junior quarterback

No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia

Milan Puskar Stadium

Morgantown, West Virginia

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

ABC

The two newest members of the Big 12 will square off in their biggest matchup since joining the conference in 2012. TCU has played itself into playoff contention despite losing to Baylor a couple of weeks ago. The Horned Frogs broke the conference record for points scored in a conference game, hanging 82 on Texas Tech last week. Junior quarterback Trevone Boykin tossed seven touchdown passes in that game and currently has a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. West Virginia is also no stranger to the end zone. The Mountaineers have scored 36.9 points per game this season, and senior receiver Kevin White has played well enough the past few weeks to break into the Heisman conversation with 1,047 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. There’s no telling how high the score could go in this one.

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Oxford, Mississippi

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

ESPN

After Ole Miss’ loss to LSU last weekend, neither Auburn nor the Rebels come into this game undefeated, but the intrigue still remains. The winner of this game will remain in the conversation for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, but the loser will essentially be eliminated. The Tigers just survived another upset bid from South Carolina in their first game since losing to Mississippi State. Senior quarterback Nick Marshall has quietly put together a solid year with 1,103 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions in addition to seven rushing touchdowns. The Rebels, on the other hand, are looking to avoid going into a slump after a tough loss to LSU, in which the offense scored only seven points. Look for Ole Miss to rely on its defense, which leads the nation in points allowed, to keep them in this game. This should be another great SEC showdown, with a possible spot in the playoffs on the line.

No. 12 Arizona at No. 22 UCLA

Rose Bowl

Pasadena, California

Saturday, 9:30 p.m.

ESPN

Because of the great play in the SEC and Big 12, the Pac-12 has largely flown under the radar this season. Arizona is the perfect example of this, as the Wildcats have put together a pretty strong season but have yet to really garner any national attention. The Wildcats’ lone blemish is a two-point loss to USC on Oct. 11. However, they also have a big win over then-No. 2 Oregon in Eugene. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has been the focal point of the offense thus far, with 2,430 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions. On the flip side, UCLA has quietly fallen off since being ranked seventh in the preseason AP poll. The Bruins just survived an upset bid from Colorado in double overtime last week, and redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley has struggled recently. The Pac-12 South is still wide open, and this matchup could determine who plays Oregon in the conference title game.

Stanford at No. 5 Oregon

Autzen Stadium

Eugene, Oregon

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

FOX

This is a matchup that has typically decided who represents the Pac-12 North in the conference title game, and, even with Stanford not being ranked, that will likely be the case again this season. Stanford has had a down year by its standards, having lost three games already this season — all of which came against ranked teams. Nonetheless, the Cardinal still sit in second place in the division — just one game behind Oregon. A big reason for some of their struggles has been the offense, which ranks 91st in the country at 25.8 points per game and has averaged only 11 points in their three losses. Oregon, on the other hand, continues to work towards a spot in the College Football Playoff despite having lost to Arizona. Junior quarterback Marcus Mariota looks like a Heisman front-runner with 2,238 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and only one interception. This game has historically produced exciting games, and this year’s edition will be no different.

After three concussions in the past year, senior quarterback David Ash has decided to end his football career at Texas.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas head coach Charlie Strong announced Wednesday evening that junior quarterback David Ash will no longer play football after suffering his third concussion earlier this season.

“We just decided because of his health, which was always critical and the number one concern for us, that he’s no longer going to play,” Strong said. “But he’s still going to be around the team, because he deserves to be on this team and around this program.”

Ash, who earned a medical redshirt in 2013 after missing 10 games because of concussions, returned this summer to his team and was named the starter for the 2014 season. In the season opener against North Texas, he completed 19-of-34 passes for 190 yards. He recorded both a passing and rushing touchdown, playing the entire game despite taking a hard hit in the first quarter. Later that night, Ash called the trainers with concussion-like symptoms, which sidelined him for Texas’ next two games. 

