Freshmen perform in landslide victory

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Freshman wide receiver Jaxon Shipley runs past Iowa State defensive back Jacques Washington during a first half touchdown reception.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This time last year, he was throwing touchdowns for Belton. Now, he’s doing it for Texas.

David Ash was one of many Longhorn freshmen to turn in fantastic performances, throwing for his first two career touchdown passes. Mykkele Thompson, who was at Stevens High School in San Antonio last fall, blocked a punt in the second quarter and fellow freshman Josh Turner took it all the way back. The play epitomized how Texas’ youngsters dominated its 37-14 win over Iowa State as the Longhorns’ leading passer, rusher and receiver were all true freshmen.

Ash had split snaps with Case McCoy for most of the last three games but had not seen the field as much as his sophomore counterpart. That changed Saturday when Ash completed four of eight first-half passes, one more than he had attempted in his first three games combined, for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Both he and McCoy were 7-for-12 passing.

“I thought the rotation went well,” McCoy said. “David played really good. He made plays, and it worked out for us. We’re 4-0.”

The rookies made their mark on defense, too. Texas forced three first-quarter turnovers for the second straight game, scoring after each of them once again. The Longhorns got a field goal off the first one before Quandre Diggs popped the ball loose on the ensuing kickoff and Tevin Jackson fell on it. Fittingly enough, both Diggs and Jackson are freshmen. Texas scored its first touchdown on the following possession.

“Tonight, we forced the turnovers,” said head coach Mack Brown. “If you force a lot of turnovers and you protect the ball like we did tonight, you’re going to win a lot of
football games.”

Eventually, the defense got tired of setting the offense up for scores. So they got one of their own. With the Longhorns leading 20-0, the Cyclones lined up for their second punt of the game. That’s when Thompson blocked the 75th kick in the Mack Brown era, the Longhorns’ first blocked punt returned for a touchdown since Malcolm William’s in 2009.

“I saw that ball got tipped so I just grabbed it and went,” said Turner, who was playing high school football in Oklahoma last season. “I was thinking I was about to score. It was a momentum shift, and it helped us a lot.”

On the offensive side, Malcolm Brown and Jaxon Shipley continued their fantastic first-year campaigns. Brown ran for 63 yards on 15 carries against a defense that honed in on the Texas backfield. Iowa State stacked the box and opened up throwing lanes for Ash and McCoy, who both found Shipley for long gains. Ash hit Shipley for a 40-yard touchdown seconds after Shipley pitched the ball to him while McCoy found Shipley for 49 yards on an acrobatic grab on the sideline in the second half.

The impressive catch wasn’t surprising. Shipley has been spectacular all season, as evidenced by his six-catch, 141-yard showing against Iowa State this past weekend.

But Ash’s pair of touchdowns, Thompson’s and Turner’s blocked punt return for a score and true freshmen accounting for nearly 60 percent of Texas’ total offense? No one saw that coming.

Printed on Monday, October 3, 2011 as: Freshmen lead offense, overwhelm Iowa State