchdown in the final minute of the first half for the second time in as many games. Texas had a chance to get the ball back one last time before the half, but OSU running back Jeremy Smith gashed the defense for a 30-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one to give the Cowboys an 11-point advantage.

“We were sitting in a position where we can go in a good spot at halftime,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “And then it ends up 21-10.”

The Cowboys (6-0; 3-0) found holes in the Longhorns’ interior defense and exploited them. Smith also scored on a 74-yard burst in the third quarter. Texas gave up 202 rushing yards on 27 carries.

“We didn’t give ourselves a chance. We had a couple self-inflicted wounds that have to be corrected, and that’s on me,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

Texas allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the third quarter, but Fozzy Whittaker promptly returned the ensuing kick for a 100-yard score of his own. It was the senior’s second-straight week with a touchdown return.

Malcolm Brown cut the Cowboys lead to 28-24 in the third quarter with his second touchdown. Bryan Harsin, the innovative play-caller, went to his infamous “Statue of Liberty” play and got great results. Ash faked a throw to his right and handed the ball to Brown behind his back. The tailback tiptoed down the sideline and avoided several Cowboys to score from 24 yards.

The Longhorns held the Cowboys to a field goal on the next possession and trailed 31-24. But Smith’s long scoring run proved to be too much to overcome.

Texas then failed to convert a fourth-and-goal from the third-yard line, with Whittaker catching the ball just short of the end zone.

“We have to be able to put those drives in the end zone,” Harsin said. “It’s all about finishing.”

When the Cowboys took over, Blake Gideon appeared to return an interception for a touchdown, but OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden had stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety. It was that kind of day for Texas.

“The breaks didn’t go our way,” Gideon said.

The Longhorns lost the game following the OU game for the first time in Mack Brown’s
14-year tenure.

Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: Ash earns starting spot, offense struggles in loss