“We’re always concerned about a young man’s health and will never jeopardize his health for the good of a football team,” said Strong in a Sept. 1 press conference after announcing Ash as out “indefinitely.”

Though few believed Ash would return, his decision was not official until Wednesday. Strong said there was “no way” they were going to let Ash back on the field after his history of injuries, but he thinks it’s important Ash remains a part of the team.

“It’s a very tough call for him,” Strong said. “He’s very emotional — done a lot for this program, been a major part of this University. Any player you’d like to finish his career — that’s why they sign up to be a part of something special. What’s important is that he feels a part of this and [doesn’t feel] like he’s been pushed aside.”

Ash finishes his career with 22 starts, 385 completions and a 62.8 percent completion rate. He threw for 31 touchdowns, tallying 18 interceptions, finishing with a quarterback rating of 138.41. Now, Ash will continue to attend practices, team meetings and potentially travel, Strong said. He will help younger quarterbacks, acting as a coach on the team.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes took the starting job after Ash’s injury and will continue to start for the Longhorns, with redshirt quarterback Jerrod Heard assuming the backup position. Strong said he has not decided whether they will burn Heard’s redshirt — guessing it will be a game-time decision.

Senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson will also undergo possibly season-ending foot surgery and could potentially apply for a medical redshirt at the end of the season.

After his defense was torched against BYU last weekend for 429 yards at home, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford told the team to “look in the mirror” and face reality. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has some advice for the Longhorns: Take a look in the mirror.

“If you can’t be your worst critic when you wake up in the morning, and you look in the mirror, what do you see?” Bedford said. “Some [players] walk around with a crown on their head all the time. They really need to take the crown off and see reality.”

If the players don’t see reality now — BYU’s 41-7 destruction last week certainly looked like reality — it will hit them full force in Arlington on Saturday. Reality will take the form of Brett Hundley, Heisman candidate UCLA junior quarterback; Myles Jack, sophomore two-way linebacker and running back; and the remainder of the threat that No. 12 UCLA poses. To prepare, the defensive squad is trying to take Bedford’s advice to heart. They didn’t quite look in a literal mirror, but they did watch game film.

“Our whole attitude is that, if we expect something to change, and we want to be the best defense in the country, then we have to act like it,” senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “We have to go out there and play with some juice, play angry, play smart and play fundamentally sound. Last week, we didn’t do that.”       

The squad found the “little things” that they say prevented their efficiency, as well as the more glaring problems, such as last week’s six missed sacks.

“When you have opportunity in life, you have to make the best of them,” Bedford said. “In the game of football, when the ball is in the air, you have the opportunity to go make a play. We missed a lot of opportunities in that game in the third quarter. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”

Although Bedford, head coach Charlie Strong and the rest of the coaching staff seek to give the Longhorns as many opportunities as possible once they’re on the field, the road to playing time is longer than it once was. Suspensions abound when players don’t follow the rules, which will leave Texas with a compromised lineup this weekend. But Bedford sees the adjustment as just one more reminder that the players need to face reality.

“If you’re a parent at home, and your child does something wrong [with no consequences], what are you teaching that kid?” Bedford said. “As a football coach, guess what? You’re a parent. You’re a parent, you’re a teacher, you’re a counselor, you’re a psychologist. You’re all of those things in one. You have to be an extension of mom and dad, teach them discipline and how to do [the] little things right.”

As the Longhorn line-up seems to shift by the week — junior quarterback David Ash, senior center Dominic Espinosa and senior receiver Jaxon Shipley have all sustained injuries in recent games — and inexperienced players step up, the parent-child metaphor becomes increasingly apt. The coaching staff seeks to transition new players, just as parents help their children through pivotal life moments. Against BYU, the transition didn’t seem fully developed.

Heading into Arlington, the Longhorns have a chance to prove they’ve hit that development and can handle their first away game, albeit at a neutral venue. The first family vacation isn’t always smooth, but, if Bedford and the “parents” have trained their children well, they should like what they see in the mirror.

