After David Ash completed only five passes out of 27 attempts for at least 10 yards in Texas’ season opener, his coaches promised they would let the sophomore take more shots downfield.
They wasted no time making good on that promise as Ash unleashed a deep throw toward Mike Davis on the Longhorns’ first play from scrimmage. The ball was overthrown, but the message was sent — Ash would not just check the ball down and throw screens this week.
“I wanted to get some shots, and we started off the game with a shot,” Ash said. “I wanted to get it to Mike, but it didn’t work out, and that’s okay. We went to work after that.”
Nine of the next 21 throws Ash made were completed for more than 10 yards. He got some help from his receivers as Joe Bergeron took a screen pass 23 yards and freshman Daje Johnson, who was suspended last week for a violation of team rules, turned a shovel pass into a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter — on just his third career touch.
Davis also got some key yards after a catch when he broke a couple of tackles on third-and-16 to give Ash his first touchdown pass of the night, a 22-yarder to give Texas a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. Ash went 16-for-22 for 221 yards Saturday night and has competed 73.5 percent of his passes so far this year.
“It was a great play by [Davis] and also the offensive line gave me plenty of time because I took too long to get through my progression there,” Ash said. “Thankfully the offensive line was able to hold them out, and then Mike made a great play. We were in a tough situation there.”
Davis wasn’t the only one weaving through the New Mexico defense. After not being able to connect with Jaxon Shipley on a fade route on third down, Ash and the Texas offense faced a fourth-and-one on their first possession near midfield. Ash dropped back again but took off this time, getting enough to move the chains before cutting to his left a couple times, turning the play into a footrace to the pylon.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 223-pound Belton product won the footrace, giving the Longhorns a 7-0 advantage and what proved to be all the points they would need. Texas pitched its second shutout in as many years while Ash’s scoring scamper was the longest by a quarterback since Colt McCoy’s 65-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of a 49-39 win over Texas A&M in 2009.
“It’s part of the read. I am just doing what I am coached to do,” Ash said. “That was some great downfield blocking and it helped out. I was just going through my read there.”
Texas ran for just 146 yards, barely more than half as many as it racked up in its season opener against Wyoming last week. But thanks to the strides Ash made this weekend, it didn’t matter.