Backs spur Horns to win in opener

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Joe Bergeron sprints up the field en route to a 54-yard run in the fourth quarter of Texas’ 37-17 season opening win against Wyoming. The running backs paced the Texas offense in the game, combining for 280 yards and four touchdowns.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

David Ash may have been the headliner leading the game Saturday, but it was Texas’ rushing attack that stole the show.

Texas’ running backs combined for 260 yards and four touchdowns, pacing the Longhorns to a 37-17 victory over Wyoming.

“The running backs did great,” Ash said. “They really wore the D-line out during the game. As the game went on, we saw some big runs. Joe [Bergeron] and Malcolm [Brown] did a great job tonight.”

Heading into the game the backs would agree the goal was to rush for over 250 yards, and thanks to a strong second half performance they were able to eclipse that total. Most of the mileage came on the legs of Brown and Bergeron, who each surpassed the 100-yard mark (Brown 105, Bergeron 110) and contributed three touchdowns between them.

Most of their success came late in drives, when the backs’ size and ability to rotate in and out wore down the Cowboys’ defense. A process that Bergeron compared to construction work, well, construction on the defense that is.

“You have to pound them and eventually they’ll give it up,” Bergeron said. “It’s like hitting a wall basically, and after a while that wall will just crumble, and you’ll get to go through, and then you will get those big runs.“

While the backs were busy wearing down the Wyoming front seven, Ash was efficient in his role as a leader and a game manager.

He went 20-for-27 in the pocket for 156 yards and a touchdown. But most importantly, he avoided the costly turnovers that derailed many of his appearances in 2011. Ash did have one fumbled snap that gave Wyoming premium field position in Longhorn territory in the fourth quarter, but other than that, he controlled the game well.

Ash worked the underneath routes all game long, and was accurate on his short and mid-range throws. He left a few long pass attempts short, but overall, the coaches were pleased with what they saw.

“I thought David did a nice job,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “David did everything we asked him to do. As far as decision-making goes, I am really proud of what David did. With the way they played us, that’s where those balls needed to go.”

However, the biggest play of the game didn’t happen on offense. With the Longhorns down 9-7 in the second quarter, Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith lofted a deep pass over the middle that looked like it might go for a big gain. But senior safety Kenny Vaccaro swooped in to undercut the route and snatch the ball, then turned on the jets for a return of 19 yards. From that point on, Texas went on a 17-0 run to enter halftime.

Head coach Mack Brown called the interception “the play that made the difference in the game.”

It wasn’t all perfect for the Texas defense. As a group, the Longhorns gave up some big plays through the air, and the 82-yard touchdown pass they allowed in the first quarter really bucks the team’s mantra of not allowing game-changing completions.

But Texas forced two turnovers — Carrington Byndom followed Vaccaro with a pick of his own — and blocked an extra point. The defense was also stingy on third downs, only allowing the Cowboys to convert on 1 of their 11 attempts. With the good and the bad, it was a game defensive coordinator Manny Diaz can use as a teaching tool.

“There are a lot of things that we saw,” Diaz said. “I don’t think anything was terrible and as a coach that is what you want. We just need to get back and start fixing the mistakes.”