Redshirt junior David Ash suffered concussion symptoms after the North Texas game which will force him to sit out the Longhorns' next game against BYU.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

It took just one game, and possibly just one hit, for Texas junior quarterback David Ash’s concussion symptoms to return in 2014.

Longhorn head coach Charlie Strong announced Monday that Ash, who missed 10 games because of multiple concussions last season, will have to sit out this weekend’s game against BYU after he experienced concussion-like symptoms yet again after last Saturday’s 38-7 victory over North Texas.

“Ash took a hit in the first quarter,” Strong said. “We are going to evaluate it more with our medical staff. But we just made the decision that he will not play this week.”

Strong and his staff believe the injury occurred when Ash fumbled a snap on Texas’ second drive of the game and was hit by North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts as he jumped on the loose ball. Strong said the coaches and medical staff did not know of any issues with their starting quarterback until after the game, when he complained about a headache and some dizziness.

“During the game there was no symptoms,” Strong said. “We got a call [from Ash] late that night, and we were able to get him with the trainers.”

While Ash told the staff that he believes the injury occurred early in the first quarter, he took several hits throughout the game that may have caused the symptoms to return.

No further details were provided about the extent of Ash’s head injury or how much time he might miss, as Strong indicated they will wait for the medical staff to do more evaluating before they determine whether Ash will be able to return this season.

In Ash’s absence, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is expected to get the start this weekend while true freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard will be the backup.

“We went out yesterday, and Tyrone was able to execute the offense and practiced well,” Strong said “We have two quarterbacks, and we’re just going to turn it over to them and let it happen this week.”

Swoopes has limited experience, having played sparingly at the end of last season. The 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound dual-threat quarterback was six for 13 for 26 yards and rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown as a freshman.

“Offensively, we’re going to have to tweak it some for Tyrone,” Strong said. “Tyrone can handle it. I’m not concerned about that. The team will rally around him; we’ll be able to get it fixed and move on.”

Heard just arrived on campus this fall after an illustrious high school career at Guyer High in Denton. He threw for 2,148 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for another 2,172 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior last year.

“Now it’s going to move very quickly for [Heard],” Strong said. “He’ll be right behind Tyrone, and he’s always just a play away [from being in the game].”

Given the lack of experience for both Swoopes and Heard, Strong emphasized the importance of the two signal callers acting as game managers and allowing the rest of the team to step up and fill the void left by Ash’s absence.

As for the rest of the team, the players are confident that no matter who is at quarterback, they can still win games as a team.

“We’ve got to get together,” said senior defensive back Quandre Diggs, a leader in the Texas locker room. “We’ve got guys on scholarship that should be ready to go. If your number gets called upon, you should be ready to go. You can’t be too concerned. We’re going to miss those guys, but, hey, life goes on.”

Junior quarterback David Ash (14) missed much of last season because of concussion symptoms. He claims to be at full health heading into the 2014 season and looks to lead the Lonhorns to a rebound year. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Last season, starting in the conference home opener against Kansas State, junior quarterback David Ash was poised for a standout season. After missing Texas’ defeat at the hands of Ole Miss because of an injury, the quarterback hit then-wide receiver Kendall Sanders in stride for a 63-yard touchdown, giving the Longhorns a 10-0 lead over the Wildcats.

But, as it would turn out, this game would stand out for an unfortunate reason. Concussion symptoms would cut Ash’s appearance, and his entire season, short.

“I’ve always felt like, if you want to know, if last year if I felt like I was on the verge of some pretty big breakthroughs? Yeah, I felt that way,” Ash said. “And it didn’t end up, and that’s OK. I just got to pick up where I left off and keep working to get there.”

In 2011, Ash struggled as a true freshman, throwing eight interceptions to only four touchdowns. But last season, the passer threw for seven touchdowns while rushing for one more in the three contests he saw action. In his past 15 contests, Ash has thrown 26 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, which is identical to the passing statistics posted by legendary quarterback Vince Young during the 2005 season.

Although Ash hasn’t exactly won enough to elicit comparisons to Young, numbers prove he has the potential to become a solid quarterback for the Longhorns. The senior has already proven that he is willing to put in the extra effort to make sure he does whatever he can to help his team win.

“If I hand it off 60 times and we win, I’m totally comfortable, but, if I’m handing the ball off, and it’s not working, and I’m going to have to throw, I’m totally comfortable throwing,” Ash said. “I’m totally comfortable doing whatever it takes to help this team win, and that’s the job of the quarterback. It’s not about stats. It’s not about fame. It’s not about being known as this, as a gunslinger. It’s about winning football games.”

Ash’s critics often question his intangibles and abilities to guide his team to victory, as he has seen insubstantial game action through the past two seasons. But now entering his fourth year in the program, he has worked to make strides in that capacity.

“He has become a true leader,” said senior receiver John Harris. “You know he’s a senior, and he’s been in this position before. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for anybody to follow him. We’re going to be right there with him. We know he can lead this team. We just want to see him do it.”

Ash’s biggest concern this season will be staying healthy, and, if he can do so, he will be able to provide strong leadership for his revamped team. Quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson has already seen Ash’s desire to prove himself after an injury-riddled 2013 campaign.

“He really wants to be a great player, and I think he has unsettled affairs after the kind of year he went through last year,” Watson said. “I respect that. I’ve listened to him. He has worked really hard, and he has played very efficient football. He’s had a great training camp. I’m really proud of him.”

vs. BYU (6:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6, FS1)

Just last season, this matchup proved to be the beginning of the end for Mack Brown. In order to avoid a similar beat down, the Longhorns are going to have to contain junior quarterback Taysom Hill and junior running back Jamaal Williams, who both rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. This will be a good indicator of where Texas’ defense is early on in the season.

vs. UCLA (7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, FOX)

The Longhorns will be tested for a second-straight week with a game against PAC 12 contender UCLA. The Bruins are a serious contender for the inaugural College Football Playoff with junior quarterback Brett Hundley returning after throwing for over 3,000 yards a year ago. The UCLA defense will also be dangerous, despite the loss of Anthony Barr. It’s safe to say that we’ll know just how good, or bad, Texas can be after this two-game stretch.

vs. Baylor (TBD, Saturday, Oct. 4)

This has to be the most anticipated game in the Big 12 this year. Everyone will be watching to see how Charlie Strong’s defense does against the high-powered, up-tempo Baylor offense. Last year, the Longhorns managed to hold the Bears to 23 points before a late touchdown to ice the game. That won’t be an easy task to repeat though. Baylor returns senior quarterback Bryce Petty and continues to have great speed from its running backs and receivers. But, if the Texas defense is able to contain the Bears again, this could be a big statement for a Longhorn team hoping to turn it around in a relatively short period of time.

vs. Oklahoma (TBD, Saturday, Oct. 11)

Last year, Texas won this game thanks in large part to an Oklahoma quarterback controversy between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight. After a huge win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners are serious contenders for the Big 12 title with Knight entrenched at the helm. And the defense, led by linebacker Erik Striker, could rival the Longhorns as the best in the conference. The second of another tough stretch of games, this game will be big no matter how the Baylor game plays out. Texas will either need a win to get a leg up in the Big 12 or be looking to get back up after a tough loss. Oh, and it’s also one of the biggest rivalries in college sports.

@ Kansas State (TBD, Saturday, Oct. 25)

The win over the Wildcats last year was one of two big upsets for the Longhorns, but a repeat of that feat will be tough in a place where Texas hasn’t won since 2002. Head coach Bill Snyder will likely field a strong team again with a number of JuCo transfers and senior quarterback Jake Waters getting the ball to his playmakers in any way possible. The Kansas State defense should be as strong as it has been in the past. However, Texas had great success on the ground a year ago. Getting that ground game going against a tough defense will be key in this one.

@ Oklahoma State (TBD, Saturday, Nov. 15)

After opening up Big 12 play undefeated last year, the Longhorns struggled mightily against the Cowboys in a blowout loss. Texas can expect more of the same this year with junior quarterback J.W. Walsh taking over after Clint Chelf graduated. As usual, Oklahoma State has solid depth at the receiving position but the toughest task for Texas will be containing Tyreek Hill, who presents a serious threat in the Cowboy backfield. Oklahoma State’s secondary is not nearly as strong as it was last year, but given Texas’ question marks at quarterback, the ’Pokes should give Texas its last big test of the season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

When junior quarterback David Ash took a hit in the fourth quarter against BYU on Sept. 7, no one thought anything of it. It wasn’t a vicious hit or one that rang his bell. 

The training staff was unsure of the exact nature of the injury; the official injury report following the next week’s game against Ole Miss phrased his injury as head/right shoulder.

“[A concussion is] an invisible injury,” said Kenneth Locker, a prominent athletic trainer in North Texas with 20 years of concussion experience. “It happens and no one can see a change in the physical appearance of the person.”

After sitting out a blowout loss to the Rebels, Texas brought him back in for the first conference game against Kansas State just two weeks after the original injury.

He didn’t make it past halftime and hasn’t played a snap since. More than two months and seven games later, the Texas medical staff declared him finished for the season on Nov. 25.

The last few years have seen momentum in concussion awareness, ranging from high-profile documentaries such as “League of Denial” to rule changes implemented by the NFL and FBS that have attempted to curtail concussions. Ash’s injury is far from the only example in sports of career-threatening concussions: The NCAA estimates somewhere between 1.6 million and 3.8 million incidents occur in collegiate sports each year. Despite NCAA effort to develop a comprehensive protocol, concussion rates held steady between 2.2 to 3.8 percent from 2004-12, according to the NCAA injury surveillance program. The story of concussions and football are not just about the athletes who play the game, but the way institutions and governing agencies deal with them.

The NCAA mandates four steps in its handbook on how to deal with concussions. The process is outlined in a way to leave the bulk of the plans up to the discretion of each university.

For example, the handbook states that players are allowed to return to play after receiving permission from “a health care professional with experience in evaluation for concussion.”

The ability to return to play doesn’t require passing a standardized, nationally accepted test. It’s left to the discretion of the professionals on the sideline, most of whom are employed by the University. Ambiguity surrounds this injury, which is inherently difficult to diagnose on the sideline.

Concussions aren’t just head injuries — they are injuries to the brain, which the NCAA handbook defines as “a brain injury that may be caused by a blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an ‘impulsive’ force transmitted to the head.”

But Locker phrases it differently, calling them the most dangerous injuries in sports today.

“Concussions are from the shaking of the brain,” Locker said. “Not just head injuries.”

Repeated trauma before a full recovery worsens the issue, increasing the likelihood of long-term problems.

“If they sustain head trauma or concussions in their late teens and early 20s, the window for repetitive injury is lengthened,” Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay in July 2012. “The long-term complications of repetitive head trauma can have lasting effects on younger athletes into their adult years.”

Long-term effects include brain swelling, sleeping problems, migraines, permanent brain damage and even death.

So when teams rush players back to the field from concussions early, it bothers concussion experts such as Michael Collins, who has served as a concussion consultant for the National Federations of High Schools and MLB, USA Rugby and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Collins recognizes a concussion as an energy crisis in the brain, which could lead to further potential effects.

“What we’ve learned is that during this energy crisis in the brain, don’t get hit in the head again,” Collins said. “There are a lot of potential effects of a concussion and it takes time to recover.”

But hits on the field aren’t the only issue; the recovery process presents problems, too. Ash didn’t just suit up and play Sept. 21 against Kansas State — he prepared all week. He watched video, studied plays and even went to class, all creating added stress on his brain. 

“Because the brain is starved for energy, you don’t want to overtax it from an energy demand point,” Collins said. “One way to do this is working out and the other is school. Going to school and studying lengthens the time to recover from a concussion.”

Ash’s situation has brought the concussion prevention and management debate to the forefront in Austin. But doctors maintain concussion prevention more complicated than adding a few rules.

Locker said one of the biggest illusions centered around the concussion issue is the idea of the helmet being a safety regulation for concussions.

“The helmet cannot stop shaking the inside of the brain,” Locker said. “It’s a misnomer. Helmets are designed for skull fractures, not concussions.”

Locker said studies between old and new helmets find that better equipment doesn’t make a difference as long as it fits.

“It just has to feel good and fit,” Locker said. “If it comes off, the athlete is more vulnerable.”

Despite the advanced technology, the chance of injury is still there.

“It’s like an air bag in a car,” Locker said. “You can still die with the better technology.”

In fact, Locker believes that all the helmets do is encourage poor habits.

“No one tackles like they did in the ’70s,” Locker said. “They don’t tackle anymore. They just hit. If you take face masks off, they won’t hit anymore.”

That’s the biggest problem with concussion prevention — there is no way to stop the shaking of the brain. There’s no helmet for the brain; that’s the head’s job. 

“You can’t stop the brain from shaking inside the skull,” Locker said. “If you can stop that, then you can prevent 97 percent of concussions.”

According to Collins, management is the key to aiding concussion recovery and preventing them from happening, and that starts with players and coaches. 

“As someone who has been doing this for a long time, the biggest challenge I see is educating coaches on the basics,” Collins said. “What are the signs and symptoms? What decisions need to be made and how do I make those decisions? Once they are educated, they can really help the situation.”

Texas followed the NCAA Recommended Best Practices for a Concussion Management Plan for Ash’s injury, a set of guidelines for all NCAA institutions. With no clear NCAA protocol, this is more Texas’ process than the NCAA’s plan. It requires that student-athletes, coaches and other pertinent team personnel are educated annually on concussions.

Per Texas protocol, if a student-athlete sustains a mild head injury or exhibits signs of a concussion, he is immediately put through sideline screening by the athletic trainer. If he or she feels there is a positive finding for a concussion, Texas withholds the student-athlete from play for the rest of the day.

While much of the management up to this point has been monitoring behaviors and observing the athlete, the first measurable test has been created — the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, or ImPACT test, which was co-founded by Collins.

“The reason we developed ImPACT was because there was never a way of measuring the injury,” Collins said. “The ‘how many fingers am I holding up’ and smelling salts were used not too long ago.”

The system does more than determine whether or not an athlete has a concussion — ImPACT helps further concussion research.

“We realized, how you can ever study, research or manage something without a way to measure it?” Collins said. “Then we decided to develop it on a computer so it would be repeatable and can measure reaction time and can be widely used.”

Before the first practice at Texas in baseball, basketball, diving, football, pole vaulting, soccer and softball, the medical staff issues a baseline test through ImPACT. A concussed student is considered “cured” when his original performance on the exam matches his post-concussion test. 

But all of this testing can sometimes fail. When athletes come back too soon, it can cause long-term issues. 

“If there’s anybody in the world with the best medical advice, it’s the University of Texas,” Locker said. “I’m not disclaiming that. It’s an inexact science. You just don’t know. Just because you had one and got well doesn’t mean you’re not going to get another one.”

After missing the last six games with recurring concussion symptoms, junior quarterback David Ash’s season is officially over.

Head Athletic Trainer for Football Kenny Boyd released a statement Monday:

“Though [Ash has] made a lot of progress, [the trainers] have not been able to clear him to return to competition. Due to the duration of symptoms, we are now at a point that we believe the best approach for him is not to return this season.”

Ash first suffered a concussion on Sept. 7 against BYU, causing him to miss Texas’ next game against Ole Miss. He returned on Sept. 21 against Kansas State, but only played the first half before being forced to leave with returning symptoms. He has not played since.

The junior quarterback enjoyed a strong start to the season, throwing for 760 yards and seven touchdowns against two interceptions while rushing for a career-high 152 yards and a score. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 spring season. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas can’t seem to catch a break.

Despite opening up their Big 12 schedule with a 31-21 victory over Kansas State — and taking some momentary heat off head coach Mack Brown — the Longhorns limped off the field Saturday after losing both junior quarterback David Ash and junior linebacker Jordan Hicks to injury. Hicks is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Ash’s status is in question for the year as he deals with a potential second concussion in three weeks.

Following its bye week, Texas takes on winless Iowa State on the road. On paper, it’s a favorable matchup for the Longhorns. The Cyclones, who lost both of their home games this season, are averaging just 20.5 points a game. In addition, Iowa State is ineffective at running the ball, which has — sorry, Jordan Hicks — been Texas’ Achilles heel. The Cyclones’ leading rusher, Sam Richardson, only totaled 86 yards this season.

The Longhorns could be in for a rough stretch when they head to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma, who shellacked them 63-21 last season. Led by senior running back Brennan Clay and junior quarterback Blake Bell, who had four rushing touchdowns in last year’s game, the Sooners boast a rushing attack that could give the Texas defense fits. Oklahoma has beaten the Longhorns by at least 45 points four times in the Mack Brown era, including each of the past two years. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops would love nothing more than to send Brown out the door with one final tail kicking.  

After the Red River Rivalry, Texas hits the road for two of its next three games, taking on a TCU team that has stumbled out to a disappointing 1-2 record. Although the Horned Frogs have yet to hold an opponent under 20 points, don’t underestimate their defense: they smothered Texas in their 20-13 win on Thanksgiving last year. The following two games provide beatable opponents for the Longhorns. They face a weak Kansas team at home before heading to Morgantown to play West Virginia, which holds a 4-6 conference record since joining the Big 12 last year.  

By far, the toughest stretch for Texas will be its final three games, when it will take on Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State, upstart Texas Tech and offensive-juggernaut Baylor. Oklahoma State and Baylor look especially dangerous because they have something Texas doesn’t: a game-changing quarterback. Despite splitting time, J.W. Walsh excelled in Oklahoma State’s three victories this year, using both his arm and legs to rack up 824 yards of offense and seven touchdowns. Baylor’s Bryce Petty has looked even better, throwing for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception thus far. 

Though Brown preaches “one game at a time,” some of these games are surely looming in the back of his mind. With four ranked opponents and only three home games remaining for the Longhorns, this team’s resilience will be tested. 

Case McCoy

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff
After deeming him a game time decision earlier in the week, Texas ruled junior quarterback David Ash out for Saturday’s game against Ole Miss.
 
Ash suffered injuries to his head and right shoulder in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s game against Brigham Young University and did not practice during the week.  Senior quarterback Case McCoy receives will start in Ash's place, with freshman Tyrone Swoopes assuming the role of backup. 
 
Ash enjoyed a strong start to the season, throwing for 594 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for a team-leading 125 yards and a score in his first two games. The Longhorns did not announce when they expect Ash to return.
 
McCoy recorded six starts in his first six seasons and threw for more than 300 yards in each of his past two starts. That said, the Longhorns are just 2-5 in games that the senior threw at least 15 passes.
 
Despite this, head coach Mack Brown said the players remain confident McCoy can lead them to victory in Ash’s absence.
 
“The guys trust Case,” Brown said. “He's a fourth-year senior. He has been around a long time and it's not like [we are] starting a guy that has never been out there.”